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Erotic Couple (Mithuna)

c. 13th century
Artist/maker unknown, Indian
The mithuna, an image of an erotically involved couple not actively engaged in sexual intercourse, is an auspicious motif because of its associations with agricultural fertility and with the creative aspect of the universe, as well as with procreation. In this image, the link with vegetal fertility is reinforced by a cluster of leaves crowning each figure. In early temples it is rare to find images as explicit as this one, although couples lovingly intertwined are common. By the eleventh century the increasing popularity of tantric (magical) sexual rites may have contributed to making the overtly erotic couple and couples engaged in active sexual intercourse (maithuna) more frequent occupants of the profusely ornamented exterior walls of temples. In Orissa, from the eleventh century onward, mithunas and maithunas routinely appear on temples in the vertically recessed sections of the upper wall and tower....

Object Details

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