- Kama Sutra
- The Kama Sutra (Aphorisms on love) by Vatsya-yana, probably the most widely known of Indian texts, was written around the second century C.E. It consists of 1,250 verses. It is divided into seven parts, divided into 36 chapters, and further divided into 64 paragraphs.Legend says that the author Nandi originally wrote the Kama Sutra in 1,000 chapters, later abbreviated to 500 chapters by the poet Shveta-ketu. Babhravya, a descendent of the Panchalas (whose homeland is south of Delhi), abridged it still further to 150 chapters under seven heads or parts: Desire or Kama as a part of life; Sexual Intercourse; Acquisition of a Wife; the Wife; Wives of Other People; Courtesans and Prostitutes; the Arts of Seduction. The sixth of these parts was expounded by Dattaka at the request of the prostitutes of Pataliputra (Patna); the other parts were explained by Charayana (first part), Suvar-nanabha (second part); Ghotakamukha (third part); Gonardiya (fourth part); Gonikaputra (fifth part); and Kuchumara (seventh part). Given this confusion of authors, and the length and difficulty of the original material, Vatsyayana decided to compose his own work as a sort of condensation of all the previous efforts.A quote from the introduction to the Kama Sutra says that “this treatise was composed, according to the precepts of the VEDAS, for the benefit of the world, by Vatsyayana, while leading the life of a religious student at BENARES [Vara-nasi], and wholly engaged in the contemplation of the Deity. This work is not to be used merely as an instrument for satisfying our desires. A person acquainted with the true principles of this science, who preserves his DHARMA [virtue or religious merit], his artha [worldly wealth] and his kama [pleasure or sensual gratification], and who has regard to the customs of the people, is sure to obtain mastery over his senses. In short, an intel-ligent and knowing person attending to dharma and artha and also to kama, without becoming the slave of his passions, will obtain success in everything that he may do.”The Kama Sutra’s audience is clearly male and it is oriented toward the fulfillment of male desires, particularly the sexual. Even the chap-ter on courtesans is intended to guide them on how males are best pleasured. Parts of the book give details on how men might increase women’s sexual pleasure, but even this is framed in a male-centered way.A brief summary of the seven parts of Vat-syayana’s Kama Sutra is as follows: In Part I, Vatsyayana justifies the study of Kama, desire, against those who feel that it is not appropriate. They may argue, for instance, that the pursuit of prosperity, another of the sanctioned goals of life, requires giving up the pursuit of pleasure. Vatsyayana argues that pleasure is necessary for the natural maintenance of the body, although he adds that it must be sought in moderation. Part one also tells of 64 arts relating to pleasure that a young woman (and a wise man) should know; gives a detailed account of the pleasures and amusements of a citizen, such as gambling; and tells men what sort of women are appropriate for sexual intercourse.Part II gives all the details of sexual intercourse and its elements, such as kissing, biting, and role playing. Part III discusses courtship and marriage. Part IV prescribes the conduct of a wife in her husband’s absence and how she should act toward his other wives. Part V describes how a man might gain the confidence of and seduce women other than his own wife. Part VI discusses the duties and activities of courtesans and prostitutes and advises them on how to earn more money; it also discusses the different classifications of prostitutes. Part VII discusses additional methods of seduction, includ-ing aphrodisiacs.There are two well-known commentaries on the Kama Sutra. Jayamangala or Sutrabhasya was written between the 10th and 13th centuries; Sutravritti was written somewhat later.Further reading: Haran Chandra Chakladar, Social Life in Ancient India: Studies in Vatsyanana’s Kama Sutra (New Delhi: Asian Educational Services, 1990); Wendy Doniger and Sudhir Kakar, trans., Kamasutra of Vatsya-yana Mallanaga: A New, Complete English Translation of the Sanskrit Text with Excerpts from the Sanskrit Jaya-mangala Commentary of Yashodhara Indrapada and the Hindi Jaya Commentary of Devadatta Shastri (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.