7. The Priestesses of Love
In the palaces and temples of Aryavarta there flourished a network of chapels, theatres, and inner sanctums where people of all but the lowest caste could come and encounter ladies of the most impeccable pedigree. These women were called Shaktis: high priestesses of the erotic arts ~ or more accurately, the art of using erotic energy and all the degrees of love in many ways: music and dance, healing of bodies and souls, spiritual development and enlightenment, and of course the innumerable variations of sexual fulfillment itself. The Shaktis were held in high esteem by everyone, and the mightiest potentates openly courted their favor. They were a genuine female complement to the male Brahminate.
With the institutionalization of Shaktiism, it became self-evident that girls who were gifted with a passionate nature approaching the omega end of the spectrum were naturally suited to the vocation of Shakti, rather than that of wife and hearth-keeper, and were tracked accordingly from an early age. This made adultery much less likely among women who married, and provided a social safety net in that “fallen women” would often be taken into the temples in roles subsidiary to the Shaktis, or even as belated neophytes. Likewise the children of adulterous matings could be well cared for with little stigma in the nurseries and schools of the children of the Shaktis, many of whom also had a vocation for motherhood.
The remarkable openness and affirmation of sexuality in Hindu society in this epoch may be unique in the annals of high civilization. Inevitably, perhaps, the freedom tipped into license and it began to degenerate. This coincided with the increase of racial mixing and an upsurge in the sects of the predominantly Dasyu south, where dark Goddesses had been worshipped for millennia before the arrival of whites from either the Mediterranean basin or the Pontic steppe. Sexual indulgence had been a standard part of the culture, and now it became so again, despite being ruled by the Aryan remnant. Some branches of Tantra degenerated into black magic cults like Vama Marg, and the practice of human sacrifice was revived.
Much of the literary and artistic work of the era is still prized by afficianados as among the most beautiful in history. Sacred themes are infused with eros and rendered in exquisite taste. Of course we don’t know what kind of pornographic variations may also have flourished, since it was wiped out in the dramatic demise of the culture.
The self-indulgent refinement of the upper castes took its toll on the military might of the realm, a decline that went unnoticed for centuries in the internecine squabbles among the principalities and fiefdoms of the subcontinent. Then came another invasion from outside, not by Aryans but Semites: a fanatical horde of Muslims bent on conquest and conversion. Starting in 1001 CE the Islamic juggernaut swept in, and in little more than a century subjugated the entire vast area occupied by the once-proud civilization. It crushed Hindu culture like a steamroller, smashing the “idols”, defacing the murals, and obliterating all vestiges of sexual expression not in concord with the rigid Quranic code. Surely unspeakable things were done to the Shaktis, but the conquerors understandably left no record.