Travel to India can sometimes be a journey back in time.

Dansing Shiva

In the south of Karnataka, but far from the high-tech Bangalore, the world dominated by the Mital and the Tata, it is another world that we discover.

In Belûr, Halebîd and Somnâthpur it is the dazzling of a singular architecture, those of the Hoysalas, the kings builders who, in 300 years, from the 11th to the 12th century built some 648 temples.

Buildings with a star plan, some say in lotus blossom, set on high stone pedestals. Facades and walls are covered with thousands of sculptures: elephants, horsemen, gods and goddesses, cambered dancers in incredible poses, and above, couples, sometimes trios, lovers rendered with infinite sensuality and grace.

Particular care has been taken with their expressions: the look, the smile, the curly hair, the clothes and the ornaments. And the beauty of bodies where you can recognize Indian plastic: slim waist, round, curved breasts, open hips. Carved in schist, a soft rock, easier to work, by artists whose names are sometimes engraved in stone.

Shiva dancing, his forehead decorated with the third eye, Sarasvati with his many arms, elephants, lions or countless horses composing friezes, make the architectural discovery of the great majestic temples of Belûr, Halebîd and Somnäthpur more difficult.

It is this universe of sculptures that can be seen in Amina Okada’s large and beautiful book and Gérard Degeorge’s documentary photographs. Photographs decoded by this chief curator responsible for Indian collections at the Musée Guimet, who knows better than anyone the vocabulary of Indian plastic and its symbolic meaning. Both were particularly interested in the “heavenly beauties” that are the “madanakai” – “incarnations of feminine beauty captured in its eternal youth and carnal splendor.

In the heart of South India, the trip to Karnataka represents a dive into fabulous times. The world of Vijayanagar and Hoysala discovers the myths and secrets of a thousand-year-old culture. And makes a mysterious and deep emotion vibrate.

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