Khajuraho's Temples are full of sexually explicit
sculptures. This extremely conservative country was once home to the world’s
first sex treatise and the erotic art on display is perhaps more shocking
now than when it was created.
India has been a particularly conservative country
for the last few hundred years, influenced by the puritanism of several
groups, including Islamic dynasties, British overlords and the country’s
own Brahmin priestly caste. But India was not always like this. Sexual
norms were far more liberal before the 13th Century, giving equal importance
to the secular and the spiritual. Sex was taught as a subject in formal
education, and Kamasutra, the world’s first sex treatise, was written in
ancient India between the 4th Century BCE and the 2nd Century.
The best-preserved and most graphic example of erotic
temple art can be found here. These elegantly carved Hindu temples were
declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1986. Built by the Chandela dynasty
between 950 and 1050, only 22 of the 85 original temples remain. There
are profuse and intricate sculptures covering every inch of the walls.
There are images of gods and goddesses, warriors and musicians, animals
and birds. It could have been a scene from any temple in India.
But on closer inspection, many of these carvings are
of an intensely erotic nature, featuring men, women and animals. There
were depictions of threesomes, orgies and bestiality. There are shapely
maidens and virile men contorting their bodies in impossible sexual positions,
right next to sculptures of divine beings smiling blissfully at the devout.
Although a few stones are chipped and several limbs broken, the carvings
are incredibly pristine, considering that the temples are more than 1,000