Erotic Sculptures of Mud-Bhatkal Temple


By Dr. K. L. Kamat - 18.12 2020

Bhatkal is a small town (locate) on the west-coast highway along the Arabian sea in the state of Karnataka. Historically, it was an important port and played a vital role in trade during the glory days of Vijayanagara empire. The Saraswats (locally known as Konkanis) who patronized the coastal trade and amassed  a lot of wealth  used it  for philanthropic work and temple constructions. Santappa Nayak, who traded in forces from Arabia, purchased a piece of land from the local government and constructed the Tirumala temple in 1555 A.D. Petty trades of areca-nut were donated liberally for erecting the Adike Narayan Temple. Two brothers, Bala Kini and Narayan Kini  built the Raghunatha Temple in 1567 A.D. In the same year, Lakkarsa Kamat constructed the Lakshmi Narayan Temple. The erotic sculptures have a lion's share in Khetappayya Narayan Temple built in 1546 A.D. Most of the temples built are in hard granite stones and overlaid with copper plates or stone slabs. Each temple consists of "Garbha-Griha" (sanctum), and a "Sukhanasi" which is surrounded by  stone blinds.

For a lack of better term in English, the word Kama is roughly translated as erotica.

The Khetappayya Narayan Temple

The Khetappayya Narayan temple is encircled by huge corridors, inner walls are decorated with panels depicting the social life of the period. Each panel measures about 4 X 3 ' and are located in separate niches. Inter-nitch spaces are decorated with floral designs. It is of importance and interest that all men and women are depicted in their contemporary dresses and ornaments. The nobles are shown with kulavi, an elongated cap, typical Vijayanagar period head wear. They have long sleeved shirts and fine dhotis which have a great resemblance to the saris worn by the women of the times. The common men have their turbans and a just a piece of coarse cloth around their waists. The women have very prominent hair ball tied just behind the head. A single piece of sari covers entire feminine body. The ornaments are very simple and down to the earth.

Medieval Social Life ?

The successive panels are not inter-related. The panels on erotica are inter-mixed that depict social life. Each panel is like a framed photograph of sixteenth century "Every Day Life". (see also: excerpts from Social life in Medieval Karnataka) Thus the sculptors have successfully recorded intimate personal lives of the people of that era for the benefit of posterity. Different panels could be very profitably studied in order to trace initiation to logical conclusion of erotic activities. It is generally believed in India that there is no need for teaching, coaching, or classroom for performing sexual activities. It comes naturally by observation and experimentation. This philosophy has been successfully depicted in these panels. An young woman who has attained age of puberty sits on the outer veranda of her house and wonders at the wheel-barrow game of the male and female street dogs. Near by in a specially provided platform a domesticated parrot is busy feeding on ripe fruit, unmindfully what is going on around. The lady's repeated such observations sure to kindle erotic desires in her.


Physical vicinity and contact are two important factors which trigger erotic desires. In one of the panels a youthful lady is engrossed in churning curds in order to extract maximum butter out of it. Her standing posture, body curvatures and vigorous movements stimulates sexual desires in a man who is continuously observing from behind. In another situation a romantic man happens to track down a glamorous lady engrossed in her toilet. As she keeps on decorating her curvaceous body parts, one after the other, he gets more and more erotically provoked. Very soon a stage is reached when he is not able to refrain any more and hence indulges in self gratification. In an unusual panel a young lady is relaxing on cot, with her head resting on a pillow. A man younger to her volunteers to massage her tired body. Once he gets her consent, he commences working on her legs, then thighs. If she does not exhibits any resistance he might proceed to massage her vital organs as well! A sweet loving lady engrossed in cleaning utensils attracts attention of a man who could not refrain from the temptation and makes a hasty entry into her from rear.

A woman seduces man (shown with one hand on sword)

There are several panels which indicate that very intimate moments are prerequisite to kindle sexual desires. "A couple on a swing" is an interesting study. While swinging  themselves merrily their bodies are shown in very intimate contact with each other. They have crossed their sensitive thighs, the lady has extended her right arm on man's shoulders while the man's left arm fondles her breast. In "Talking only no action" panel, the couple is relaxing on a mattress, the man pretending as if is explaining a point coolly contacts her thigh with his left leg. The lady reciprocate his moves by her willingness gestures. In "Love me more, dear" panel a  man and his woman, sitting on a cot are indulging in caressing each other. An attendee, caring a dagger in his hand offers the "drinks" to the lovers. In "Don't worry, I am here" panel, an aroused woman indulges herself in masturbation, while a man next to her depicted as if he says, "Don't worry I can perform all actions that your body in need". In "I'm ever willing and ready" a mans refrains from making advances towards his woman who is busy in her vanity.

Positions and Details

There are number of panels which depict different stages, positions and stages of coitus. A warrior who was about to leave for war front was coaxed by his mistress to have sex with her. The couple is shown on soft mattress spread over and wooden cot and are in the process of physically stimulating each other. An young couple is having the sex in standing position. He has clasped her firmly by entangling her waist by his right foot. He has engaged himself in kissing her lips, fondling her breasts and insertion in her genitalia. Another couple is shown in a "wheelbarrow" position. Her belly pressed  to the ground, she holds his hair ball for grip, kisses him passionately. 

He holds her legs either side of his belly in order to insert and act very smoothly. It seems even the ascetics could not refrain from attraction of feminine body. In one such panel two sexually aroused and totally nude saints are courting a maiden. She is well-built and very strong compared to her seeker. The child birth has also been found among these panels as it is the natural culmination of all these erotic activities. In sculpture a lady seated on a cushioned platform is in labor. The two attending women are trying to soothe her pain and console her. A young nurse sitting on the ground welcomes the child out of its mother's womb. The sculptor has taken special care to show all the details in the panels. Some are detailed enough to show the lady's clitoris.

Sex and Cruelty

Based on these temple sculptures, it seems that sexual crimes were abundant in medieval times. Many panels depict extra marital sex and adultery. In an unusual panel, a worrier husband is about to punish his wife's paramour after catching them in a sexual act. The wife rushes to her lover's rescue and pleads that it is she who is guilty and not her lover. In a similar situation another husband catches his wife by her hair and ruthlessly kicks her naked body. In another panel a husband has tied his lady's both hands with rope and is continuously spanking her with a cane.

Punishing the Wife's Paramour -- Bhatkal Temple Sculpture