Kama Sutra

kamasutra

The Kama Sutra is an ancient Hindu text widely considered to be the standard work on human sexual behavior in Sanskrit. A portion of the work consists of practical advice on sexual intercourse.

‘Kāma’ which is one of the three goals of Hindu life, means sensual or sexual pleasure, and ‘sūtra’ literally means a thread or line that holds things together, and more metaphorically refers to an aphorism (or line, rule, formula), or a collection of such aphorisms in the form of a manual. Contrary to popular perception, especially in the western world, Kama sutra is not just an exclusive sex manual; it presents itself as a guide to a virtuous and gracious living that discusses the nature of love, family life and other aspects pertaining to pleasure oriented faculties of human life.

The Kama Sutra is the oldest and most notable of a group of texts known generically as Kama Shastra, a series of Sanskrit texts discussing love. Traditionally, the first transmission of Kama Shastra or ‘Discipline of Kama’ is attributed to Nandi the sacred bull, Shiva’s doorkeeper, who was moved to sacred utterance by overhearing the lovemaking of the god and his wife Parvati and later recorded his utterances for the benefit of mankind. Historians attribute Kamasutra to be composed between 400 BCE and 200 CE.

The book opens with a discussion of the three aims and priorities of life, the acquisition of knowledge, conduct of the well-bred townsman, and reflections on intermediaries who assist the lover in his enterprises. The following section includes advice on amorous advances/sexual union (stimulation of desire, types of embraces, caressing and kisses, marking with nails, biting and marking with teeth, on copulation [positions], slapping by hand and corresponding moaning, virile behavior in women, superior coition and oral sex), which concludes with ‘the game of love.’ It describes 64 types of sexual acts. The following chapters cover acquiring a wife (forms of marriage, relaxing the girl, obtaining the girl, managing alone, union by marriage); duties and privileges of the wife; other men’s wives (how to get acquainted, examination of sentiments, the task of go-between, the king’s pleasures, behavior in the women’s quarters); Courtesans (advice of the assistants on the choice of lovers, looking for a steady lover, ways of making money, renewing friendship with a former lover); and Occult practices (improving physical attractions, arousing a weakened sexual power).

Some Indian philosophies follow the ‘four main goals of life,’ known as the purusharthas: Dharma (virtuous living), Artha (material prosperity), Kama (aesthetic and erotic pleasure), and Moksha (liberation [from the cycle of rebirth]). Of the first three, virtue is the highest goal, a secure life the second, and pleasure the least important. When motives conflict, the higher ideal is to be followed. Thus, in making money virtue must not be compromised, but earning a living should take precedence over pleasure, but there are exceptions. Youth is the time for pleasure, and as years pass one should concentrate on living virtuously and hope to escape the cycle of rebirth. The ‘Kama Sutra’ acknowledges that the senses can be dangerous: ‘Just as a horse in full gallop, blinded by the energy of his own speed, pays no attention to any post or hole or ditch on the path, so two lovers, blinded by passion, in the friction of sexual battle, are caught up in their fierce energy and pay no attention to danger.’

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