The erotic sculptures in Hoysala architecture

Hoysala emperors ruled most of the Karnataka, South India, between the 10th- 14th centuries. The capital of the Hoysalas was initially at Belur but later it moved (16.9 KM) to Halebidu from Belur. The Hoysala era was an important period in the development of art, architecture, and religion southern part of India. The empire is remembered today primarily for Hoysala architecture. Over a hundred surviving temples are scattered across Karnataka with beautiful sculptures and unique architecture.

The modern interest in the Hoysalas is due to their patronage of art and architecture rather than their military conquests. The brisk temple building throughout the kingdom was accomplished despite constant threats from the Pandyas to the south and the Seunas Yadavas to the north. Their architectural style, an offshoot of the Western Chalukya style, shows distinct Dravidian influences. The Hoysala architecture style is described as Karnata Dravida as distinguished from the traditional Dravida. and is considered an independent architectural tradition with many unique features.

A feature of Hoysala temple architecture is its attention to exquisite detail and skilled craftsmanship. The tower over the temple shrine (vimana) is delicately finished with intricate carvings, showing attention to the ornate and elaborately detailed rather than to a tower form and height.The stellate design of the base of the shrine with its rhythmic projections and recesses is carried through the tower in an orderly succession of decorated tiers. Hoysala temple sculpture replicates this emphasis on delicacy and craftsmanship in its focus on depicting feminine beauty, grace and physique. The Hoysala artists achieved this with the use of Soapstone (Chloritic schist), a soft stone as basic building and sculptural material.

The Chennakesava Temple at Belur (1117), the Hoysaleswara temple at Halebidu (1121), the Chennakesava Temple at Somanathapura (1279), the temples at Arasikere (1220), Amruthapura (1196), Belavadi (1200), Nuggehalli (1246), Hosaholalu (1250), Aralaguppe (1250), Korvangla (1173), Haranhalli (1235), Mosale and Basaralu (1234) are some of the notable examples of Hoysala art. While the temples at Belur and Halebidu are the best known because of the beauty of their sculptures, the Hoysala art finds more complete expression in the smaller and lesser known temples. The outer walls of all these temples contain an intricate array of stone sculptures and horizontal friezes (decorative mouldings) that depict the Hindu epics. These depictions are generally clockwise in the traditional direction of circumambulation (pradakshina). The temple of Halebidu has been described as an outstanding example of Hindu architecture and an important milestone in Indian architecture.

Why the Erotic sculptures in Hoysala temple architecture?

“Beauty is no quality in things themselves. It exists merely in the mind which contemplates them; and each mind perceives a different beauty. One person may even perceive deformity, where another is sensible of beauty; and every individual ought to acquiesce in his own sentiment, without pretending to regulate those of others”. – David Hume, Of the Standard of Taste, 1757

This extremely conservative country was once home to the world’s first sex treatise and the erotic art on display is perhaps more shocking now than when it was created.

India was not always like this. Sexual norms were far more liberal before the 13th Century, giving equal importance to the secular and the spiritual. Sex was taught as a subject in formal education, and Kamasutra, the world’s first sex treatise, was written in ancient India between the 4th Century BCE and the 2nd Century.

Other theories have to do with the role of temples themselves in those times: they were considered places of learning as well as worship – especially of the finer arts, including the art of lovemaking. In addition, some believe that the depiction of sexual activities in temples was considered a good omen because it represented new beginnings and new life.

What is considered beautiful or ugly, and whether the nature of beauty is subjective or objective has been one of the most pursued and most controversial topics in aesthetic philosophy. Historically, architecture and sculptures of Hindu temples in India have conveyed sacred narratives. They often narrate stories from the lives of Hindu deities and pious kings, and feature modestly clothed human figures and depictions of battle animals like elephants and horses.

Erotica in ancient temples as a form of pornography. “There were no cameras in those days to make porn films. This was one way of depicting sex and eroticism.” They depicted inner emotions and perceptions of the artist and the people who commissioned these works.

Temples and the sculptures carved on their walls are a visual documentation of the society of those times.

The entire depiction centers around the three basic instincts of hunger, sleep and sex which man has combined with his intelligence to create this masterpiece,” adding that only 3% of the sculptures were erotic while the rest were about chores of daily life.

Few Erotic sculptures of Belur, Ikkeri, Nadakalsi,Halebidu,kikkeri temples