There exists a certain measure of sensuousness in portraying the human figure in Indian art which can be often described as art which actually borders on erotic and even a sort of pornography. This phenomenon can be observed throughout centuries from Indus Valley civilization to Rajput painting period. The artisans from the most varied periods of Indian history depict males, females and couples engaging in sexual intercourses to address the notion of fertility and life propagation.
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To observe this curious tendency, I will relate a few examples from the history of Indian art: a nude man figure found in Harrapa; Yakshi’s figure from Great Stupa; and Mithuana reliefs featuring multiple depictions of amorous couples engaging in sexual scenes. All of these figures can be described as images having strong erotic connotation promoting the idea of fertility and life propagation.
First of all, speaking about the nude male figure from Harrapa which can be related to the period between 2000 and1900 BCE from National Museum in Delhi, it should be stated that it is a vivid description of the very phenomenon of depicting the human figure with a certain hint to erotic. This red-sand miniature of a size less than four inches features swelling curves and sensuous polished surfaces. Pulsating vigor along with the emphasis on sensuous surfaces of a nude man’s body can be named as the main characteristics of this piece of art.
The above mentioned stylistic traits are specific for Indian art of later periods as well. Sensuous woman called a Yakshi from Great Stupa which can be related to mid first century BCE is another example of such erotic tendency in Indian art. Yakshi is a goddess of fertility and life propagation. The image of this goddess often appears on varied buildings including temples and royal palaces. Yakshi’s figure is depicted with a minimum of clothing, sensuous body forms and in a suggestive posture.
Finally, I will address Mithuana reliefs’ detail of the north side of the Vishvanatha temple in Khajuraho dating back to about 1000 CE. The detail features multiple depictions of embracing amorous couples which are engaged in sexual scenes in the most diversified and unexpected positions. These erotic sculptures suggest propagation of ideas connected to fertility and life. Northern Hindu temples are often decorated with such reliefs depicting amorous couples or mithunas, as they are often called.
Accounting for the fact that Indian art is full of erotic scenes, it should be stated that Indian people’s mentality has its special appeal to erotic matters and fertility. It seems that Indian people have a special way of thinking and a special concern for gender relations and erotic matters. It is evident in everything connected to their creative activity throughout centuries. One of the reasons for such way of thinking is their ancient religious traditions. Nowadays their cinematography can be related as the piece of creative activity which is saturated with the idea of gender relations. There is a certain impression that these people are somehow primitive and narrow-minded and are mainly concentrated on sexual matters.
All in all, a measure of sensuousness and erotic approach can be seen in Indian art throughout centuries. Being motivated by fertility promotion and life propagation ideas, Indian artisans depicted sensuous images of males, females and couples engaging in sexual intercourses.
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