The authors discuss various reasons for ubiquitous erotica. Some have explained these carvings in terms of the importance of the Shiva-Shakti sexual union in Hinduism as a symbol of spiritual fulfillment.
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Others suggest they provided sex education for young people who congregated at temple squares during festivals. These explanations, however, do not account for the level of obscenity in these carvings, and the fact that many of them depict practices that are deviant by any standards.
Some argue that the carvings actually depict the do’s and dont’s of acceptable sexual behaviour. And the most common explanation is that the shocking acts shown here are meant to be too disgusting even for evil spirits, who would then spare the temples in question from lightning strikes or earthquakes.
But that did not protect the Nautale Darbar in Kathmandu and the Char Narayan Temple in Patan from destruction in the earthquake of 25 April 2015. Both had some of the most sexually explicit carvings in Kathmandu Valley on their eaves and corner struts, including orgiastic scenes, bestiality, and the use of sex toys.
Shrestha rescued and cleaned the struts at Char Narayan, and Korn painstakingly photographed them to be catalogued in this book along with sketches based on them by Roshan Dongol and Ekaram Singh. The restoration of Char Narayan was completed by Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust this month.
Sukra Sagar Shrestha passed away in 2017, leaving behind much of the research for this book. His daughter, Silu Shrestha, writes in the Foreword: ‘My father was worried that no heritage conservation expert would dare write about erotic carvings of Newar temples, but he and Wolfgang did it because of their love for heritage.’