Nov 25, 2014

The Erotic Temple Carvings of Khajuraho

When I was in grad school in Bloomington, my friend Viju invited me to fly back to India with him for a visit.  I had only been to Switzerland, Germany, and France before, so I was thrilled!   I spent months doing research: buying guidebooks, studying conversational Hindi, going to Bollywood films, and compiling a list of the important sights:

The holy Ganges River at Varanasi
The Golden Temple of Amritsar
The Portuguese colony of Goa
The Ajanta Caves
The Taj Mahal in Agra.
And the temple complex of Khajuraho, with the most famous erotic carvings in the world.

As it turns out, we stayed in Delhi, except for trips to Varanasi and Agra.   Viju wanted to spend time with his family and friends, and eat in his favorite restaurants, and go shopping and cruising, not drive all over the country to visit boring temples. Khajuraho, 9 hours south in Rajasthan, was definitely out of the question.

"You're not missing anything.  Believe me, it's nothing special."

"It has the most erotic carvings in the world, doesn't it?" I asked.

"Maybe you think they're erotic, but I don't think so."

Later I found out what Viju was talking about.

Guidebooks continue to praise Khajuraho as the "most erotic monument in the world," but they mean erotic for them, not for me.

1. The complex contains about a dozen temples dedicated to various gods, including Shiva, Krishna, and Ganesha.  The walls are covered with hundreds of carvings depicting thousands of people engaged in everyday activities, to symbolize the four goals of life in Hinduism.

Dharma (right conduct)
Kama (pleasure)
Artha (making a living)
Moksha (the search for the Divine).

2. There is no beefcake.  The bodies, male and female, are slim and sinuous, with feminine curves.  No muscles.

3. About 20% of the everyday activities depicted involve Kama, and only about half of those involve sexual acts.  So 10% of the total.

4. The sexual acts are overwhelmingly heterosexual.  Men are copulating with women in various positions.  There are trios, two women and one man.  There are heterosexual orgies, where every identifiable man is with a woman.

5. There used to be some same-sex acts, two women together or two men together, but they were erased during the "sexual cleansing" regiment of Gandhi and Nehru.  Now there are perhaps two left.  The official Indian government says "none," that this one is a misinterpretation of a disciple bowing to his master.

You'd be better off watching Rajasthani bodybuilder Anand Arnold.

See also: A Bodybuilding Contest in India.