Many people have heard about the Kama sutra, but generally the ideas that circulate are rather distorted, vague and confused by ignorance and prejudice. Such prejudice is mostly due to the cultural superimposition of layers of prude bigotry and self-righteous moralism brought by iconoclastic Islamic dominators frist and by Victorian British Christians later.
Enforced by the abrahamic invaders, the wholesale condemnation of the intrinsic beauty and joy of the natural form and activities of the body, effectively destroyed the Vedic expressions of beauty and joy, or covered them with the thick plaster of shame. And that’s not simply a manner of speaking: the plaster physically obliterated many artistic masterpieces of sculpture, as for example those that used to decorate the temple of Jagannatha at Puri. Millions of Deities and decorative images were defaced, broken or destroyed, and many thousands of temples completely razed to the ground.
Especially in north India, even the dismantled masonry was removed and utilized to build minarets, mosques and other buildings, even transporting them over long distances.
This is why it is so difficult to find really ancient temples built and decorated in Vedic style. With time, these alien influences seeped into Indian culture and created that layered and often contradictory result that is now presented as Indian culture – with an increasing emphasis on the non-Vedic concepts.
Documentaries on India circulated on the national and international market, often financed by anti-Hindu sponsors, minimize or ignore the glories of Vedic society and knowledge, to favor a “nawab and kebab” image that is identified with “ancient glory”.
Such self-defeating approach could have been justified in the times when embracing the chauvinistic views of the invaders was the only alternative to getting the entire temple, or the entire Hindu society, razed to the ground and burned into oblivion, or beheaded/ enslaved en masse. Today Indians pride themselves of their national independence and their golden Vedic heritage, therefore there should be no external hindrance in actually re-discovering and re-establishing the Vedic view in all its former glory.
Unfortunately the general lack of proper understanding and information has created a negative impression in the minds of Indian people, including those who consider themselves Hindus, because they can’t be bothered with actually reading their own original texts and discovering their inherent value.
Many Hindus consider the Kamasutra an “obscene book”, and some even go as far as denying its respectability as a Vedic scripture.In fact, the Kamasutra presently available was compiled by Vatsyayana Rishi on the teachings of Nandikesvara, the same companion of Shiva Mahadeva who also taught the Natya shastras.
By reading it attentively we will find out that the main topic is not sex in itself – which constitutes only a part of the subject – but rather the quality of life in general, and how to establish oneself on the level of sattva or goodness in a successful material and spiritual life.
Of course the general ignorance of the masses is compounded by the circulation of some questionable publications produced during the middle ages by unscrupulous courtiers of the Muslim sultans that dominated India, and that were actually meant only as mere sex manuals, illustrated in Persian and Mogul style, to feed the lusty fantasies of their masters, bored with the “normal intercourse” with their hundreds of wives and concubines locked up in a harem.
Those lusty catalogues of sexual positions (most of which are not even mentioned in the original Kama sutras themselves) were also circulated in the milieux of western intellectuals in the early times of European colonialism, and this in turn contributed to the prejudiced frame of mind by which the colonial missionaries and administrators criticized the “heathen immorality” of the Hindus.
The comparison between the Hindu/ Vedic values of life and the ancient heathen world of pre-Christian Europe is actually not a negative one, because both these cultures were deeply respectful of Mother Nature in all her manifestations – the beauty of all things in the universe, including earth, water, intelligence, consciousness, one’s body, women, children, and the natural and healthy pleasures of life.
Unfortunately, both the pre-Christian western cultures and Vedic culture have been badmouthed by the terrorist hammering propaganda of “mainstream education”, in which students are carefully denied any actual knowledge of the historical events, facts and figures in these last 5000 years or so, at global level.
For people who have been heavily brainwashed by abrahamic system of schooling, biased media and deliberate social pressure, it is extremely difficult to actually understand Nature, because the deeply ingrained abrahamic prejudices seep into the subconscious mind, become the general and only existing norm, and are even mistaken for basic tenets of “the age old native Tradition”.
The technical term defining these prejudiced and ignorant paradigms is laukika sraddha or “popular belief”, devoid of factual value because it is opposed to shastra pramana, or authoritative scriptural foundation.
Another problematic factor consists in the distortion of the concept of “authority”, especially in the religious field. As people are discouraged from using their God-given intelligence, and blackmailed into blind acceptance of whatever the “priest”, “imam” or “pope” says, this alien attitude is also carried into the field of Hinduism, and anyone who can get a good political position in a religious organization is automatically accepted by the mass as a religious authority, even if what he teaches is the exact opposite of what all the shastras proclaim.
