Khajuraho : Erotic Sculptures

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Home | History | Art and Architecture | Western Group Temples | Eastern Group temples | Southern Group temples | Khajuraho Erotica

A word is necessary on the significance of the erotic sculptures of Khajuraho, which by their vividness and character cannot fail to attract the visitor. These scultures have lent themselves to various interpretations and have even evoked criticism from some quarters. Some regard them as pornographical representations mirroring lax moral standards of the contemporary society. Other consider them as illustrations of erotic postures mentioned in the Kamasutra.

Another view takes them to be merely cathartic in nature which also bring out the contrast between the serenity within and sensuality without. It can also be that these scenes represent the erotic practices of certain medieval Indian sects which invested sex with a ritual symbolism and considered Yoga (spiritual exercise) and bhoga (physical pleasure) to be alternate paths leading to the same goal of final deliverance. According to these sects the controlled enjoyment of senses was a surer as well as easier way to salvation.

Whatever be the interpretation of these erotic scenes there is certainly nothing sordid or coarse about them. These representations have given us the finest sculptural compositions, which vibrate with a rare sensitiveness and warmth of emotions and are remarkable for their sculptural quality. As the temples were dedicated to the search of the supreme, these artistic creations and exuberant manifestations of the creative urge should have sprung a deep-rooted traditiond with a possible religious sanction.

The very fact that the contempory social conscience permitted and even approved them suggests that their significance was well understood in the old days, but is not apparent in the present age. The people of that age took a healthy integrated view of life and gave sex its due place in the scheme of things. Kama or pursuit of pleasure was deemed to be the one of the four purusharthas or aims of life and was regarded as an essential and indispensible preliminary and a stepping stone to Moksha or deliverance, the final aim of life.
According to the architectural texts the depiction of the loving birds, animals and human couples was considered auspicious and was believed to bring good luck to the builder and vicariously to the devotee.

The creation myths from the vedic age onwards have stressed on the polarity between the sexes as the source of creation. The physical union between man & woman is indeed a human counterpart of the cosmic function of creation. The joy of physical union thus symbolically reflects the infinite joy of divinity in creation. Sex forming an important element of the broad base of life is, therefore, rightly depicted on the temple and such depictions is not at all in conflict with the higher purpose or the final aim of life.

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