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Kama Sutra Paintings
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Erotic - Indian Gallery

An important meaning of Kama (kaa-ma, from Sanskrit) is sensuous love, or an emotional feeling of attachment. In ancient Indian thought, it is recognized as the stimulus of action and personified as the god of erotic love (Kamadeva). In the Gita, as in Buddhism, it is the source of attachment to the world and the great impediment to spiritual freedom. For lack of a better word in English, it is better to use term "erotica" to represent Kama, although erotica may essentially connote arousal.

Two thousand years ago, sage Vatsayana wrote his landmark manuscript, the Kamasutra (erotic codes). One thousand years later, the Chandella kings (950-1050 A.D.) built one of the finest groups of temples in India, depicting erotic positions, at their capital Khajuraho. About five centuries later, king Kallarasa of Karnataka wrote an important treatise on the subject, "Janavashya" (1450 A.D.) in Kannada language. In today's fast changing world, the values and sanctity attached to erotica and eroticism have also changed. Therefore, it has become necessary to re-evaluate the Erotic Arts of India in their true perspective.

Numerous writers, both Indian and foreign, have published their works on eroticism, mostly to feed the curiosity of westerners.

To appreciate the erotic arts of India, one must understand the role of sex in the scheme of things according to Hinduism. Hinduism is a way of life according to prescribed codes. Every Hindu has to undergo sixteen dignitary rituals (samskara) and four stages of life (ashramas). The final aim of life is salvation, which is the merging of the individual soul (atma) with the supreme soul (param-atma). One can attain salvation (Moksha) through Dharma, Artha and Kama (Religion, wealth and sex). The ancient Indians took a healthy, integrated view of all aspects of life and gave sex its due importance in the overall picture. The pursuit of pleasure (kama) is one of the important aims of life, on the path to deliverance.

Figures of loving couples (mithuna) in various art forms can be found in the very early periods of Indian civilization. This theme has been depicted consistently for thousands of years throughout India. Such sculpture can be found on the shrines of Buddhist, Jain, Vaishnava, Shaiva, Shakti, and also other cults, which proves its trans-religious nature. Mithuna is like any other life process and hence no taboo or inhibitions are attached to it. The worship of genitalia has been prevalent for centuries and it is considered a part and parcel of Hindu worship

Due to their delicate nature, only a few paintings survived the onslaught of time and climatic hazards. The Narasimha Swamy temple of Sibi has such rare wall paintings. In the last century, the kings of Mysore brought out some books of great importance, which are profusely illustrated with erotic art. Ancient books such as "Sougandhikaparinaya" and "Shritatwanidhi" contain illustrations, which are indirect and suggestive, and yet very modest. Indian miniatures such as Basholi, Kangra and Rajasthani styles have produced innumerable erotic paintings to cater to their rich clientele.

The sculptural wealth has remained intact for centuries in spite of vandalism and mutilation by religious fanatics. The erotic sculptures of Kahjuraho (in Madhya Pradesh) and Bhubaneshwar (Orissa) have been widely publicized, while others are almost unknown. In Karnataka State alone, there are a large number of such temples and sculptures, which will be studied individually.

 

 

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