The situation created by this widespread ignorance and degradation has become so seriously damaging, that its effects are showcased by ill-motivated propagandists as the worst “social evils created by Hinduism” – mistreatment of women, child marriage, arranged forced marriage, casteism, racism, superstition as opposed to verifiable scientific knowledge, cruelty to animals, corruption, etc.
In a sort of blind knee-jerk reaction, some Hindu activists unwittingly endorse such destructive ideas, instead of actually investing time and effort in studying the original texts and understanding how they can be applied successfully to our contemporary world to solve practically all the problems we are facing.
We can confidently say that the common root of all our problems today is the lack of knowledge, understanding and respect of the basic nature of our body and mind, and the faulty approach in the relationships with other people – human and not human – and with Nature herself. All this can be easily solved by applying the Vedic perspective, as it reconciles and harmonizes the material and spiritual aspects of life, healing the inner conflict inevitably created by the diseased abrahamic ideologies that condemn matter in order to venerate spirit. The Kama shastra is a perfect example of this happy, healthy and natural balance.
The text starts by carefully explaining about the four religious purposes of life: dharma (ethical behavior, virtue and duty), artha (acquisition of valuable things), kama (sense gratification) and moksha (liberation from material identifications and attachments). It is said that human life starts with religion – religion is what distinguishes us from animals. Mere survival is common to all species of life. Animals, too, engage in the basic and instinctive activities of eating, sleeping, defending themselves, mating and raising a family, and having a social life.
Then again, we need to clarify the idea of “religion”, because it has become rather confused and distorted by the artificial imposition of dogmatic ideologies, to the point that many Hindus feel offended when someone says that Hinduism is a religion.
Actually, the word religion derives from the Latin religare, “to connect”, indicating the relationship that connects the individual with the rest of the universe – in other words, the meaning and purpose of human life.
So we can safely say that human life starts when one asks about its meaning and purpose, and becomes engaged in the process of evolution. A human being, and most notably a civilized human being (defined in Sanskrit as arya) is expected to rise above the merely instinctive level and acquire material and spiritual knowledge, by which complete success can be achieved because the meaning and purpose of life is fully understood and appreciated.
This is why the Vedic gurukula system starts the theoretical and practical education and training of children with the scientific study of dharma, followed by artha, kama and moksha, each used as an instrument for the individual evolution and the progress of society.
Without being properly trained in such knowledge, human beings tend to proceed blindly and empirically, and often end up creating many unnecessary problems for themselves and for others.
For example, people will instinctively try to obtain sense gratification through food and sex, but if they do not know how life works, they will inevitably face health problems (both physically and mentally) and difficulties in personal relationships, and the pleasures they attain will be limited and ineffective.
In complete harmony with all the other Vedic scriptures, the Kama shastra declare that the purpose of human life consists in pursuing the four main values (purusha arthas): dharma, artha, kama and moksha, as subsequent stages of personal evolution and self-realization that will ultimately lead to the transcendental level of complete freedom and unconditioned happiness.
In this regard, we need to notice that sense gratification comes in third position, after the cultivation of a sattvic character and the attainment of a good material prosperity.
Built on these solid and clean sattvic foundations, sensual pleasure becomes not only legitimate (and free from guilt) but even divine, as Bhagavad gita itself declares (7.11): dharmaviruddho bhuteshu kamo ‘smi bharatarshabha, “In all beings/ states of existence, I am sense gratification that is not contrary to dharma“.
So, in order to religiously enjoy sense gratification, we must understand how it can be based on dharma. Due to cultural superimposition, some Hindus embraced the abrahamic idea that the only way for man to sanctify sense gratification is to have the minimum sexual intercourse required to produce a child within the conventional socially and legally recognized sacrament of marriage.
According to the same belief structure, only the husband is supposed to enjoy the sexual act, as the man (identified with the male principle) is the enjoyer and the woman (identified with the female principle) is the enjoyed. Similarly, the man is supposed to be the dominator, and the woman is supposed to be the dominated – a sort of breeding sex machine that should not feel any pleasure in order to be considered socially acceptable.To understand where Indians got this idea, we just need to notice the English expression “animal husbandry”. Although the idea of socially recognized conventional marriage to produce qualified offspring is indeed a part of the Vedic scenario (as the prajapatya vivaha), it is certainly not the only form of legitimate sensual pleasure contemplated by the Vedic system.
To better understand this point, we need to deeply analize the Gita verse we quoted above, specifically the concept that divine sense gratification is characterized by respect towards dharma.This Sanskrit word dharma, derived from the root dhr, “to sustain”, is often mistranslated as “religion” in the western/ abrahamic sense, but actually has much deeper and vaster meanings and refers not to some external imposition of rules and allegiances and beliefs, but to knowledge of the inherent fundamental nature of the being and the full development of its potential.
