Kama Sutra (/ˈkɑːmə ˈsuːtrə/; Sanskrit:
कामसूत्र, pronunciation (help·info),
Kāmasūtra) is an ancient Indian Hindu text written by
Vātsyāyana. It is widely considered to be the standard work on
human sexual behaviour in Sanskrit literature.
A portion of the work consists of practical advice on sexual
intercourse. It is largely in prose, with many inserted anustubh
poetry verses. "Kāma" which is one of the four goals of
means desire including sexual desire, the latter being the subject of
the textbook, 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
Contrary to western popular perception, the
Kama Sutra is not
exclusively a 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
Kama Sutra, in parts of the world, is presumed or
depicted as a synonym for creative sexual positions; in reality, only
20% of the
Kama Sutra is about sexual positions. The majority of the
book, notes Jacob Levy,[who?] is about the philosophy and theory of
love, what triggers desire, what sustains it, and how and when it is
good or bad.
Kama Sutra is the oldest and most notable of a group of texts
known generically as
Kama Shastra (Sanskrit:
Historians believe the
Kama Sutra to have been composed between
400 BCE and 200 CE.
John Keay says that the
Kama Sutra is a
compendium that was collected into its present form in the 2nd century
2 Pleasure and spirituality
4 In popular culture
5 See also
8 External links
Artistic depiction of a sex position. Although
Kama Sutra did not
originally have illustrative images, part 2 of the work describes
different sex positions.
In the preface of the
Vatsyayana cites the work of
previous authors based on which he compiled his own
Kama Sutra. He
states that the seven parts of his work were an abridgment of longer
works by Dattaka (first part), Suvarnanabha (second part),
Ghotakamukha (third part), Gonardiya (fourth part), Gonikaputra (fifth
part), Charayana (sixth part), and Kuchumara (seventh part).
Kama Sutra has 1250 verses, distributed over 36 chapters,
which are further organised into seven parts. According to both
the Burton and Doniger translations, the contents of the book are
structured into the following seven parts:
1. General remarks
Five chapters on contents of the book, three aims and priorities of
life, the acquisition of knowledge, conduct of the well-bred townsman,
reflections on intermediaries who assist the lover in his enterprises.
2. Amorous advances/sexual union
Ten chapters on 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 behaviour in women, superior coition and oral sex, preludes and
conclusions to the game of love. It describes 64 types of sexual acts.
3. Acquiring a wife
Five chapters on forms of marriage, relaxing the girl, obtaining the
girl, managing alone, union by marriage.
4. Duties and privileges of the wife
Two chapters on conduct of the only wife and conduct of the chief wife
and other wives.
5. Other men's wives
Six chapters on behaviour of woman and man, how to get acquainted,
examination of sentiments, the task of go-between, the king's
pleasures, behaviour in the women's quarters.
6. About courtesans
Six chapters on advice of the assistants on the choice of lovers,
looking for a steady lover, ways of making money, renewing friendship
with a former lover, occasional profits, profits and losses.
7. Occult practices
Two chapters on improving physical attractions, arousing a weakened
Pleasure and spirituality
A sexual pose from Mukteswar Temple in Bhubaneswar, Odisha
A Sexual Encounter
Some Indian philosophies follow the "four main goals of life",
known as the purusharthas, in order of importance:
Artha: (Material) prosperity
Dharma: Virtuous living
Kama are aims of everyday life, while
release from the cycle of death and rebirth. The
Kama Sutra (Burton
Dharma is better than Artha, and
Artha is better than Kama. But Artha
should always be first practised by the king for the livelihood of men
is to be obtained from it only. Again,
Kama being the occupation of
public women, they should prefer it to the other two, and these are
exceptions to the general rule.
Kama Sutra 1.2.14
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; however, there are exceptions.
Vātsyāyana says, a person should learn how to make a
living; youth is the time for pleasure, and as years pass, one should
concentrate on living virtuously and hope to escape the cycle of
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
Also, the Buddha preached a
Kama Sutra, which is located in the
Atthakavagga (sutra number 1). This
Kama Sutra, however, is of a very
different nature, as it warns against the dangers that come with the
search for pleasures of the senses.
Many in the
Western world wrongly consider the
Kama Sutra to be a
manual for tantric sex. While sexual practices do
exist within the very wide tradition of
Hindu Tantra, the
is not a Tantric text, and does not touch upon any of the sexual rites
associated with some forms of Tantric practice.
