To most Westerners and many “conservative” Asians, places of worship are often associated with “moral teachings”. It may shock these folks that many Asian cultures, in spite of being seemingly more conservative, are capable of housing sexual and religious themes under the same roof. While many Asian politicians consider Western culture to be exceedingly liberal or even decadent, it’s difficult to imagine having a piece of Khajuraho lying around in a Christian church.
Having said that, Hindu temples that worship Lord Shiva always have the phallic symbol depicted in a rather discreet way. This style has been copied in Java during Majapahit times. Symbols similar to the one below can be found among the ruins in the “candi”s or Hindu temples in Java.
As Islam sweeps through Java towards the end of the 15th century, the construction style of Hindu temples on the slopes of Gunung Lawa seems to have taken a bizarre turn.
The phallic images were no longer discreet. Even though nothing comes close to kamasutra, images of genitals appear everywhere, even on some of the Hindu deities. Temple complexes come in terraces with narrow steps and passageways cutting through step pyramids which bear an uncanny resemblance to Mayan pyramids.
These are the enigmatic temples of Candi Sukuh, Candi Khetek and Candi Ceto – some of the last Hindu temples to be built before Java was overwhelmed by Islam.