Arulmigu Thiruvithamcode Mahadevar Thirukkovil
The Kaama – the sexual sculptures…
We Indians even have a god for sex – Kama. So it is only natural that we have erotic sculptures on our temples. There have been many questions raised on the reason behind having erotic sculptures and sexual imagery in a place otherwise considered so ‘holy’ and ‘pure’. There are a few theories floating about but the most popular one seems to be that in order to enter a place so pure, you need to relieve yourself of all your desires and lust. It is by acceptance of lust and desire in you that you can learn to control it. Furthermore, these sculptures are always on the outer walls of temples meaning that the humans need to leave their desires outside before stepping in. In many Indian manuscripts, sex was considered to be spiritual and not hedonistic. There are many such theories but the fact remains that these temples are known more for their erotic sculptures than the deities residing inside.
Considered to be one of the most conservative countries in the world, believe it or not, India was extremely liberal and open about the concept of sex even before the 13th century. The statement is based on the sex sculptures carved on the walls of temples in India that were built in the 2nd Century. Sex was even taught as a formal subject as a part of education with pictorial representations of Kamasutra. The most famous of the lot, It is not just one temple but a group of temples. It is rumoured that Shiva and other deities visited the region during ancient times to play and hence, the temples were created in their honour. The architecture of the temples is designed in a way that is a perfect integration of male and female deities and symbols. The artwork outside the temple, that is found to be the most interesting by tourists, is a depiction of the four goals of Hinduism – Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha.
Kama (sexual desire) was considered to be a part of the four human goals of life. The other three goals were: Dharma (moral life), Artha (material gains and means of life), and Moksha (the release from the cycle of life and rebirths).
The Kamasutra likely holds some clues. At the very least, it demonstrates that sexuality was a topic covered in Vedic literature. Puruṣārtha is a concept in Hinduism referring to the goals of human life. One of these goals is Kama which is a term for desire. Although Kama is not exclusively sexual desire, sexual desire a component. The Kamasutra is widely misunderstood in that in the modern imagination it is regarded as a kind of sex manual as opposed to a religious text exploring the spiritual aspects of sensation and pleasures of the senses in general. There is also a tradition of Tantric pursuits in Hinduism and, later, in Buddhism. Tantric practice, like the Kamasutra, is widely misinterpreted to be exclusively related to sexual rituals, although in fact Tantric practice connotes a wide array of esoteric practices. Nevertheless, sexual practice is one form of Tantric pursuit. Although I, unfortunately, have only cursory knowledge of Hinduism, a tradition which is extraordinarily vast and varied, hopefully this answer will provide at least some insight.