The Kamasutra, which translates to “Principles of Lust,” is an ancient Sanskrit handbook on eroticism. Except for his name, Vatsyayana Mallanaga is a largely unknown author. It was most likely composed between 400 and 300 BC.
The Kamasutra is not just a book about lovemaking and different sex positions, contrary to popular opinion. Other topics covered include the art of living well, the nature of love, finding a life partner, and managing your love life.
With the modification of the Kamasutra handbook by a British explorer named Richard Francis Burton towards the end of the 19th century, the sexual notions most people connect with the Kama Sutra became known in Western culture.
The sexual positions detailed in Burton’s rendition were what drew people’s attention, despite the fact that it was a totally erroneous and deceptive translation in retrospect. One of the reasons why the Kama Sutra is still regarded as only a book of exotic sex positions is because of this.
The Kamasutra was written in an abstract and hazy form of Sanskrit, making it difficult to translate accurately into current English. It consists of 1,250 poems divided into 36 chapters and has 7 parts in all.
So let us see how Kamasutra explores many other aspects beyond sex and seduction!
General Principles On Social Conduct
The very first part of the Kamasutra is the Dattaka or general principles dealing with social conduct. It can be called a preface that speaks about the 4 aims of a Hindu’s life, dharma, artha, kama and moksha, together known as Purushartha.
Dharma speaks about a person’s duty and his true purpose, ultimately leading to a righteous life. It provides guidelines to make morally right decisions and follow certain principles for achieving a healthy social life.
Artha means prosperity through the pursuit of material wealth but without getting attached to it.
Then comes Kama – a Sanskrit word denoting love, desire and pleasure. It is the very aim that the Kamasutra is mostly known for defining. Hinduism being quite a practical religion, widely accepts and acknowledges a Hindu’s attempt to strive for Kama in their amorous relationships. Kama’s sexual aspect is regarded as a natural part of human instinct, and it also results in the birth of children.
Moksha or salvation is the ultimate aim in life for every Hindu. To achieve moksha is to break free from the cycle of samsara through gaining good karma by doing good deeds. It is the actions of a person’s present as well as previous lives that comprise their effort to break this cycle of samsara.
So basically it teaches one to find a definite purpose in life, acquire sufficient wealth and most importantly, enjoy a good sex life as keys to leading a good life and attaining salvation.
Guidelines For Marriage And Marital Duties
The 3rd part of the Kamasutra known as Ghotakamukha, lists the criteria for selecting the ideal woman for marriage. It states that when one marries a virgin woman of the same caste in line with Holy Writ’s instructions, the result is the attainment of Dharma and Artha, offspring, affinity, an increase in friends, and pure love.
As a result, a man’s affections should be directed toward a girl from a good family, whose parents are still alive, and who is three years or younger than him.
She should come from a well-respected family with a lot of relatives and friends. She should also be attractive, have a pleasant demeanor, have lucky marks on her body, and have decent hair, nails, teeth, ears, eyes, and breasts, none of which are excessively large or small, and none of which are completely lacking, and be free of illness.
Of course, the man should have these characteristics as well. In any case, according to Ghotakamukha, a female who has already been coupled with others (i.e. is no longer a maiden) should never be loved, as it would be impolite to do so.
While these guidelines might sound highly regressive and discriminatory in today’s society, it also adds that one can be prosperous in the real sense only by marrying the woman he truly loves and is attracted to, which is undoubtedly true. It further enlists the guidelines topersuadie such a woman for marriage and form an alliance with her family.
Next, it goes on to speak on how to create confidence in the newlywed woman. According to this section, the man must not rush things but should instead develop intimacy slowly and gradually whilst being gentle with his wife. It provides step-by-step detailed guidelines on how to approach a woman, appropriately behave with her and earn her trust, which is quite a great aspect of the book.
Also Read: Indian Text Kamasutra Was First To Address The Idea Of Consent For Women
Gonardiya or part 4 of the Kamasutra deals with marital and domestic duties with special emphasis on the duties and privileges of the wife. It includes her conduct and power over the household, which is different for nuclear and joint families.
