Sample Essay

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Vidya Dehejia, curator of Indian art at the Smithsonian Institution, is up to the task. She sets the scene with an invaluable chapter explaining ancient Indian theories of art and aesthetics, including the responsibilities of the viewer. Most important is the realization that “the consistent fabric of Indian life was never rent by the Western dichotomy between religious belief and worldly practice” hence the easy coexistence in India of extreme religious asceticism and the overt eroticism that pervades temples like Khajuraho and Patan. From the ancient cities of the Indus valley, the development of Buddhist art (which by the 12th century had faded away in the land of its birth), the glorious paintings of Ajanta, the luxury of Mughal art and architecture, part of the British Raj, to today’s artistic ferment. Clear and well-written, with nearly 300 well-chosen color illustrations, this is an extremely useful introduction to India’s vast artistic wealth.

Erotic Imagery on Indian Temples

The architectural style of the Khajuraho temples is very different from the temple prototype of that period. Each stands, on a high masonry platform. The temples of Khajuraho are divided into three geographical groups: Western, Eastern and Southern.

The Western group is certainly the best known because it is to this group that the largest and most typical Khajuraho temple belongs: the Kandariya Mahadev. Perfectly symmetrical, it soars 31 km high. Celestial beings, lovers, serenading musicians. The very stone seems to have taken on the living, breathing quality of the carved figures. The outer walls have three horizontal panels showing deities of the Hindu pantheon, and groups of lovers, a pageant of sensuous imagery vibrantly alive.

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