Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Where did it begin? The Kamasutra - Part 2

Let's start with the name itself: Kamasutra. Its made up of two different words kama and sutra. Kama was sexual desire, the urge to create or procreate if you like. Sutra is a scholarly treatise, something that is used to impart pearls of knowledge or wisdom. So in essence the Kamasutra was written to be the “condensed version of the teaching of sex”.

It was written by a man called Vatsyayana, of whom little is known, except what he writes about himself in the text of the Kamasutra. The exact date when it was written is unknown, but from other writings, it is believed that the author lived in Pataliputra (modern day Patna in the north-east of India) and he wrote the Kamasutra during the early to middle part of the third century AD.

The book itself comprises seven books, or sections. The first describes kama in a context of the man - playboy if you prefer - preparing himself for a life of pleasure. The second section explains how he should actually go about doing it. This is also the most detailed of the books, for it seems that having sex can be quite a complicated thing. Of course, to be respected amongst his peers, the man had to be accomplished in all the techniques. They are not “just tools for successful love making, then: they lie at the heart of what constitutes an educated man”.

Once the man has achieved the necessary skills, he could now turn to the next four books that explained the types of women that he may pursue. Clearly this could get many modern men into trouble - for various reasons - as details were given on how to woo or seduce (depending on your point of view I suppose) virgins to prostitutes. Married women were not excluded from that equation either!

The last section is about aphrodisiacs, and even the author himself seemed sceptical about some of the recipes, recommending that readers should be careful when using them.

The Kamasutra is not the first book of this nature, but rather a summary - a condensed version - of earlier, more extensive works, one of which was described as comprising thousands of chapters. The author thus believed that he did his peers a favour by providing them with the knowledge, but without the need for a whole library. Even in its time, it was controversial as seeking to promote physical and social pleasure, instead of aspiring towards the higher goals of dharma (duty, sacrifice, religion) and artha (material things and knowledge).

Next time we move forward in time a little to find more of the Kamasutra's journey into our world today.