It also states remarriage to be unlucky and states the cases under which it can be accepted. The gender roles stated might sound odd and stereotypical today but it makes sense concerning that it was written over thousands of years ago.
Progressiveness Towards Sex Workers
Unlike the West that treats prostitutes with contempt, hatred and disregard, Indian culture considers a prostitute or a courtesan or vaishika to be an important element of society and treated with die respect.
The Charayana or part 6 of the Kamasutra deals with the roles and responsibilities of such courtesans whilst also probing into the deeper reaches of their minds.
In Hindu culture, courtesans are not considered “prostitutes,” but have been educated and taught to be amusing escorts for upper-class men in the past. Indeed, every woman “has an idea of the profession in her nature,” says the Kama Sutra, as if winking at its audience, because a woman’s goal is to “make herself pleasing to the male sex.“
According to this portion, A courtesan should be attractive, enjoy sex, have a strong mind, be eager to meet new people and gain experience and education, and be devoid of avarice. She should stay away from males who are unwell, parasitic, have foul breath, are greedy, thieves, or pompous.
Money is mentioned as a courtesan’s first objective, so she should not trade it for love. Intercourse with men should provide her with a source of income as well as sexual pleasure. When a prostitute falls in love with a guy for love, she can return to her lover role; however, when she falls in love with a man for money, her lovemaking is artificial, even forced.
However, it is a courtesan’s responsibility to appear as though she is in love with her lover at all times, as her partner’s confidence is based on the belief that she is in love with him, regardless of the circumstances.
When a courtesan is with a lover, she should act as if she were a chaste woman and do everything in her power to make him happy. She should provide him pleasure at the same time ensuring that she isn’t attached to him. The primary task of the courtesan is to develop a man’s confidence for his future sexual encounters.
The most interesting aspect of this section is the many ways in which it suggests a reversal in the gender roles prescribed in the previous parts of the book. For instance, when a long-term attachment or a man’s wife are discussed, it is a courtesan’s responsibility to appear as a typical male would – casual, difficult to pin down, and uninterested in commitment.
Even if she adores one of her lovers, she should create conditions that prohibit her from spending too much time with him. In many aspects, she is a plunderer who is only interested in gaining money.
However, if the courtesan falls in love, she must contend with the reality that the object of her affection is likely to have significant mistrust of her, and she must win his trust rather than vice versa.
With the 64 sex positions at her disposal and a keen insight into a man’s psychology, she is shown to be a possessor of immense power.
Personal Grooming And Sophistication
Kuchumara or the last part of the book is devoted to tips on personal grooming and sophistication.
These include body enhancements such as charms, aphrodisiacs, and artificial membranes. Makeup can also be used to enhance the appearance of the eyes, improve the texture of the face, or consume medicines to smooth the complexion.
The author also describes how a man or woman can use pastes and lotions to enhance their genitals in order to make them more sexually appealing. More than looking good, it’s about feeling good.
Speaking of sophistication, the Kamasutra speaks in the language of metaphors.
Far from using abusive language, it describes the genitals rather exquisitely and prescribes the same. For instance, it refers to the vulva as “Chandan Mahal ” or the “fragrant palace” and the clitoris as “Madan Chhatri ” or the “umbrella of the Love God ”!
Relevance In Today’s World
Apart from being a guide on sex and positions, there are various other ways that make Kamasutra relevant in today’s world. The book not only makes a progressive move by elucidating sex – something that is widely considered a taboo subject but also has a pro-feminist approach in its attitude towards sex workers and subtle arguments in favour of female orgasm.
It also hints at ways of enjoying causal relationships that too from a woman’s standpoint. It further speaks on self-care which is pretty relevant in this age of body positivity and self-love. Concerning sophistication, the people using vulgar sexist slang desperately need to read it for obvious reasons!
Which one of these do you find most relevant? Let us know in the comments down below!
Sources: Hindustan Times, Grade Saver, WebMD, Youth Ki Awaaz +more
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This post is tagged under Kamasutra, Sanskrit, Hindu, Hinduism, culture, love, lust, sex, eroticism, sex positions, feminism, Vatsayana Mallanaga, Seema Anand, dharma, artha, kama, moksha, family, marriage, relationships, grooming, sophistication, self-care
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