Sunday, January 20, 2008


In one of Mira Nair’s films (I forget which), the female protagonist is bemused by the fact that most men think she is exotic and wonderful because they think being from India, she must be well versed in the art of Kamasutra-style love-making. And indeed the view of the general populace about Vatsyayana’s Kamasutra is that it is a detailed manual of sexual gymnastics. It was also my view until I began reading it. It was with hopes of great proportions that I began reading the Kamasutra. With virginal trepidation and guilty glee, I cracked open the slim volume (the original version, not the interpretive one), hoping to be transported mentally into a world of Ellora cave sculptures. Imagine my surprise then when I saw that these aforementioned sexual gymnastics form only a small fraction of the book! The Kamasutra is really much more a treatise on the code and ethics of courting and love-making than on the actual method by which people make love. Some of it is mildly erotic, and several chunks of it make sense in a vague way, but most of it is absolute rubbish.

For example, Vatsyayana lists numerous reasons why a man should seduce another man’s wife. All are stupid reasons, but this one takes the cake: “so that you can make her fall in love with you, kill her husband, and thus indirectly gain access to his wealth.” Here is another example: when a man wants to seduce a woman, but is unable to make his advances because of the presence of others, Vatsyayana recommends procuring a child and proceeding to kiss and fondle the child in the lady’s presence thus indirectly transferring the affection to the lady. Also, most of the Kamasutra appears to be based on deception of others. It is recommended that husbands deceive their wives and sleep with other women (whom also it is recommended that he seduce by deceit by doing things like faking illness so she would come and visit him), it is recommended that courtesans fake poverty to milk money out of their benefactors, that kings invite the wives of common man to the palace under some pretext and then proceed to seduce them... the list of deceptions is never ending. And, as you might expect, the Kamasutra is written entirely from the viewpoint of a man, and is about how man can derive pleasure from woman. The wife, as expected is supposed to be virtuous, unless she happens to be seduced by a more worthy man. Courtesans for some reason have been given full license to enjoy carnal pleasure as much as men do. The book is enormously confusing, but the most confusing thing of all to me is why it has become a byword for exotic sensual delights. That’s a mystery I never hope to be able to solve.


Beautiful Mind said...

hai Asha

actually dont know where to mail or send scraps or write comments.
hope you are in good health and spirit.


horemhebanubis said...

interesting post!!! i was similarly bemused when i went through the book. perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the book for today's generation is the description of so many carnal things in a society which is now steeped in obscene conservativeness and orthodoxy. it is the freedom of thought espoused by the book which amuses people who see the current society dominated moral policers.