Erotic art in the temples of Nepal When one looks up at the roof struts of temples in the Kathmandu valley, a whimsical realm of amorous beings appear. Unlike the erotic art of the famous Khajuraho Temples of India, these explicit carvings in Nepal are relatively crude, made more with humour than dedication. Elephants turn missionary, beasts love men, and every taboo is violated. Time has forgotten the real reason for their existence although tour guides proclaim confidently that they serve to protect the temples from the goddess of lightning, a shy virgin.
Through extensive fieldwork with craftsmen, sociologists, historians, priests and even Maoist rationalists, the author explores the reasons behind their existence, the enduring beliefs of the culture that gave birth to them, the principles of Nepalese temple architecture, the lives of the- craftsmen who carve these images, the attitude of Nepalese society towards them, and the reconstruction efforts underway following the tragic earthquake of 2015. The book also presents an extensive collection of captivating images of the erotic carvings from all around Nepal and comparable art in other cultures.
Shivaji Das was born and brought up in the north-eastern province of Assam in India. He graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology (lIT), Delhi, subsequent to which he completed his post-graduation from the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Calcutta. He is presently working as a management consultant in Singapore.
He is the author of' Angels by the Murky River: Travels Off the Beaten Track.Yoda Press (2017), and 'Journeys with the caterpillar: Travelling through the islands of Flores and Sumba, Indonesia (2013).
Shivaji's writings have been published in TIME, Asian Geographic, Outlook Traveller, Jakarta Post, Conscious Magazine, and Freethinker. His interviews have been featured on BBC, CNBC, The Economist, Travel Radio Australia, Around the World TV, etc. His photographs in collaboration with his wife, Yolanda Yu, have been exhibited in the Darkroom Gallery, Vermont (USA), Kuala Lumpur International Photography Festival (Malaysia), the Arts House (Singapore), and the National Library (Singapore).
Shivaji is the conceptualizer and organizer for the Migrant Poetry Contests in Singapore and Malaysia.
when I first visited Kathmandu in 2012, I was immensely intrigued by a small woodcarving on a temple strut, that of a pair busy copulating while the woman was washing her hair and the man seemingly in a conversation with passers-by right during the act. Such peculiar temple art is rather conspicuous in the Kathmandu Valley, varying in forms and principles that span from bestiality to paranormal, from orgies to solo undertakings. Thereby these erotic carvings sparked a strong desire in me to understand more about them but when I searched for materials on this subject, I realised that unlike India's famed erotic temple art, little had been written about that from Nepal's. In addition, the existing materials were either too scholarly or too abridged, concerned solely with the iconography or the architectural aspects. And so I decided to work on this book on the erotic art in the temples of the Kathmandu Valley targeting a general readership while providing a more holistic perspective. In this process, I visited Nepal six times over the next four years, interviewing craftsmen, sociologists, historians, priests, the common man and even Maoist rationalists to discuss these carvings, their purpose, the associated taboos, and people's attitude towards them. Their perspective took me to fascinating realms of myths, legends, and opinions, one door opening to many more which then opened to even further. I explored comparable erotic art in countries such a Japan, The Philippines, China, India and Peru to draw contrasts and parallels. This book is an outcome of this endeavour. It presents an essay on the erotic temple art accompanied by a collection of over hundred detailed images from Nepal and beyond. I sincerely hope that this book will give the reader a joy in appreciating mankind's immense capacity for creativity while also understanding the socio-economic baggage that often follow from any tradition.
The book would not have been possible without the kind upport of several individuals and for that I would like to express my deep and sincere gratitude to Indra Kaji Shilpakar, lndra Prasad Shilpakar, Mr. Nirmal K. Karn, Madhab Lal Maharjan, Subhash Thapa, Mangesh Lal Shreshtha, Dinesh Saru, Dina Bangdel, Rajesh Shakya, Samundra Man Singh Srestha, Sameer Kulung Rai, Prateek Ratna Shal ya, and Yumi Ouchi of Sagemonoya Gallery (Tokyo) among others. Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to my family and friends for their unconditional love and support during this effort. s for the carving of the copulating pair that I had seen in Kathmandu, the disastrous earthquake of 2015 had split them apart, the tremors driving a deep wedge through their eternal union. As of today, they are waiting for their bond of love or terror to be restored.
This was before the earthquake that destroyed it all. It was early morning, the hour when photographers pretend to own all the light that shines on this world. That December morning in 2012, Durbar Square in Kathmandu was overwhelmed in a red blanket, bricks in red, roofs in a deeper red, vermillion in a bright living red - on foreheads of women and on the feet of the deities they were praying to. I was walking, looking up all the while, having come prepared, with much anticipation. And there it was, a gallery of erotic carvings, tiny little creatures copulating and masturbating without a care for anything in the world.
Since Nepal opened up to tourism in 1951, the erotic carvings, like in the Khajuraho temple facades but in the struts of the ancient temples and palaces of the Kathmandu Valley, have fascinated visitors. It is a whimsical realm of amorous beings where orgies are the norm, elephants turn missionary and beasts love men. These days, young couples whisper sweet nothings to each other under the tender gazes of these eternal lovers while jaded tourists raise their bazooka-length cameras to shoot this unexpected explicitness.
The Durbar Square at Kathmandu, a UNESCO World Heritage site, woke up early and slept late, its packed network of arterial pathways constantly trampled by a never-ending flow of footsteps turning and twisting between the countles temples, palace houses, courtyards. Flower sellers, vegetable sellers, and tour guides sat on the temple steps calling out for custom. Cryptic smoke signals emanated from the momo (dumpling) stalls. Tourists walked mesmerized, stooping like Galapagos turtles under the weight of their enormous backpacks. Locals haggled for cheap bargains with knockoff fashion sellers. Pigeons, a million of them, kept flying undecidedly from one roof to another, their crazed fluttering of wings almost bringing in a hurricane. Lumpy backed cows sauntered around, keeping order at the square by slowing down life around them. All this, under the bored eyes of the Gods stamping over the erotic carvings on the temple struts. I was photographing them like a maniac, capturing each coitus pose from multiple angle . A tap on my shoulders; was I about to be censured by officials for being too intrusive?
"Hire me as a guide," said the man. "I can tell you all about them." He introduced himself as Mahesh.
"What do you I now about them?" I asked.
|The People of Kathmandu Valleyand their religious Practices||1|
|A Brief History of Temple Architecture in Nepal||9|
|The Design of theNepalese Temple||17|
|The Struts, the Home of the Erotic Sculptures||21|
|Erotic Images in the Struts||27|
|Why are the Carvings there?||35|
|Comparable Erotic Art in Other Cultures||41|
|The Craftsmen Behind the Erotic Art||51|
|The Earthquake and its Aftermath||61|
Item Code: NAO578 Author: Shivaji Das Cover: Hardcover Edition: 2018 Publisher: Adarsh Books ISBN: 9788183631372 Language: English Size: 11.5 inch x 8.5 inch Pages: 183 (Throughout Color Illustrations) Other Details: Weight of the Book: 1.3 kg
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