Perhaps more than any other religion Hinduism is associated in the modern mind with the erotic. The Kama Sutra and the sexual activity portrayed in stone at the great medieval Indian temple complex of Khajuraho are renowned the world over. The classical Hindu exploration of eroticism is manifestly one of the supreme expressions of the human spirit. Hindu sculpture, defined as uniquely able to express inner states of being, is no less able to portray the beauty of eroticism. At the same time, many Hindus see their religion rising above the world of the senses and deprecate western enthusiasm for a perceived erotic India. An assessment of Hindu sensuality thus tends to uncover a faultline between east and west. In his important new book David Smith explores the true significance of Hindu eroticism. He shows that while a withdrawal from the senses is a major component of Hinduism, it is precisely because the Hindu appreciation of the power of those senses is so very refined that asceticism developed in India as a counter-reaction. He argues that so varied, extensive and diffused is the Hindu idea of the erotic that it is central to understanding the inner heart of Hinduism. Profound and stimulating in equal measure, and illustrated throughout by some of the greatest examples of Hindu erotic art, The Hindu Erotic will be essential reading for anyone interested in Indian religion, sexuality, and South Asian culture.
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David Smith is Reader in Indian Religions at Lancaster University, UK and the author of several books on Hindu religion, society and culture. These include The Dance of Shiva (1996) and Hinduism and Modernity (2003).
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