The faint outline of a waning moon appears in the sky, as the sun slowly descends beyond the magnificent temples, and times, of the moon-worshipping Chandela dynasty. In the distance, a guide solemnly explains to an Indian family the sculpture of a foursome on the wall – this aasan (pose) depicts a man “satisfying” three women, the pose helps improve blood circulation in the entire body, he says. I gape in awe, first at the intricacy of the stone carvings, then at the nonchalant reaction of the family. Chances are, the same adults will condemn their daughters from dating men of their choice, label sexual references as taboo in another (non-holy) setting, and scorn at pre-marital sex, all in the name of Indian culture.
Erotic sculptures are all over the walls, but Khajuraho isn’t just about erotica; it’s about the depiction of life in an era when sex was considered as normal as men going to work, women doing household chores, kings preparing for war and such. An era when men and women were as in tune with nature as with their own desires. So many on Twitter echo my sentiments while I tweet from the temples; what happened to our society? When, and more importantly why, did we become so rigid?
I’m struck by the irony of the depictions on the walls, in the context of today’s India. Centuries ago, our temples and people were liberal enough to tastefully explore the desire and biology of our own bodies, even in the presence of the gods they worshipped. Centuries later, our temples veil women, our political leaders condemn nudist art, and Bollywood’s portrayal of sex is anything but tasteful. How did we change so much?
I’m travelling with Pugdundee Safaris in Madhya Pradesh this week, staying at their eco-lodges at Panna, Bandavgarh and Kanha, visiting the wildlife parks and exploring life in Bundelkhand. All opinions / thoughts expressed in this post are my own.