A Discussion on Khajuraho, covering bosoms and associated matters

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This is an excerpt of the discussion I had with a fellow Quoran on the subject of the temple structures at Khajuraho, about women not being ‘allowed’ to cover their bosoms in erstwhile Kerala and some associated matters.

This conversation happened after I had written this answer → Raakhee V. Menon’s answer to What was the biggest cultural shock you have experienced while moving to other states in India? and a Quoran had asked me in one of the comments where Khajuraho temples were mentioned as to why they had those famous (or infamous…you choose) sculptures on the outside of the temple.

Without naming the Quoran, I take the liberty of posting the Q&A that we had.

Me:

About the temple structures at Khajuraho…

I didn’t want to write this there as I don’t trust pesky menfolk who might seize the opportunity to divert it to unwanted realms 😛

Alright, so what happened was that sex was a normal thing just like eating and breathing back in the days. Just like nobody would talk about or discuss breathing, nobody really talked about this subject either. People were romantic, and did indulge in amorous pursuits of women and men that they took a fancy to. Yes, it was commonplace for a woman to propose marriage to a man she deemed worthy of her, quite unlike how things turned later on.

At one point of time, people started to turn ‘super religious’. As in they found the responsibilities of being a householder to be too cumbersome. Sannyaasam or asceticism was the single societally accepted escape route they found. More and more men left their homes renouncing worldly duties. They wandered around holy sites spending their days in prayer and meditation. Womenfolk were stranded and desolate. Society was dangerously tilting towards imbalance.

The erotic sculptures were carved outside the temple at Khajuraho in an attempt to discourage men from adopting a hermit’s life so early on. It was assumed that when they set their eyes on these structures, they would have a change of mind and go back to their old lives and enjoy the worldly pleasures they had forfeited. Maybe the builders of the temple thought that more temples would follow suit, but that didn’t happen. But it is noteworthy that there are still mildly erotic structures in most of the ancient temples even today. I have seen some at Tirupati and at Kancheepuram too. People don’t pay any heed to them now though.

Quoran:

Ha ! I knew it ! 🙂

India truly was the birthplace of love, sex and kissing, wasn’t she? Ironic how we have turned out. I read that the art of kissing itself originated here.

Out of curiosity, what era did the people turn ‘super religious’ and abandon households?

When you say it was commonplace for a woman to propose marriage to a man she deemed worthy, did you mean a temporary marital arrangement where she could have sex and move on? If that were the case, I would love to know how they practised birth-control.

Also, does this mean that was a feminist society back then? Women and men considered equals?

Me:

All these morals and stuff you see today are a result of cultures brought in from outside. People who came to settle down in India from other lands were shocked at the way our people lived. They viewed it in a different way, quite unlike us. And fearing that their people would get influenced, they set down strict rules of morality and forced the naive natives to follow suit.

Did you know that back in the days, in ancient Kerala, a woman who covered her breasts was looked down upon as a prostitute? Self respecting women left their chests bare and usually covered with jewellery. Is such a scenario even thinkable now? No. Times have changed.

The abandoning households practice was over a long period of time. It didn’t happen overnight. It was after a lot of people started to form religions – Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism…people started to think along their lines. Let go of everything. Go in search of inner peace. Blah blah! The funny thing is that what these leaders and spiritual gurus were talking figuratively, a whole lot of people took it literally *facepalm*

No,no…when a woman proposed marriage, she said so. And marriage was a permanent arrangement. Y’know, the entire ‘ardhangini’ thing. If only sexual gratification was on her mind, she said so as well. This is mentioned several times in our epics. However, such advances from men were treated very severely and seen as a breach of a woman’s modesty.

I wouldn’t call the society back then as being feminist. Yes, the women were societal equals, but they had their roles laid out very clearly. They held their honor even if it meant they had to die for it. We have had some very powerful women in the past. Women who lived as women and commanded respect. And the present crop is but a meek shadow of theirs, struggling to live and behave like men in a futile attempt to gain respect from men. Idiots!

Quoran:

Oh yes, I know about the breast thing in ancient Kerala. It was taught in 10th grade CBSE. It was a shock to me at that time. Although I remember, it was only the lower caste who were not allowed to cover their breasts. The upper caste did and only they had the right to do so.

