The words ‘Kama Sutra' conjure scenes of exotic decadence into the minds of people in modern day times, seeming alluring and even almost illicit.
Translated into thousands of different texts, the Indian manual of sexual experience addresses not only the practicalities of sexuality, but also the courtesies, manner of living and how to successfully relate with a sexual partner in a deeply meaningful manner.
The text also records curious niceties that were practiced in ancient India that are a little antiquated to be relevant to modern relationships, but are points of interesting conversation none the less.
The History of the Erotic Texts
The Kama Sutra is the most famous of a collection of Indian erotic texts, and is probably not original; the author Vatsyayana Mallanaga probably collected and reworked a range of existing Sanskrit manuals to write his work.
Written between 100-500 AD, the society which created these works was one of sensual awareness and respect for the sacredness of sexual relations, while recognising some practices as holy and others as forbidden.
Encompassing sixty-four arts, the manual was designed to be utilised by the upper castes of Indian societies. Young women were taught the Kama Sutra as a part of their education before marriage, and men were expected to live by the same lifestyle laws. Other texts written in a similar context include Ratirahasya a.k.a. Kokashastra by Kokkoka (translated into English by S. C. Upadhyaya-1965); Ratiratnapradipika by Devaraja (translated into English by Rangaswami Iyengar-1923) and Ratisastra by Nagarjuna (translated into English by A. C. Ghose-1904).
The Ideals of the Kama Sutra
The man who is ingenious and wise, who knows the intentions of others and also the proper time and place for doing everything, can gain over, very easily, even a woman who is very hard to be obtained.
Within the text there are some interesting concepts, which are all too relevant to romance today. The recognition of the differences between women and how to court these different women in a manner that suits her are examples of this.
Despite the manual-like appearance of the text and the almost cold-blooded scientific descriptions within it, the work certainly offers clear, matter-of-fact assistance in romance.
The Kama Sutra also recognises that ‘kama'(love and sexual gratification) is only one part of life; the other two parts being ‘dharma' (to be religious and/or a good member of society) and ‘Artha' (to acquire and manage wealth in an appropriate manner).
These ideas are outdated, but the notion of the three being entwined suggests that love should pervade the entire lifestyle, and that romance can be a primary factor in an individual's life rather than a secondary one.
The Kama Sutra in Modern Society
Although some of the ideas and concepts recorded in the Kama Sutra may be relevant only to the Indian society it was written for, there are many pieces of valuable information that can be gleaned from the text.
Psychologists who have studied the book note that it has very positive messages in terms of creating an equal and loving relationship, using sex as a means to demonstrate love.
The forms of lovemaking, including kissing and caressing as well as the sexual positions, are designed to enhance the physical connection between men and women and to offer a more creative and vibrant aspect to sexual relations.
The Kama Sutra also provides practical information about courtship and reading a woman's body language, although some of this information is antiquated. It discusses lover's quarrels, responses to certain attractions and how to use these reactions to the advantage of the man wooing the woman.
The Story of the Kama Sutra
Knowing love, I will allow all things to come and go. To be as supple as the wind, and take everything that comes with great courage. Life is right in any case. My heart is as open as the sky.
Perhaps the most exciting thing about the Kama Sutra is the amazing idea of a society structured with a high tolerance of sexual behaviour and an awareness of the sacredness of sex.
The Kama Sutra tells an intriguing story about this old, exotic society, its courtesies and practices. The tales of how to behave at garden parties, drinking parties and festivals are delightful to any interested in ancient societies, conjuring images in the mind of peacocks roaming through bright gardens and men and women reclining in rose arbours with teas and exotic delicacies.
The other interesting points in the text include descriptions on how to deal with courtesans, the forms of marriage and the women of the royal harem.
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