Making love, (mithuna couple)
35.5 cm with stand, 27.8 without
Indian ancient temples feature a variety of art work, of which 10% is sexual or erotic art outside and inside the temples. Some of the temples that have two layers of walls have small erotic carvings on the outside of the inner wall. Some scholars suggest these to be tantric sexual practices. Other scholars state that the erotic arts are part of Hindu tradition of treating kama as an essential and proper part of human life, and its symbolic or explicit display is common in Hindu temples. James McConnachie, in his history of the Kamasutra, describes the sexual-themed Khajuraho sculptures as “the apogee of erotic art”:
“Twisting, broad-hipped and high breasted nymphs display their generously contoured and bejewelled bodies on exquisitely worked exterior wall panels. These fleshy yakshies run riot across the surface of the stone, putting on make-up, washing their hair, playing games, dancing, and endlessly knotting and unknotting their girdles….Beside the heavenly nymphs are serried ranks of griffins, guardian deities and, most notoriously, extravagantly interlocked maithunas, or lovemaking couples.”
The temples have several thousand statues and art works, with Kandarya Mahadeva temple alone decorated with over 870. Some 10% of these iconographic carvings contain sexual themes and various sexual poses. A common misconception is that, since the old structures with carvings in Khajuraho are temples, the carvings depict sex between deities; however the kama arts represent diverse sexual expressions of different human beings. The vast majority of arts depict various aspects the everyday life, mythical stories as well as symbolic display of various secular and spiritual values important in Hindu tradition. For example, depictions show women putting on makeup, musicians making music, potters, farmers, and other folks in their daily life during the medieval era. These scenes are in the outer padas as is typical in Hindu temples.
There is iconographic symbolism embedded in the arts displayed in Khajuraho temples. Core Hindu values are expressed in multitude of ways. Even the Kama scenes, when seen in combination of sculptures that precede and follow, depict the spiritual themes .