The Tantric Mysteries of India's Kama Sutra Temples

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  • Image: Abhishek Singh aka Bailoo

    Couple at Khajuraho

    In the mid-19th century, British engineer T.S. Burt was assigned to trek through the jungles of central India. On his way he came across a series of intricately carved temples, made from pink and yellow sandstone, depicting scenes of orgies, masturbation and even bestiality.

  • Image: Abhishek Singh aka Bailoo

    Figures at Khajuraho

    Though engineer Burt deemed the temples ‘offensive’, ‘amazingly historic’ would have been a better description. The Khajuraho temples, of which only 22 of the original 85 remain standing, were created between 950 and 1150 by the Chandel kings.

  • Image: Aotearoa

    Erotic detail from the base of the temple

    Although the kama sutra did not originate from the site of the temples, it was held to be a sacred book in the culture. Tantric sexual practices were widely used in India during medieval times and were duly honored in the architecture of the period.

  • Image: Lev Yakupov

    Khajuraho

    Every part of the exteriors of the temples is sculpted with erotic forms. Still, these temples are meant as places of worship for deities and inside the temples, no erotic images appear.

  • Image: Paul Mannix

    Khajuraho temples

    Anthropologists have suggested this was to encourage visitors to leave their sexual desires outside, before entering the deitys’ home for prayer.

  • Image: Aotearoa

    Figures at Khajuraho

    Additionally, the carvings depict people, not deities, suggesting gods are beyond the temptations of sex.

  • Image: YashiWong

    Khajuraho figure

    Despite depicting humans, the Khajuraho temples do not depict ordinary people.

  • Image: Abhishek Singh aka Bailoo

    Khajuraho figure

    The females have exceedingly large breasts and broad hips and the men are strong enough to lift multiple women in the air simultaneously. Not all fantasy, some carvings show moral situations.

  • Image: Lebrex

    Khajuraho scene

    In one scene, a man is penetrating a horse. A second man hides his head in shame to watch such an act. Overall, most of the carvings show such scenes of sexual exploration, sexual satisfaction and sexual awkwardness.

  • Image: cool spark

    Current-day Khajuraho is home to 3,000 modest people, rich in traditional Indian culture. Despite souvenir shops selling playing cards conveying kama sutra instructions, the town is well known for its devout Jain population. Jainism is a sect that strictly believes in non-violence, self-effort, the freeing of the soul and rejection of material goods.

  • Image: Paul Mannix

    The Khajuraho temples were named a UNESCO world heritage site in 1986.

  • Image: Chithiraiyan

    The Khajuraho temples continue to tempt tourists eager to appreciate art, and the contortions of the human body.

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Scribol Staff
Anthropology and History
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