The most widely known English translation of the
Kama Sutra was
privately printed in 1883. It is usually attributed to renowned
orientalist and author Sir Richard Francis Burton, but the chief work
was done by the Indian archaeologist Bhagwan Lal Indraji, under the
guidance of Burton's friend, the Indian civil servant Forster
Fitzgerald Arbuthnot, and with the assistance of a student, Shivaram
Parshuram Bhide. Burton acted as publisher, while also furnishing
the edition with footnotes whose tone ranges from the jocular to the
scholarly. Burton says the following in its introduction:
It may be interesting to some persons to learn how it came about that
Vatsyayana was first brought to light and translated into the English
language. It happened thus. While translating with the pundits the
'Anunga Runga, or the stage of love', reference was frequently found
to be made to one Vatsya. The sage Vatsya was of this opinion, or of
that opinion. The sage Vatsya said this, and so on. Naturally
questions were asked who the sage was, and the pundits replied that
Vatsya was the author of the standard work on love in Sanscrit[sic]
literature, that no Sanscrit library was complete without his work,
and that it was most difficult now to obtain in its entire state. The
copy of the manuscript obtained in Bombay was defective, and so the
pundits wrote to Benares, Calcutta and
Jaipur for copies of the
manuscript from Sanscrit libraries in those places. Copies having been
obtained, they were then compared with each other, and with the aid of
a Commentary called 'Jayamanglia' a revised copy of the entire
manuscript was prepared, and from this copy the English translation
was made. The following is the certificate of the chief pundit:
"The accompanying manuscript is corrected by me after comparing four
different copies of the work. I had the assistance of a Commentary
called 'Jayamangla' for correcting the portion in the first five
parts, but found great difficulty in correcting the remaining portion,
because, with the exception of one copy thereof which was tolerably
correct, all the other copies I had were far too incorrect. However, I
took that portion as correct in which the majority of the copies
agreed with each other."
In the introduction to her own translation, Wendy Doniger, professor
of the history of religions at the University of Chicago, writes that
Burton "managed to get a rough approximation of the text published in
English in 1883, nasty bits and all". The philologist and Sanskritist
Professor Chlodwig Werba, of the Institute of Indology at the
University of Vienna, regards the 1883 translation as being second
only in accuracy to the academic German-Latin text published by
Richard Schmidt in 1897.
A noteworthy translation by
Indra Sinha was published in 1980. In the
early 1990s, its chapter on sexual positions began circulating on the
internet as an independent text and today is often assumed to be the
whole of the
Alain Daniélou contributed a noteworthy translation called The
Kama Sutra in 1994. This translation, originally into
French, and thence into English, featured the original text attributed
to Vatsyayana, along with a medieval and a modern commentary. Unlike
the 1883 version, Daniélou's new translation preserves the numbered
verse divisions of the original, and does not incorporate notes in the
text. He includes English translations of two important commentaries:
The Jayamangala commentary, written in Sanskrit by Yashodhara during
the Middle Ages, as page footnotes.
A modern commentary in
Hindi by Devadatta Shastri, as endnotes.
Daniélou translated all Sanskrit words into English (but uses the
word "brahmin"). He leaves references to the sexual organs as in the
original: persistent usage of the words "lingam" and "yoni" to refer
to them in older translations of the
Kama Sutra is not the usage in
the original Sanskrit; he argues that "to a modern Hindu, 'lingam' and
'yoni' mean specifically the sexual organs of the god
Shiva and his
wife, and using those words to refer to humans' sexual organs would
seem irreligious." The view that lingam means only "sexual organs" is
disputed by academics such as S. N. Balagangadhara.
An English translation by
Wendy Doniger and Sudhir Kakar, an Indian
psychoanalyst and senior fellow at the Center for Study of World
Religions at Harvard University, was published by Oxford University
Press in 2002. Doniger contributed the Sanskrit expertise while Kakar
provided a psychoanalytic interpretation of the text.
In popular culture
Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love
Tales of the
Kama Sutra: The Perfumed Garden
Tales of the
Kama Sutra 2: Monsoon
History of sex in India
Khajuraho Group of Monuments
Lazzat Un Nisa
List of Indian inventions and discoveries
Song of Songs
The Jewel in The Lotus
The Perfumed Garden
^ Doniger, Wendy (2003). Kamasutra – Oxford World's Classics. Oxford
University Press. p. i. ISBN 978-0-19-283982-4. The
Kamasutra is the oldest extant
Hindu textbook of erotic love. It was
composed in Sanskrit, the literary language of ancient India, probably
in North India and probably sometime in the third century
^ Coltrane, Scott (1998). Gender and families. Rowman &
Littlefield. p. 36. ISBN 978-0-8039-9036-4.
