I have noticed a growing trend in many, of finding sanction for their desires by forcibly (and quite superficially) imposing it upon old, imagined norms. The discussion on Khajuraho temples were raked up last year following the misdirected and misinformed ‘Kiss of Love’ campaign, and now once again with the current topic of Pornography, due to the Indian Government’s temporary decision place a ban on some websites. This is not a commentary on political decision making, but rather an attempt to address the moronic act of equating temple art with pornography.
The definition of Pornography is as follows:
“Printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, INTENDED TO STIMULATE EROTIC RATHER THAN AESTHETIC OR EMOTIONAL FEELINGS“.
To the undiscerning mind, while the small print may be equally applicable to temple art, the writing in upper case completely disqualifies any comparison on virtue of the stated import. It goes without saying that the purpose of visiting a temple is anything BUT to induce eroticism. But then again, in our, “Secular”, Post-Modernistic society, where Western-centric concepts must reign supreme, it is not unexpected that the purpose of temples is defined by those who form a superficial construct from the outside, rather than from the vantage point of involved bhaktas who remain in worship on the inside.
The larger question of whether pleasure derived from sexual gratification has place in our culture deserves an answer. If you see the Ajanṭā-Ellora Caves, or the Khajuraho temples, the depictions in question are on the outside walls. Artha, Kāma, Dharma and Mokṣa are all human pursuits. Here, pleasures derived from intimacy come under Kāma, which certainly has its place in the lives of many. At the same time, as one enters the temple, the external images of devas and Apsarās frolicking are replaced with Dhārmika motifs and Sātvika Mūrtis of Iśvara/Bhagavān, which bring about a very different state of mind. So with each step forward, just as we find Ishvara’s Sātvika form in the Garbha gr̥ha (sanctum sanctorum) of our Mandirs, so too we discover Īśvara as the very self, as we move from Artha and Kāma, finally toward Dharma and Mokṣa. That is why you will always find the apsarās- beings, much like us- on the outside, and Bhagavān on the inside of our Mandirs. This is the Īśvaratvam one is meant to invoke as the Parama Puruṣārtha.
With regards to Kāmasūtra, nothing wrong in that either. In those days (as should also be the case today, which unfortunately is not), anything that was written, be it Literature, or a Drama- not just Śāstras, they all began with a Mangalācharan (invocation) to Īśvara for 3 reasons:
1) For its successful completion.
2) That it may fall in the right hands.
3) That it may be of use to others now, and in the future. J
(On a side note, as an old saying goes, even the vile Duryodhana once wrote a book on Dharma, but no one read it since it did not commence with a Mangalācharaṇ).
So too, the Kāmasūtra, a book penned by Ṣrī Vātsyāyana, discusses beautifully how one can use the act of making love, Kāma, as a form worship of Iśvara, thus making everything prayerful.
During copulation, it is said that one must invoke Bhagavān in the form of Brahmā ji, the one who gave life to all living beings in this jagat, since for an instant, as you prepare to give life to a child, you are invoking a tiny aspect of Brahmā ji’s Utpanna Śakti in yourself.
So one must always remember, for a Vaidika everything is to be looked upon prayerfully, but with these politically motivated mass-kissing campaigns that people are holding on public grounds, or with the illegitimately crude comparisons of temple art with pornography, none of the sanctity I mentioned above is invoked. As long as we keep viewing our own culture and society from a Westerner’s standpoint without understanding its inherent intricacies, we will remain a confused lot. There is an imminent need to replace the understanding of dharma with a Dhārmika angle alone.
By Prashant Parikh
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