So women could have casual sex? Cool ! Gosh, we really need to publicise this. ROFL. Imagine the look on people’s faces esp those idiots who keep trying to make women traditional, coz, it is the Indian culture. Bah, more fool them. I would really love for a sexual revolution and the free love culture to spread in India. 😉

Although, I would say, only by trying the same things as men, can today’s women realise what exactly she is capable of. Coz, now, women do a lot of work considered earlier to be a man’s. Like driving, for example. There weren’t any women charioteers back then, were there? I think Madri’s role in BR Chopra’s series was an artistic addition rather than reality.

Do you know how much I love the ancient Spartan society? They were pretty awesome, too. 🙂

Me:

Actually no women in Kerala covered their breasts. I know for sure that Nair women covered their chests with gold jewellery 😀 You must remember that we as a people were a little detached from the rest of the Indian mainland thanks to being shielded by the Western Ghats. It’s only when those blokes moved south for business and stuff and saw our women walking without a care in the world that everything went berserk. Women slowly started to cover themselves up to protect themselves from lecherous men mainly from far lands. Because the way our men looked at them was different from the way these foreigners looked at them. The lower caste women not being allowed to cover their bosoms was mainly for the caste differentiation…which wasn’t really needed, I agree. First the Namboodiri women started to cover themselves with a randaam mundu when they stepped outside. Actually they covered themselves completely…even the face. There was still no blouse. Then it trickled down to the royals of Travancore, Kochi and Malabar and to the Nair women who started the trend of saree blouses. It sort of stopped there. Women below that rung was not permitted to wear blouses (by the men, of course) as they were not equal to their ladies. Stupid logic, I know. They are all women. Maybe they just didn’t get the intent because baring breasts was a non-issue until recently and they saw the act of covering up as a way to try and prove themselves to be equal to higher castes. Sigh! Perspective!

Haha…it was not actually casual sex. I don’t know how to put it. Please don’t look at it from today’s PoV. No,no. It wasn’t like that. Women treasured their modesty a lot. If she was willing to give herself to a man, it was after much deliberation. He had to be really really worth it. Again, the culture was very different across the Gangetic plains and down south. In the south, women were more free and financially empowered than their North Indian sisters. So naturally, they were more liberal and free-thinking individuals. The North Indians began to subdue their womenfolk very early on.

I know that we are all capable of doing many things that a man can do. The problem arises when many women see that the only way to get at least some respect and recognition in society is to behave like a man. Why? As a woman, we aren’t entitled to any respect? As a woman who is very proud of being one, I find that highly sexist. The way I see it, the picture being painted is that only men deserve to be respected and if we ‘lower beings’ wish to get some of that, we need to ape them. No way! I’d rather die than resort to something like that to get respect. I will strive to continue to hold my head high while being completely and unapologetically feminine and still earn respect.

I have read about Spartan society too. Eerily similar to ancient Kerala society 😀

Quoran:

Hmmm, so technically, a marriage was a private affair between the couple.

Right you are. I can see your point. Women don’t need to try being men to gain respect.

Oh, yes!!! That’s exactly what I thought, too. That Sparta was to Greece, what Kerala was to India. Eery, very much. You know, even with certain things that are not to be liked in Kerala, at the end of the day, a Malayali simply can’t but be proud of Kerala’s history. 🙂

Also, now that I’m on the ASOIF series, I would also say, Kerala is to India, what Dorne is to the Seven Kingdoms. LOL.

Me:

Although the family was involved at some point, yes, it largely was between two individuals only. A very private affair that neither was answerable to society for. Society didn’t question them…that was also there ^_^

As a very very proud Malayali, I can’t help but be proud of our history. We have always been way ahead of the rest of India. It’s irritating to read and hear of people who wrote crap about us and our society just because they didn’t understand. Haven’t you heard of that scathing write up Vivekananda wrote about how he thought Kerala is a lunatic asylum and that change needs to be brought in asap. I mean, who is he to decide what’s right and what’s wrong? I got so pissed off reading it. I still do when I think about it 😡

When you find time, watch this video…

And watch it uninterrupted 🙂

Quoran:

I just did !!! 🙂

And I’m brimming with pride that a smart young fellow such as him would be interested in pursuing such an endeavour. An execellent initiative. Applaudable. I would really love to read that book. And I hope more Keralites would give it a go and inform themselves about how cool Kerala used to be, still is, and not to subscribe to ridiculous narrow minded beliefs of our neighbours.

I hope it means there is a new dawn for Kerala, coming soon.

Go Kerala.:)

A Discussion on Khajuraho, covering bosoms and associated matters

 

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