The Khajuraho Group of Monuments is a group of Hindu and Jain temples in Madhya Pradesh, India. The temples are famous for their nagara style architectural symbolism and their erotic sculptures. Most Khajuraho temples were built between 950 and 1050 CE by the Chandela dynasty. Historical records note that Khajuraho temple site had 85 temples by 12th century, spread over 20 square kilometres. Of these, only about 20 temples have survived, spread over 6 square kilometres.

Khajuraho - Erotic Temples
Photo: Zuzana Zwiebel
Structure of Dravidian Temple
DRAVIDIAN STRUCTURE OF SHIVA TEMPLE: Linga means phallus. Yoni means womb. A Shiva temple, and by extension the whole world, is the yoni of the Goddess. The entrance to the is the leaf-shaped through within the temple, which envelopes Shiva’s linga. The Goddess thus draws Shiva’s phallus into the world. The tip of the leaf-shaped through always points to the north, suggesting that Shiva is lying on the ground facing the north. That the Goddess is always visualized as sitting on the top of Shiva is indicative of her proactive role in making Shiva interact with the world. Water is poured on the symbol of Shiva and collected in the symbol of Shakti with aim of drawing the energy of Shiva’s fire into samsara. This highly erotic imagery is highly typical for Tantra. (Author of Illustration: Raghu Raj Kishore)

An ancient local legend held that Hindu deity Shiva and other gods enjoyed visiting the dramatic hill formation in Kalinjar area. The center of this region is Khajuraho, set midst local hills and rivers. The temple complex reflects the ancient Hindu tradition of building temples where gods love to play. The temples are clustered near water, another typical feature of Hindu temples. The local legends state that the temple complex had 64 water bodies, of which 56 have been physically identified by archaeologists so far.

Khajuraho - Erotic Temples
Photo: Zuzana Zwiebel

“The gods always play where lakes are, where the sun’s rays are warded off by umbrellas of lotus leaf clusters, and where clear waterpaths are made by swans, whose breasts toss the white lotus hither and thither, where swans, ducks, curleys and paddy birds are heard, and animals rest nearby in the shade of Nicula trees on the river banks.” (Brhat Samhita 1.60.4-8, 6th Century CE)

Khajuraho - Erotic Temples
Photo: Zuzana Zwiebel

All temples, except one (Chaturbhuja) face sunrise – another symbolic feature that is predominant in Hindu temples. The relative layout of temples integrate masculine and feminine deities and symbols highlight the interdependence. The art work symbolically highlight the four goals of life considered necessary and proper in Hinduism – dharma, kama, artha and moksha.

Khajuraho - Erotic Temples
Photo: Zuzana Zwiebel

 Of the surviving temples, 6 are dedicated to Shiva and his consorts, 8 to Vishnu and his affinities, 1 to Ganesha, 1 to Sun god, 3 to Jain Tirthanks. For some ruins, there is insufficient evidence to assign the temple to specific deities with confidence.

Khajuraho - Erotic Temples
Photo: Zuzana Zwiebel

An overall examination of site suggests that the Hindu symbolic mandala design principle of square and circles is present each temple plan and design. Further, the territory is laid out in three triangles that converge to form a pentagon.

IMG_8060_India_Khajuraho_erotic_temple_1200triangel
THE TRIANGLES IN WHICH SOUL IS REALIZED & MATTER VALIDATED: In Tantrik geometry, the downward-pointed triangle represents PRAKRITI (female principle, ever-changing aspect of life, mind and matter, nature) while the upward-pointed triangle representsPURUSHA (male principle, unchanging aspect of life, consciousness, soul). Brahma causes the two of intersect, creating a six-pointed star that spins around Vishnu’s finger as the ‘Sudarsham chakra’. Shiva separates the two triangles to create his rattle-drum. The star-discus represents engangement of spiritual and material reality that gives rise to the world of name and form. The rattle-drum represents the separation of spiritual and material reality resulting in nameless, formless unmanifested. While pursuing the common goal of SAT-CHITTA-ANANDA. God as Vishnu preserves the realm of RASA (material fluids) while God as Shiva destroys the realm of rasa in the flames of TAPA (spiritual fire).

Scholars suggest that this reflects the Hindu symbolism for three realms or trilokinatha, and five cosmic substances or panchbhuteshvara. The temple site highlights Shiva, the one who destroys and recycles life, thereby controlling the cosmic dance of time, evolution and dissolution.

