Last month a lesser-known right-wing outfit called Bajrang Sena made news for objecting to the sale of Kamasutra books and miniature erotic sculptures at the famous Khajuraho Temples in Madhya Pradesh. A unit leader of the organisation ‚ÄĒ that owes allegiance to BJP and RSS and wields influence in the country‚Äôs small pockets ‚ÄĒ was quoted by the news media as saying that sale of such figurines and books propagating nudity cannot be allowed at the ‚Äúsacred premises of a Shiva temple‚ÄĚ. She had also said that it not only affects the image of Indian culture in the eyes of foreign tourists but also influences the younger generation by imparting the wrong moral values.
In April, a man named Rahul Jain in Rahatgarh, a small town in MP, was booked for sharing on his Facebook wall a picture of a popular eighteenth century painting, showing Krishna and Radha in a love-making posture, that was sold for over USD 200,000 by Christies Auction House, New York. The initial complaint was filed by a member of BJP‚Äôs IT cell and Jain was booked under non-bailable offences including publishing obscene information in electronic form and promoting enmity and hatred towards a religion.
Yogi Adityanath, the Hindu priest chief minister of the country‚Äôs largest state, Uttar Pradesh, recently said that the ‚ÄúTaj Mahal and other minarets do not reflect India‚Äôs culture‚ÄĚ. He said that instead of gifting small replicas of the Taj Mahal to foreign dignitaries, the government should gift them copies of the Ramayana and the Bhagvad Gita as tokens of Indian culture.
Incidents such as these reek of irresponsibility and ignorance of facts, especially coming from persons and groups commanding influence on a large part of the population.
The Khajuraho Temples, a UNESCO world heritage site, were built between 950 and 1050 CE by the Chandela dynasty. According to historians and scholars, these shrines are a celebration of the divine marriage between Shiva and Parvati. Some of them suggest that they pertain to the tantric tradition of Hinduism, which is most often associated with Shaktism wherein the Goddess is supreme as the metaphysical reality is believed to be feminine.
Claims that the exhibition of eroticism at these temples are against the ethos of Indian culture are outrageous; they stem from the discomfort of religious fundamentalists with libertarianism and their attempts at sexual shaming and imposition of sexual moralism. Hinduism is an intrinsic part of Indian civilisation and any attempts to alter facts relating to it in the name of morality must be abhorred.
It makes complete sense that at the Khajuraho temples sex has been celebrated as divine and sacred and that there is a Shiva temple at the premises. The Shiva Linga, after all, is a union of the linga and the yoni, i.e.; the energy and potential of Shiva with the female creative energy of Shakti or Parvati. The temples celebrate their holy union while depicting eroticism as sacred.
The Kamasutra, an ancient Indian Hindu text on human sexual behaviour written by Vatsyayana, a 2nd century AD Vedic scholar, may not appeal to the drab intellect of some who may insult it by calling it obscene and shameful. However, Kamasutra is a significant part of ancient Sanskrit literature and thus precious heritage that we have inherited from our ancestors. Similarly, the ancient paintings of Radha and Krishna making love are a symbol of the same legacy of which the Bhagvad Gita is a part and which is celebrated enthusiastically by Hindus at holy sites such as Mathura and Vrindavan.