While a slightly undressed female on a magazine front page is viewed disgustingly, what makes those numerous erotic sculptures on the temple walls to be passed-by so casually? If you’ve ever had this question, scroll down to find an answer.
Gopuram (tower) of the Chakarapani Temple, Kumbakonam (Tamilnadu) built in the 15th century A.D. by the Nayak kings (Photo Courtesy: inderSTADT)
Aren’t we (Indians) brought up in a culture in which love-making is only whispered beneath the curtains? While being with our parents, don’t we toggle over the TV channel when an intimate scene is being telecasted? Didn’t we ever associate these words guilt and forbidden with sexuality? Yet strangely enough, don’t we click those sensually carved ladies and those ever-at-play Manmadhans (literal meaning, casanovas) running around from all possible angles? Don’t we proudly post those pictures of the erotic postures in social network sites under ‘my visit to this temple’ and ‘my collection of indian art’? Don’t we carry a pride in our chests when we describe the beauty of Indian sculptures to an outsider?
Lo! What paradox is hidden behind this magnificence!
Two of the many erotic sculptures of the Khajuraho Temple (Madhya Pradesh) built in the 10th century A.D. by the Chandela kings (Photo Courtesy: sankaracs)
It’s been a curiosity for many about what the people of the bygone centuries intended to depict exactly in these art forms. Doing little research in google only digs up the most probable assumptions, I would say, though I personally feel that it still remains an unexplored part of our history.
Well, few of the highly stated reasons are:
From a logical perspective,
- A realistic portrayal of the luxurious lifestyle of the then kings and the queens.
- A media for sex education as most people visited temples regularly.
- A means to increase the interest in family life, after a period of ascetic religions (like Buddhism) gathered momentum in India.
Giving a spiritual and mystical dimension,
- Hinduism believes in four principal aims in a human life – Dharma (Righteousness), Artha (Duty), Kama (Desire) and Moksha (Salvation). These sculptures were provided to assist in the path of kama.
- Salvation can be achieved either by abstaining from the act of making love (Vedanta) or by indulging in it (Tantra). The latter is the way of expression through detachment and an understanding in which sexual energy is sublimated and transformed into a higher form of energy.
- The practice of right moral conducts in the ancient times resulted in an openness among people to accept and respect this aspect of human life, a period during which sexuality but not lust was glorified.
The scenes carved on the temple walls do not illicit sensuality in the viewers. It is apparent that more of aesthetic values are connected with them than erotism. I suppose that is why we pass by them so casually! I hope many of the readers would agree to this.
A sculpture of the Sun temple, Konark (Orissa) built in 13th century A.D. by king Narasimhadeva I of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty (Photo Courtesy: David Haberlah).
May be there were more subtle aspects according to the ancient Indian philosophies. Our limitations to the access to the ancient texts bring in a shortage to our resources on this topic. Nevertheless, standing high up in the ancient temples these stone sculptures – the hallmarks of Indian art and architecture – which are looked up with great admiration by the enormous tourists and visitors from all over the world signifies that art of a particular time exactly portrays the culture and governance of people of that time, an authentication beyond eons!
The next time we visit such temples, let’s pay our silent tributes to the ancient people and culture whose impeccable values were rooted on this glorious land!