…MORE than just erotic
“The Western Idiom?”
• In Western culture, nudity and sex are both
viewed as private affairs
• “Idiom”: A language, dialect, or style of
speaking peculiar to a people. Also, the
peculiar character or genius of a language.
In India…
• As in the case of Khajuraho, there are
depictions of nudity and sexual
intercourse found on many places of
• The sculptures of sexual love are
intermingled with secular depictions.
• This indicates that public exhibition is an
accepted part of worship.
Religion and Sex
Western culture assumes the
depictions to be Kama Sutra,
but they are mistaken.
The erotic sculptures are
placed on a place of worship,
among other sculptures.
Religious scripture dictates that
“a place without love images is
known as a place to be
The deities next to these
sculptures are there to bless
the act. The higher on the
temple you are, the holier it is.
• “Union” in religion has
heavy symbolism in
Hindu and Buddhism
• Humans in intercourse
may be an allegory
• Many of the depictions
center upon women and
in the religious view a
place devoid of the
female form would likely
be “as a house without a
wife…the monument will
be inferior in quality and
bare no fruit.”
Though she simply
removes a thorn from her
foot, in Indian culture, the
foot is a sexualized part
of the body.
• The lingham is located inside of the temple in what is
considered the holiest part of the temple.
• This large phallus is the avatar of a certain deity. It is
worshiped in the same manner as an
anthropomorphic form of the god.
Modern Worship
• Most of the Khajuraho Temples are no
longer used for worship, but have made
Khajuraho second only to the Taj Mahal
as the most popular tourist attraction in
• The only temple still used for worship is
the Matangeshvara.
• While the rest of Khajuraho is quiet and calm,
Matangeshvara is a bustle of activity, with a
giant Lingham in the center, coursing with
A bit of history…
• These temples were built between the years
900 to 1150 AD during the reign of the
Chandella Dynasty.
• Originally there were 85 temples but now,
because of the wear and tear of the years
and wars, there are merely 25 left standing.
• Another reason for Western interest in the
temples is that a supposedly less advanced
culture was able to build structures with more
intricate sculpture and craftsmanship than
any western building during that time or soon
• It was Western interest that sparked the
rediscovery of the temples.
• The temples were rediscovered in 1838 by
Captain T.S. Burt.
• He spent years working on restoration slowly
uncovering the temples that had been long
forgotten by the local people.
• It’s clear the intricacy of sculpture he
uncovered spurred him into the restoration
that is still continuing today.
The Temples themselves
are outstanding
examples of Medieval
Different types of
Cult icons
Attendant and surrounding divinities
Celestial women
Couples in Love
Secular Scenes
Animals (Mythological and Real)
Geometric and Floral designs
Photographs and Slides by
Ren Manley and Cindy Spitko.
Visual Culture in India, Arcadia 2008.