We have visited many places in India since my first visit in 1968. In certain periods every year was focussed on a different area, and one of the main subjects has been sculpture in and on temples. In the winter of 1977 and 1978 we travelled quite a lot, visiting Mahabalipuram, Kanchipuram, Tanjavur, Chidambaram, Tiruchirapalli, Madurai in the South, Khajuraho and Bodgaya in the North and Ajanta and Ellora in Western India. In 1982 we visited Konarak and Puri in the East. From this period I have some excellent 35mm analog pictures, both B&W negatives and color positives. I’ll try to find time to scan some of those pictures. From 2002 onward I started using a digital camera, at first a relatively simple one and progressively better machinery. Since then we visited Halebidu, Belur and Somanathapuram (2006), Hampi, Pattadakal, Aihalli and Badami (2007), Ajanta, Ellora and Elephanta (2010), Mahabalipuram and Kanchipuram (2011), Udaipur, Chittorgarh and Ranakpur (2012) and then some images here are from the Louvre (shouldn’t they be returned to India?).
In my website thoughts4ideas.eu I have shown and discussed sculptures from these places that tell something about music, and there you can find out more about the history and background. Here you will find some wonderful pieces, but also some have been included because they are interesting rather than aesthetically spectacular. So we have a couple of gods and quite a few goddesses. There are the famous goddesses Parvati and Durga but also the nameless matrikas, the mother goddesses. And then there are the dancing girls and other highly seductive young women. Hip to the left, shoulder to the right, the body flexed in in three sections, known as tribhanga. Moon faced, deer eyed and perfect semi globed breasts. As far as I know such breasts do not exist in reality, and neither does the combination of large hips and wasp waist. Plastic surgery? Just imagination! And the goddesses are also modelled after these artistic nymphs. And then there are the amazingly complex hairdos and headdresses, the sumptuous jewelry and the scant but yet fashionable dresses. There are some images of very explicit and extreme sexual activity. One woman seems to be doing a hand job on two men with enormous organs while one man is lying under her, penetrating her from below. The position of the woman in the centre reminds of the Lajja Gauri, the very ancient mother goddess that represents fertility and abundance. Another person is sitting in a similar pose above the main figure, no idea what to make of that. Sex, eroticism, sensuality are oozing out everywhere. Varaha, the boar incarnation of Vishnu, lifts Bhumi the goddess earth so sensuously. And the androgyne Ardhanari Ishvara seems to represent the eternal state of pre-orgasm.
What a diagonal opposite to the frigid censorial expressions of monotheistic cultures. Slowly, from renaissance onward, harking back at the sensual Venus, mores changed in Europe. But in patriarchal cultures women had to be completely hidden, hair covered, and so eroticism took the form of pornography, obscure, illicit and hypocritical sensuality. After long dominance by monotheistic cultures from the middle east and Europe the situation in India, especially in the north, became miserable. But to this day more than 60% of the Indian population are devotees of Devi, the goddess, rather than any of the male gods (although devotion is never exclusive, one can be a follower of a goddess but also of one or more of the gods, either anthropomorphic or animal). So perhaps, once the shadows and fumes of islam and christianity have vanished, India can return to a healthier morality.