^ A.N.D Haksar, Malika Favre.
Kama Sutra: (Penguin Classics Deluxe
Edition). Penguin Publishing Group. ISBN 9781101651070.
^ Common misconceptions about
Kama Sutra. "The
Kama Sutra is neither
exclusively a sex manual nor, as also commonly used art, a sacred or
religious work. It is certainly not a tantric text. In opening with a
discussion of the three aims of ancient
Hindu life – dharma,
artha and kama – Vatsyayana's purpose is to set kama, or
enjoyment of the senses, in context. Thus dharma or virtuous living is
the highest aim, artha, the amassing of wealth is next, and kama is
the least of three." —
^ Carroll, Janell (2009). Sexuality Now: Embracing Diversity. Cengage
Learning. p. 7. ISBN 978-0-495-60274-3.
^ Devi, Chandi (2008). From Om to Orgasm: The
Tantra Primer for Living
in Bliss. AuthorHouse. p. 288. ISBN 978-1-4343-4960-6.
^ Jacob Levy (2010),
Kama sense marketing, iUniverse,
ISBN 978-1440195563, see Introduction
^ Alain Daniélou, The Complete
Kama Sutra: The First Unabridged
Modern Translation of the Classic Indian Text,
Kama Sutra as the most notable of the kāma śhāstra literature
see: Flood (1996), p. 65.
^ Sengupta, J. (2006). Refractions of Desire, Feminist Perspectives in
the Novels of Toni Morrison, Michèle Roberts, and Anita Desai.
Atlantic Publishers & Distributors. p. 21.
ISBN 9788126906291. Retrieved 7 December 2014.
John Keay (2010). India: A History: from the Earliest Civilisations
to the Boom of the Twenty-first Century. Grove Press.
^ book, see index pages by Wendy Doniger, also translation[permanent
dead link] by Burton
^ Date checked: 29 March 2007 Burton and Doniger
^ For the
Dharma Śāstras as discussing the "four main goals of life"
(dharma, artha, kāma, and moksha) see: Hopkins, p. 78.
^ For dharma, artha, and kama as "brahmanic householder values" see:
Flood (1996), p. 17.
^ For definition of the term पुरुष-अर्थ
(puruṣa-artha) as "any of the four principal objects of human life,
i.e. धर्म (dharma), अर्थ (artha), काम (kāma),
and मोक्ष (mokṣa)" see: Apte, p. 626, middle column,
^ Quotation from the translation by Richard Burton taken from .
Text accessed 3 April 2007.
^ Book I, Chapter ii, Lines 2-4
Vatsyayana Kamasutram Electronic
Sanskrit edition: Titus Texts, University of Frankfurt bālye
vidyāgrahaṇādīn arthān, kāmaṃ ca yauvane, sthāvire dharmaṃ
^ McConnachie (2007), pp. 123–125.
^ McConnachie (2007), p. 233.
^ Sinha, p. 33.
^ The Complete
Kama Sutra Archived 6 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
by Alain Daniélou.
^ Stated in the translation's preface
^ Balagangadhara, S. N. (2007). Antonio De Nicholas, Krishnan
Ramaswamy, Aditi Banerjee, eds. Invading the Sacred. Rupa & Co.
pp. 431–433. ISBN 978-81-291-1182-1. CS1 maint: Uses
editors parameter (link)
^ McConnachie (2007), p. 232.
Apte, Vaman Shivram (1965). The Practical Sanskrit Dictionary (fourth
revised & enlarged ed.). Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers.
Avari, Burjor (2007). India: The Ancient Past. London: Routledge.
Daniélou, Alain (1993). The Complete
Kama Sutra: The First Unabridged
Modern Translation of the Classic Indian Text. Inner Traditions.
Sudhir Kakar (2002). Kamasutra. Oxford World's
Classics. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-283982-9.
Flood, Gavin (1996). An Introduction to Hinduism. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press. ISBN 0-521-43878-0.
Flood, Gavin, ed. (2003). The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism. Malden,
Blackwell Publishing Ltd. ISBN 1-4051-3251-5.
Hopkins, Thomas J. (1971). The
Hindu Religious Tradition. Cambridge:
Dickenson Publishing Company, Inc.
Keay, John (2000). India: A History. New York: Grove Press.
McConnachie, James (2007). The Book of Love: In Search of the
Kamasutra. London: Atlantic Books. ISBN 978-1-84354-373-2.
Indra (1999). The Cybergypsies. New York: Viking.
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