Also the roofs had nothing Islamic about them. The roofs were built in a cathedral-like upwards surging style, rising tall like a series of graded peaks of a mountain range that represent the dawn of higher-levels of spiritual attainment. It appears as if India had been reaching far beyond the Islamic before the Islamic even emerged.
It contrasted sharply with the Islamic world where the sexual isolation of women from men in society behind the hijab and later the burka, which the Islamic rulers increasingly demanded, casts a shadow that I found strikingly absent in these temples. While the explicit erotic scenes were a relatively small part of the carvings in the temples, the sensuous eroticism that is so much a part of the human form was proudly presented in the erotic sculptures. There was also an ordering apparent among the sensuous. The cruder sexual scenes appeared at lower levels on the temple walls while the more esoteric, associated with deities, appeared near the top. The guidebook told us that the goddesses and gods represent the many manifestations of the divine Shakti and Shiva, which are the female and male principles that are reflected in the Yin and the Yang in Chinese culture.
I saw the erotic sculptures in a different way. I saw it as a tribute to Life embodying in human form what is sublime and spiritually spontaneous about our humanity.
The spontaneous aspects and its universality seemed to me reflected in the way the statues and carvings cover in some places every inch of every ceiling and every wall. While the erotic carvings seemed to give the temples of Khajuraho its fame as a tourist attraction, it was the level of detail that I found magnificent. Sure, the erotic scenes were a kind of three-dimensional rendering of the Kama Sutra, a kind of graphical instruction manual chiseled in stone. But I didn't see them that way. One's sense of eroticism seems to change at the Khajuraho temples. The reality seems to cheat one's expectation by giving the erotic a budding spiritual significance hinting that these temples were more than just the outcome of skilled hands, but were the outcome of a spiritual idea that is rooted in the heart and was given an excelsior expression.
"Of course every form of beauty is in the eyes of the beholder," said Indira at one point as we talked about these things. An object of a specific beauty may appear differently to you than to me, and differently again to other people."
She pointed to an almost life-size sculpture of an exquisitely shaped woman. "She may appear as a divine mother to a priest, or as a sister to a Swami, or as a daughter to an old person, or as a lover to the romantic mind," she said. "So how do you see her?" she asked.
"Maybe I see her as neither," I said. "I tend to see her in the universal sense, perhaps in the sense in which Judy Chicago incorporated the image of vulva on the dinner plates for the 39 women of her Dinner-Party. Maybe she is intended to break the isolation of women in society, the isolation that the Vedic Brahmanism had promoted for 2,500 years, which had finally come to an end at the time when these temples were built. Maybe they were built as a spiritual protest against 2,500 years of abuse."
"We don't really know why they were built," said Indira. "We can only speculate. But we do know that the Chandela dynasty was involved in a Tantric cult of Hindism, and that Tantric mysticism teaches that the gratification of sexual desire is part of the path to self-knowledge and to "the infinite." The art may also reflect a type of Hinduism that focuses onto the feminine aspects of divinity. Or the sculptures might simply show scenes from everyday life in Chandela India."
"I don't think the builders knew themselves why they built these temples," I said to her. "I see them as the clearest expression of the Principle of the Universal Kiss that my friend Helen discovered just recently. I believe the builders did know that men and women deeply depend on each other and not only in the family environment for the raising of children. Men and women depend on each other emotionally, even spiritually in unfolding relationships where sexual intimacy plays a key role."
"And also physically," said Indira. "Physical sex is biologically necessary. It is a factor in our physical health, and also in our mental health. Celibacy isn't a stepping stone to a richer life but a stepping stone into the madness of self-imposed sterility that is the opposite of vitality. It isn't the key to humanist vitality. Maybe Helen's Principle of the Universal Kiss is more profound than we yet realize, and the universal kiss is a sexual kiss."
"Maybe this was the key issue here," I interjected. "And maybe this is still the issue, the very issue that makes these temples the most popular tourist destination in India. It's sex that draws the people. There is nothing else here. The climate is hot, there is no nightlife here worth the mention, the village only has a population of 3,000. The temples are the only thing. Sure the
Kandariya Mahadev Temple is impressive with its 900 sculptures and countless spires. It's a marvel in the temple construction. The book says it stand more than a 100 feet tall. But is this what the people come for, that art, the architecture? No it's sex that most of them come for. The men crane their neck to get a closer look and the wives pretend to be annoyed. Sex is the thing, because sexual isolation runs deep in almost every society on earth so that sex is now the key attraction."
"This fact is exploited by the tourism vendors," Indira interjected. "You see the erotic sculptures on posters and post cards, but rarely the architecture and the remaining 90% of the artwork. So I agree. Sex is the thing. Sex sells. Sex is what the people want to see, that's why it sells. If this wasn't so you wouldn't see a single sexual image on the posters and postcards. The commercial world caters to what sells, what people want."
"I find it amazing how deeply attractive sex is, because of all the sculptures in these temples only 10% are erotic sculptures, as the guide book points out, while the rest show common scenes of everyday life. The amazing thing is that even this thin spread draws the tourists. Maybe its is false advertising that brings people here. The temples should not be seen as erotic temples at all, but as temples of the celebration of life and the wide sphere of our humanity in which the sexual has a place, a 10% place. Evidently society has become too 'small' in its self-isolation for one-another to give to one another that 10%. It's that 'poverty' that causes these temples to be seen as erotic temples instead of temples of a human life in which eroticism place a certain role, a 10% role as the ancient builders had seen it in their society."
"Are you saying that most other temples are temples of poverty?" Indira interjected.
"Maybe they are, Indira. The general religious thought is that the human beings is the reflected image of God. And so society builds great temples and cathedrals in honor of their God in whose image they see themselves. But then they say oops we have to exclude sex from this image. We are ashamed of what we are. We say that God as messed up. Did you ever read the Adam and Eve satire in the Bible? The satirist has Adam to confront God, saying, 'you fool, you have messed up, I am ashamed of what you have done.' Society is still saying that by omitting sex from its temples as if it wasn't a part of life and human existence. That is what makes the temples here richer and grander, because they are honest temples. They are more honest than society is itself."
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