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An Introduction to the Erotic Arts of India

by Dr. K. L. Kamat
First Online: January 1999
Last update: May 09, 2017


The year 1999 marked a great symbolic step in the history of the erotic arts of India. Two thousand years ago, sage Vatsyayana wrote his landmark manuscript, the Kamasutra (erotic codes). One thousand years later, the Chandella kings (950-1050 A.D.) built one of the finest groups of temples in India, depicting erotic positions, at their capital Khajuraho. About five centuries later, king Kallarasa of Karnataka wrote an important treatise on the subject, "Janavashya" (1450 A.D.) in Kannada. In today's fast changing world, the values and sanctity attached to erotica and eroticism have also changed. Therefore, it has become necessary to re-evaluate the Erotic Arts of India in their true perspective.

Numerous writers, both Indian and foreign, have published their works on eroticism, mostly to feed the curiosity of westerners. In my decades of work on the subject, I have not come across a single book or paper that tried to study the topic without prejudice or without giving it a pornographic perspective. India thus lost immensely, through a wishful undermining of her history and art. This is an humble attempt to share my first-hand research and information about ancient erotic art and literature of India.

"We will study the Erotic Arts of India in Paintings, Wood Carvings and Sculptures"

To appreciate the erotic arts of India, one must understand the role of sex in the scheme of things according to Hinduism. Hinduism is a way of life according to prescribed codes. Every Hindu has to undergo sixteen denotary rituals (samskara) and four stages of life (ashramas). The final aim of life is salvation, which is the merging of the individual soul (atma) with the supreme soul (paramatma). One can attain salvation (moksha) through dharma, artha and kama. The ancient Indians took a healthy, integrated view of all aspects of life and gave sex its due importance in the overall picture. The pursuit of pleasure (kama) is one of the important aims of life, on the path to deliverance.

© K. L. Kamat
A Romantic Couple
Loving couple (Mithuna) – Sculpture from Jinannathapura

Figures of loving couples (mithuna) in various art forms can be found in the very early periods of Indian civilization. This theme has been depicted consistently for thousands of years throughout India. Such sculpture can be found on the shrines of Buddhist, Jain, Vaishnava, Shaiva, Shakti, and also other cults, which proves its trans-religious nature. Mithuna is like any other life process and hence no taboo or inhibitions are attached to it. The worship of genitalia  has been prevalent for centuries and it is considered a part and parcel of Hindu worship.

" This is an humble attempt to share my first hand research and information about ancient erotic arts  of India"


Sources of Erotic Art

The Erotic arts of India have been studied here primarily in three forms:

Erotic paintings of Sibi

Paintings: Due to their delicate nature, only a few paintings survived the onslaught of time and climatic hazards. The Narasimha Swamy temple of Sibi has such rare wall-paintings. In the last century, the kings of Mysore brought out some books of great importance, which are profusely illustrated with erotic art. Ancient books such as "Sougandhikaparinaya" and "Shritatwanidhi" contain illustrations (example) which are indirect and suggestive, and yet very modest. Indian miniatures such as Basholi, Kangra and Rajasthani styles have produced innumerable erotic paintings to cater to their rich clientele.

Two Men Coaxing a Woman to Cooperate in Sexual  Acts

Wood Carvings: Many temples in India celebrate an annual chariot-festival (Rathotsava). The chariot (which is really a mobile temple) is specially built with hard woods such as teak, and innumerable panels depicting mythological themes are carved around the chariot (Ratha). Occasionally, the panels contain astonishingly explicit erotic carvings.


Sculptures:  The sculptural wealth has remained intact for centuries in spite of vandalism and mutilation by religious fanatics. The erotic sculptures of Khajuraho (in Madhya Pradesh) and Bhubaneshwar (Orissa) have been widely publicized, while others are almost unknown. In Karnataka State alone, there are a large number of such temples and sculptures, which will be studied individually.

Important Note

An important meaning of Kama (kaa-ma, from Sanskrit) is sensuous love, or an emotional feeling of attachment. In ancient Indian thought, it is recognized as the stimulus of action and personified as the god of erotic love (Kamadeva). In the Gita, as in Buddhism, it is the source of attachment to the world and the great impediment to spiritual freedom. For lack of a better word in English, I have used the term erotica to represent Kama, although erotica may essentially connote arousal.

Author- K.L. Kamat
K. L. Kamat

About the Author:

Dr. K.L. Kamat has studied the erotic arts of India and amassed an unbelievable collection of photographs of sculptures, paintings and artifacts. He believes that prior researchers have tried to sensationalize Indian erotic arts and thus denied the artistic credibility the field deserves

Next: The Beauty of   Khajuraho Temples

See also:

Erotic Arts of India
Erotic  Arts of India

Artist Lets his Imagination Go WildDrinking Couple -- Sculpture from a Stupa in SanchiA Romantic CoupleMan punishes wifes paramourMan disturbs wife while she puts on make up<br>Ancient temple sculptureDepiction of BestialityErotica from a Chariot CarvingSelf help is the best help?
Worship of LingaSculpture of Lajja GowriGirl preparing to meet boyfriendLovers, sculpture from a Khajuraho templeGenitalia WorshipDivine RecreationFriends Engaged in Sexual ActivitiesWorkplace Harassment ?!
Two playful ladies bathing togetherMaking love on a comfortable bed, pillow and bed-spreadMan Fondles Two Women on a Swing<br>Mysore Traditional PaintingA man and two women are in the game of love.Not Tonight DearEnjoying each other companyPlayboy Krishna Makes Out in the BushWoman Worshipping an Erect Linga
In Explicit Detail…The Ishwara LingamWoman putting on makeup excites a manA Warrior Spends Time With MistressNeeds of the body differ from that of the mind!<br>Two aroused Sadhus accosting a courtesanBirth of a Child <br> The Natural Culmination of Sexual ActivitySpanking in Medieval India (?) Divine recreation: Krishna with two Gopikas (female cowherds)
Who Said Bigger is Better?!The Phallus: Facts and FallaciesI read and I forgot… I saw and I understoodAmorous Couple, Wooden SculptureA Beast Mounts a WomanSculpted Chandela Temples  Depicting EroticaThe Double DeckerCarvings on wooden car (chariot) in Pattadakal
Man and Woman in Beauty of UnionCouple Entangled in a Love KnotThe Mark of a Man!One Woman Takes on Two MenPlayful Girl Friends Medieval Sculpture Depicting Group Sex Begging for LoveErotic Paintngs of India
Depilated LoversErotica of BallegaviErotic Paintings of IndiaManmatha Shooting Arrow of Love from GajanaariIllustration Based on Kokashastra of KalyanamallaMaking Love on a SwingMithuna LoversMan Cajoles Woman
Mankinds First Erotic Art?Threesome (?) Depiction

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