Khajuraho - Erotic Temples
THE POINT OF SHIVA & SHAKTI – THE SOUL: The dot represents the soul, the formless divine within us. Without the point no circle (symbol of universe) can not be drawn and no square (symbol of culture) constructed. Just as the existence of the circle presupposes the existence of the central point, the existence of the world presupposes the existence of a witness of the world (The soul – Atma). THE CIRCLE OF BRAHMA & SARASWATI – THE UNIVERSE: The circle (the most spontaneous of natural shapes) the best represents the Hindu universe, because Hindus see the world as being timeless, cyclical and infinite. The universe is the medium through which the divine presents itself. It is window to the divine. THE SQUARE OF VISHNU & LAKSHMI – THE CULTURE: The square (with its sharp edges, the most artificial of shapes), when drawn within the circle of the universe, it best represents culture. Different cultures have different values, hence the square of cultures can be oriented in various ways, but always anchored to the rim of the circle at its corners. All cultures, however different, depend on nature for their survival.

A Hindu temple design follows a geometrical design called vastu-purusha-mandala. The name is a composite Sanskrit word with three of the most important components of the plan. Mandala means circle, Purusha is universal essence at the core of Hindu tradition, while Vastu means the dwelling structure.

IMG_8054_India_Khajuraho_erotic_temple_1200_PurushaMandala
The 9×9 (81) grid PARAMA SAYIKA’ layout plan (above) found in large ceremonial Hindu Temples. It is one of many grids used to build Hindu temples. In this structure of symmetry, each concentric layer has significance. The outermost layer, PAISACHIKA PADAS, signify aspects of Asuras and evil; while inner DEVIKA PADAS signify aspects of Devas and good. In between the good and evil is the concentric layer of MANUSHA PADAS signifying human life; All these layers surround BRAHMA PADAS, which signifies creative energy and the site for temple’s primary idol for darsana. Finally at the very center of Brahma padas is GRABHGRIYA (Purusa Space), signifying Universal Principle present in everything and everyone.

The temples have a rich display of intricately carved statues. While they are famous for their erotic sculpture, sexual themes cover less than 10% of the temple sculpture.

Khajuraho - Erotic Temples
Photo: Zuzana Zwiebel

Further, most erotic scene panels are neither prominent nor emphasized at the expense of the rest, rather they are in proportional balance with the non-sexual images. The viewer has to look closely to find them, or be directed by a guide.

Khajuraho - Erotic Temples
Photo: Zuzana Zwiebel

The arts cover numerous aspects of human life and values considered important in Hindu pantheon. Further, the images are arranged in a configuration to express central ideas of Hinduism.

Khajuraho - Erotic Temples
Photo: Zuzana Zwiebel

“In the embrace of his beloved a man forgets the whole world, everything both within and without;  in the same way, he who embraces the Self,  knows neither within nor without.” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, 7th Century BC)

Khajuraho - Erotic Temples
Photo: Zuzana Zwiebel

GALLERY –  Khajuraho Erotic Temples

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PHOTO: Zuzana Zwiebel

TEXT: Zuzana Zwiebel – Wikipedia, Dr.Devdutt Pattanaik: A Decoding of Hindu Mythology; 7 Secret of Shiva & other sources.


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2 comments

  1. My own analysis of Indian history is that in the past India w as not sexually repressed. Those were the days when temples like Khajuraho, Konarak, Puri, were built — India was not sexually repressed. In spite of the few so-called mahatmas, the greater part of the country was sexually satisfied; there was a softness, a loving quality, a grace.

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  2. There is ritual that is followed during the ceremonies of Indian marriages wherein, the mother of groom rushes to the nearby well (often in or around a local temple) to commit suicide while the Baraat (marriage procession) proceeds towards bride’s place. The groom gets down from the mare and persuades her not to do that as he is going to bring her a daughter-in-law. Though the ritual is still here, it dates back to the era when youths were required to be compelled for getting married as most of them used to be least interested in marriage after completion of their education at Gurukul. Youths, in those times, preferred pursuing higher goals over the desire to get married. Today, ridiculously, it is considered that the mother wishes to commit suicide because the son is getting married. Kama, in those days, was fully understood and overpowered (not suppressed) with the help of right education and it did not hover over the innocent minds as it does today. The groom also breastfeeds for the last time at that moment.

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