India Uptight over Erotica in Hinduism?

This week in Delhi an exhibition on nudity in art was forcibly shut down by Hindu fundamentalist groups who took offense! Paintings in another gallery in Bangalore were also forcibly removed because the same groups found the nude portrayals of goddesses objectionable!

It is exactly this sort of public response to nudity, sex and sexuality in India today that I question in my book Sex and Power.

Below is an excerpt from the introduction of my book.

Languorously sensual and of exquisite form, men and women in stone on ancient khajuraho1Indian temple walls engage in explicit and imaginative love-making, in an array of intriguing poses…A man caresses his delighted lover’s naked breasts with a lotus bud…[Another] kneels before his lover and performs cunnilingus…One couple prefers intercourse in the standing position…[while] another couple in coitus understandably requires assistance…the man below…balanced on his head, the woman…on top held in position by two supporting female[s]…

khajuraho2However shocking the use of such explicit erotica in temples may…it would still be a mistake to regards these temples as (more…)

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What Was Buddha’s Issue with Sex and Women?

So naked, young women are shameful and go to Hell?

This is part II of my contribution to the Jaipur Literary Festival this year which focuses on Buddhism. You can read part I here.  It’s another excerpt from the Buddhist period  in my book  Sex and Power (Sect II, pp.67-110).  The central argument of my book is that the concepts of sexuality and sexual morality in any society keep changing over time.  And it is the dominant forces–social, political, economic or religious–in any period of time that determine how that society views women, sex and sexual morality.

In the Buddhist period which stretches from about 500B.C. to 100A.D. Buddhism was one of the most powerful institutions, and the teachings of the Buddha impacted on social thinking at many levels.  In the first excerpt from my book I talk about how it revolutionized the concept of class and caste based equality and social justice.  But by the same token, I discovered that  it also had a huge negative impact on social perceptions of gender, women and sex.  To me Buddha’s unreserved misogyny and prejudice towards women (more…)

Holi: India’s Forgotten Valentine’s Festival!

Unknown to many, the festival of Holi is actually a celebration of  India’s ancient Valentine’s Day!

It was called ‘The Festival of The Love God,’ and was celebrated to coincide with the arrival of Spring (symbolic of lust and life) just as the western Valentine’s Day is!

Below is an excerpt from my book Sex and Power on this festival:

rati kama redKama, the love god, was [evoked]…in the celebratory tribal songs of the Holi festival…[along] with his consort Rati (sexual pleasure).  His return to life…would be celebrated (each year) during Holi, which coincides with the spring season, [a symbolism of]..rejuvenation and fertility. 

The celebrations were called ‘Mojin Kama’ (Playing with Desire), [also referred to as ‘The Feast of Love’] and entailed songs with erotic lyrics and dances with unabashedly sexual gestures…as people jubilantly doused each other with perfumed water and coloured powders…The sacred text Shaiva Agama instructed that the Feast of Love was to be celebrated with playing (colored) dyes and the use of sexually explicit language.

In this period (100 A.D. to 1500 A.D.)…kama evolved as a complex concept, which besides love, [also included] the notions of love, passion, desire and sensuality. In fact, kama became a predominant philosophy of this era, influencing all aspects of life, including religion.

 Lord Kama came to be regarded as the divine inspiration for humanity. The concept of kama as love-making was said to have been propagated by the gods themselves. It was believed to be their gift to humankind…

rati-kamaIndeed, sensuality in this period became the quintessence of general living. There were architectural structures that were specifically designed to pander to love-making, customarily used in both public and private spaces. The homes of the middle class would have love chambers…[whose] decor included erotic sculptures in wood and stone, sensual paintings, and images of  Rati carved on the doorways.  The rooms were sprayed with fragrance, decorated with flowers and furnished with large canopied beds…, musical instruments, books of sensual poetry and literature…so lovers could spend many leisurely hours…engaged in the game of seduction…

Palaces were more lavish in their erotic decor… For the nobles and wealthier upper class, it was customary to own what was called ‘a hill for sports.’ This consisted of a hill, sometimes artificially created, with a mansion built on it…The mansions were splendid…[and] a special feature of the mansion was a jeweled bench for love-making…

Public art galleries were also meeting places for lovers…Even public gardens had special provisions for couples, with wooden pavilions constructed under bowers of vines or leaves where lovers could spend time. These love nests, which held special couches, were supplied with aphrodisiacs, ivory-handled fans and scented water to create a romantic ambiance.

In terms of social etiquette, it was permissible for people to revel openly in the pleasures of their sex life. Love bites were worn like trophies by young men and women, to be shown off later to friends as proof of their lover’s passion...

[Excerpt from Sex and Power: Defining History, Shaping Societies, Penguin Global, 2009, pp.125-130]


Who Needs A Diploma in Sex ?

There is now a school in Vienna that actually offers an official diploma in sexual techniques.  This is The Austrian International School of Sex (AISOS) and it is not gag! It has an official website with information on programs, courses, registration and student services!  This is not your usual degree in human sexual behavior that regular universities offer – i.e. the abstract speculation on the sociology or psychology of human sexuality.  According to the school’s mission statement, it is The world’s first school of practical sex.”   It further explains, “Though our courses include both history and modern sexual theory, the emphasis is on how to be a better lover. Sexual positions, caressing techniques, anatomical features- these are the AISOS disciplines. And we teach you hands on.”

The first question that comes to mind, is what is this diploma going to be used for? (more…)

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