It is not often that I quote from the 'Travel' section of a new publication, but this is very eye-opening. From BBC/travel.
In previous posts on India's profligate problem with child rape, I have quoted the 16th century traveler Jan Huygen van Linschoten in his writing that it was difficult to find a girl in India above the age of 7 who was still a virgin. I have often wondered how far back this child-rape problem could be traced.
While the temples described below don't, at first glance, show pedophilia, it may well be among the many pornographic carvings. Certainly, bestiality is a fairly common theme, so one can assume that if animals were considered quite suitable for sex, public sex, then certainly little girls were 'on the table' as it were.
I am not an expert on the history of pornography, but these are the earliest depictions of sex that I am aware of. Wikipedia says that depictions of a sexual nature go back to prehistoric times, but that modern pornography was invented in Victorian times, although Victorian archaeologists discovered sexually graphic images when they uncovered Pompeii which was buried in 79 AD.
|One of India's ancient temples of sex|
Of the original 85 temples, just more than 20 remain (Charukesi Ramadurai)
By Charukesi Ramadurai
In December 2013, India’s LGBT community suffered a severe setback as the country’s Supreme Court ruled homosexuality to be a criminal offence. More recently, in August 2015, the Indian government imposed a ban, lifted conditionally a few days later, on more than 800 websites deemed pornographic, in an ostensible bid to curb child pornography and sexual violence.
But India was not always like this. Sexual norms were far more liberal before the 13th Century.
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.
|Sculptures of a sexual nature |
(Credit: Charukesi Ramadurai)
India's most graphic example of erotic temple art
However, the best-preserved and most graphic example of erotic temple art can be found in the small town of Khajuraho in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. Its 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.
When I entered the 6sqkm site late one winter afternoon, the sandstone glowed a burnished gold. Local women carried fresh flowers and incense sticks for their prayers, while visitors perambulated the outer corridors, gawking at the profuse and intricate sculptures that covered every inch of the walls. There were 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 were of an intensely erotic nature, featuring men, women and animals. There were depictions of threesomes and orgies, homosexuality and bestiality. Although I knew what to expect, I was still taken aback by 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 were chipped and several limbs broken, the carvings were incredibly pristine, considering that the temples are more than 1,000 years old.
|A woman offers prayers at the temple (Credit: Charukesi Ramadurai)|
Some believe the depiction of sexual activities was considered a good omen.
Other theories have to do with the role of temples themselves in those times: they were considered places of learning as well as worship – especially of the finer arts, including the art of lovemaking. In addition, some believe that the depiction of sexual activities in temples was considered a good omen because it represented new beginnings and new life.
|Carvings cover every inch of |
the outer walls (Charukesi Ramadurai)
Isolation helped these graphic motifs survive
Bizarrely, there’s no reason why these ornate temples were built at Khajuraho, since there’s no clear record of whether there was even a kingdom in this location. The survival of these graphic motifs can likely be attributed to their isolation for hundreds of years in the region’s once-thick forest, only rediscovered by Englishman Captain TS Burt in 1838. In fact, Burt himself had to be persuaded by his Indian attendants to make the journey; he didn’t believe anything of interest would be found at the remote spot. These charmed temples have also managed to evade the wrath of India’s moral police, who in recent years banned or destroyed a range of cultural artifacts, ranging from Salman Rushdie’s books to MF Hussain’s paintings.
|A visitor stops to admire the carvings (Credit: Charukesi Ramadurai)|
I can't help but think that the roots of India's child-rape problem are seen right here in these 'temples', but it would take someone far more versed in Indian culture and history than I to confirm that.