Next to Thanksgiving dinner and living in a city with a shit football team, religious affront is one of the easiest ways to kick things off. You don’t like that Muslims are camped out near the hill where Jesus had a light snack on the way to Nazaret? Holy War. You don’t believe that saints can bless your buttcrack? Holy War. Do you think your peaceful Buddha wouldn’t like the idea of warrior monks? Holy Fisticuffs War. But one of the silliest reasons to invoke religious wrath has to be to punish someone for giggling at the geomantic genitals erected in your naughtiest temples.
Since time immemorial, people have taken any disrespect to their religious dick statues very hard. Included in that camp is the Indian government, which in 2018 imprisoned a journalist for going on social media to make fun of the Konark Sun Temple in East India, an ancient Hindu site dedicated to the sexy God of the Sun, Surya.
The hottest god in the pantheon.
Abhijit Iyer-Mitra was charged with promoting religious enmity (between Hindus and conservative Muslims) and posing a public nuisance. He was also charged with committing an “obscene act in a public place” -- a public place that just happens to be littered with statues depicting the beginner’s guide to the Kama Sutra:
Commissioned in 1250CE by King Narasimha Deva I, the Konark Surya Mandir serves as one of the few remaining temples honoring the Sun God, Surya. According to the temple’s official Hindu legend, it was in fact built by Samba, son of Krishna, to thank Surya for curing him of his leprosy. (The architect also jumped into space after finishing its construction, but that’s a whole other story). And between Samba wanting to celebrate his newly regained nerve endings and the fact that the cult of the Surya believes strongly in procreation and tantric experiences, no wonder that its founders chose to celebrate Surya by populating his temple with as many horned up statues as there were holes to cram them in ...
That’s one way to honor the Sun God after dark.
But while devotion to Surya was taken very seriously during the Middle Ages especially, all you need is a few glances at the temple’s art to see that this devotion has an obvious breezy side to it. Especially since, while entering the temple’s domain, you’ll be glancing at two lions banging elephants with their tongues rolled out as if their favorite showgirl has started singing “Daddy.”
Just lie back and think of Svarga.
That’s just the kinky wholesomeness of the Sun Temple. It’s the kind of theological thirst trap that celebrates threesomes you’d expect to see in Pornhub’s “stepfamily” section, not a sacred sanctum ...
Going at it raw dogma.
Or galleries of pump-and-jump fests that make it look like the sculptural equivalent of a dirty flipbook …
I’m surprised any part of that entrance is visible, really.
Not that these religious idols are supposed to be funny. They’re supposed to be fun. Mithuna, couples/groups engaging in the blessed act of tantric sex, were an important part of early Hindu iconography. They also prove that Medieval Indians had wayyyy fewer hang-ups than today’s societies. Surya too is a very open-minded god -- he had an open relationship with his charioteer, a trans goddess by the name of Aruni. And really, how solemn and decorous does a religion expect you to be when it’s showing you statues of two happy dudes Eiffel Towering a lady?
“Ecclesiastical up-top bro!”
Having spent 43 days in prison for what amounted to a mild middle school field trip shenanigan, Iyer-Mitra’s arrest was finally overturned after a not so subtle game of intergovernmental one-upmanship. Which once again shows that the people in charge no longer have their fingers on the Cult of Surya’s pulse, because they’re all about coming together. Like, really coming together.
For more worship of the cult of Surya, do follow Cedric on Twitter.