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Dissolving the Sacred and the Profane
India is home to many world heritage sites, the most controversial one being the temples of Khajuraho. Its magnificent architecture is labelled profane, which arouses the notion of defiling the nation's culture. It is time we approach the matter from a different perspective.
The mesmerising Khajuraho temples; Image Source- Times of India

From the world of Religion and Spirituality

Khajuraho Temples have an equally fascinating legend behind its creation. On one fine evening, Hemavati was bathing in a lake when she caught the Moon God's attention. Enthralled by her delicate beauty, the Moon God descended to the earth to seduce her.

The young maiden could not resist the persistent advances of the Moon God, which resulted in the consummation of their love. Their passionate union gave birth to Chandravarman.

The problems started when Chandravarman came into the picture. The then society was sceptic about the union of a mortal and a God. On top of that, Hemavati was unmarried, which further made her the target of scorn and hatred.

The best option for her was to take refuge in the lush green forests (in present-day Madhya Pradesh). Finally, at peace, Hemavati devoted her time to nurture her son. Her efforts paid off when Chadravarman became the famous founder of the Chandela Dynasty.

After the death of Hemavati, Chandravarman became busier with the affairs of his kingdom. That's when one-night Hemavati visited her son in a dream. Hemavati requested that her love story be immortalised through the sculptures of temples as a lesson that passion is just another form of love and that there is nothing to be ashamed of.

Reminiscing the sneering attitude of society towards his mother, Chandravarman immediately commissioned the construction of the Khajuraho temples.

Apart from the legend, scholars have their interpretations about the erotic sculptures. The most popular one is that the erotic sculptures are mostly seen on the outer walls of the temples. The purpose of this was to educate young boys about the Grihastha (second stage) lifestyle. After the Brahmacharya phase, a life of passionate indulgences was the norm according to Hinduism.

The second theory suggests that such sculptures stemmed from Tantrism, specifically practised by the Chandelas. Tantrism emphasised the importance of attaining nirvana through earthly pleasures. The sculptures thus propagated their ideology to the masses.

One of the vital facts that is often neglected while judging Khajuraho is that the erotic sculptures only constitute 10% of all the sculptures in the temple complex. The rest of the temples depict the mundane lives of people, which further normalises the so-called 'pornographic' images.

Perhaps it is the failure of modernity that the sculptures of Khajuraho temples are declared dirty. The past had its own reasons to create and preserve such pieces of architecture. It is our narrow perspective that makes us frown upon this age-old marvel. By deducing such a biased perspective, we are far from open-minded and tolerant.

Leha Biswas Author
The crooked awkward cookie who loves to procrastinate but is driven by random bouts of ambition while daydreaming of a loaded future. Yass! That's me.

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