The Erotic Sculptures at Khajuraho, India

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Kris admires the wall carvings on the interior of the Lakshmana Temple at Khajuraho.

The Khajuraho Group of Monuments is a group of Hindu temples in Chhatarpur, Madhya Pradesh, India. The temples are famous for their erotic sculptures and their Nagara style symbolic architecture. The Khajuraho group of monuments is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Warning: if you're easily offended by sexual images, you might want to stop scrolling right here.

Most of the Khajuraho temples were built between 950 and 1050 by the Chandela dynasty. By the 12th century, the Khajuraho temple site had 85 temples spread over 20 square kilometers. Of these, only 25 temples have survived, spread over 6 square kilometers.

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The carvings almost completely cover the exterior walls of the temples.

The Khajuraho group of temples were all built around the same time but were dedicated to two religions, Hinduism and Jainism. The Jain temples are completely different from the Hindu ones, and exhibit, shall we say, less of a taste for the joie de vivre of their Hindu cousins.

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Note that some of the sexual positions of the Kama Sutra need some support.

I don't know enough about the temples or the religious synergy between the eroticism of the sculptures and the Hindu religion. I have read enough about the Kama Sutra, however, to know that it's not about eroticism per se or a compendium of sexual positions. The Kama Sutra is, rather, part of a philosophy of endeavoring to live life well. Topics of the Kama Sutra concern more the nature of love, finding a life partner, maintaining one's love life, and enhancing the pleasure of human life.

For your reference, here is a table of contents of the Kama Sutra texts. Some practical, some surprising topics.

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Flexibility is a virtue.
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About this one, our guide said, “You need to practice yoga to do this.” Note the “helpers” are joining in by pleasuring themselves.
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And, there are less “ambitious” poses, too.
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A veritable orgy of sculpture.
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Then there's bestiality. Our guide explained that this was a tableau of soldiers on the march, taking their pleasures where they could.
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Some, and actually, these are the ones I like the most, are more in the style of a classic western nude celebrating the beauty of the human form. Albeit a bit exaggerated.

The Khajurajo temples are a Unesco World Heritage site in India. Click the link to see a list of all the World Heritage sites in India, with links to stories we've written about them.

We also have written about the erotic art of the brothels and bathhouses of Pompeii and Herculaneum, Italy.

If your taste is more towards the classic nudes, check out the Brookgreen Sculpture Gardens in South Carolina.

We visited Khajuraho as part of a private tour arranged by PureQuest Adventures of India. We were not hosted for any part of this tour, so take our word for it that 1) trying to arrange your own transport and tours in India is not easy; and 2) these guys do a great job. It couldn’t have been better.

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12 thoughts on “The Erotic Sculptures at Khajuraho, India”

  1. Wow, those are really some statues – not a site to take the grandkids to – but great photos! I wonder what the reasoning or context is behind this “celebration” of sexuality …as overall India seemed so conservative when I was there. Speaking of which, I second your recommendation that transport in India is not easily done independently so if you can find a good tour operator as you did, it is very worthwhile.

    Reply
    • Yeah, I’d hate to have to answer the question, “What are they doing, Grandpa.” But in a way I love the idea that this used to be completely acceptable human behavior and was openly celebrated. In a temple, no less.

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  2. Those temples, statues, and carvings are truly erotic. And a UNESCO World Heritage Site at that! I guess it is just like Kama Sutra, extolling the pleasurable in life. I draw the line, however, at bestiality.

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    • Yeah, I tend to draw that line as well. However, it does seem to crop up in these riotous displays. There was some in the Pompeii erotic art too. Especially some of the stuff that ended up in the Archeological Museum in Naples.

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  3. The temple sculptures at Khajuraho are certainly designed to evoke an imaginative result. We can only imagine the conversations that took place when the artist returned home each evening. Definitely not your average dinner conversations.

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  4. Ha! I love it! All those crazy Kama Sutra positions finally explains the obsession with yoga!
    As a side note, we visited the Larco Museum in Lima, Peru, and they had a whole building dedicated to erotic pottery (kept in its own space so that families wouldn’t mistakenly stumble onto it). The Peruvians seemed to be equally creative with what you could do with a basic serving vessel!

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  5. Those carvings are quite amazing! Like you, I wonder at the reasoning behind them – in today’s society such images could only be intended to be erotic, so perhaps we’ve lost something…

    Reply

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