Dharma is the religious duty in the sense that dharmic choices sustain and foster the evolution and prosperity of the individual and the society as well. What is this fundamental nature of the being? What is the duty implied in such nature? Simply the eternal and universal ethical principles that popular wisdom usually calls “conscience”, that is naturally present in any human being that has not been seriously damaged by dogmatic brainwashing.
The fundamental applications of these universal and eternal (sanatana) principles are truthfulness (or honesty), compassion (or love), cleanliness (or purity), self control (or balance), courage, tolerance and patience, application of intelligence, seach for knowledge, and detachment from anger.
These are the principles that must not be violated in the pursuance of sensual gratification. There is no mention of social conventions, legal certifications, dogmas or fatwas, hereditary rights or similar rules and regulations.
So, as long as sex is not based on physical or psychological violence, on betrayal or hypocrisy, on some type of psychological or physical perversion, or on mere animal lust, it is considered legitimate from the moral point of view, and when it is supported by the proper consciousness, it is even desirable as a religious practice or meditation.For a person who has properly understood the theory and practice of dharma, the second purpose of human life is artha – meaning acquisition of “what is valuable”.
Generally this is understood as economic development, but we should remember that Vedic civilization has a deeper and healthier mentality than what we see in contemporary globalized societies based on consumerism.
Vedic society does not encourage the unlimited accumulation of gold and properties that are not utilized properly for the progress of the individual and society in general. But it certainly approves wealth as the beautiful and beneficial assets that enrich one’s life. It gives great value to things that do not necessarily have a price tag: freedom, good relationships, the cultivation of knowledge, a clean and beautiful natural environment, good air, good water, healthy food, leisure time, self-sufficiency in daily needs, and whatever defines a higher quality of life.
The third purpose of human life – the sattvic and religious enjoyment of sense pleasures – is possible only when a sufficient degree of success has been attained in dharma and artha. From the platform of dharma, one will be able to pursue this acquisition of valuable things in the best possible way – making each acquisition more permanent and free from bad consequences. In the same way, it is possible to really enjoy the pleasures of life when the basic survival needs have been satisfied, and one has sufficient wealth to afford a high level of quality of life.
Because it’s not just about sexual intercourse – which is something that any animal is able to avail. The life of a civilized human being is supposed to be much more accomplished, in so many ways. So while the first chapter of the Kamasutra deals with the necessary achievements in dharma and artha in relationship with kama, the second chapter deals with the study of the 64 arts, that is recommended especially for girls. By learning these 64 arts all girls (especially those born in very good families) would become able to bring prosperity to their home and even get independent income in case of widowhood or financial difficulties of the husband or his family – as the text explicitly states.
Such arts include the study of foreign languages, gastronomy and culinary arts, medicine, gardening, the preparation of preserves, drinks, perfumes, oils and medicinal extracts, tailoring, dyeing of clothes and other materials, fashioning gold and creating jewels, the ability to evaluate the price of gems and metals, chemistry and mineralogy, metallurgy and the knowledge of mining processes, the creation of flower ornaments both for the person and for home decoration, the creation of turbans and various hair-dressing styles, tattooing, the art of service to the Deity, the art of making malas (rosaries) and religious decorations, magical arts, spells and potions, coded languages and communications, the management of cisterns for water and storage facilities, singing, dancing, performance arts, painting, sculpting and all the figurative arts, poetry and the various literary arts, training and care of pet animals, the art of toy making, martial arts and military strategy, architecture, carpentry and ebonistery, house management and accountings, gambling, psychology (especially marital counseling), sociology, as well as the various sexual arts.
The original scriptures clearly state that the women who are expert in these arts and sciences are immensely respected in society even when they live alone independently; thanks to their personal abilities they obtain a place of respect in society, they are praised by respectable people and become competent to overcome any crisis at personal or family level.
Besides these independent professional abilities, married women could normally participate in a direct way to the professional activities of their husband.
A famous example is queen Kaikeyi, who used to go to battle on her own chariot in the army of the kingdom of Ayodhya; once she entered the fight to face the great warriors that had stricken king Dasaratha unconscious. After defeating and routing the generals of the opposite army, Kaikeyi picked up the unconscious body of her husband, moved him to her own chariot and took him to safety, saving his life. For this action, Dasaratha had promised to repay his debt by fulfilling any request from her. There have been great examples of valiant and capable kshatriya queens all along Indian history, although their number has dwindled in more recent centuries.
Similarly, the wives of brahmanas and vaisyas were always welcomed to directly participate to the professional activities of their families if they so desired.This obviously implies the required a general education as well as the training for that specific professional field.
Unfortunately, some members of the so-called conservative and orthodox Hindu society believe that girls or women, especially from “good families”, should not receive any cultural or professional education, to ensure that they will remain more “faithful and obedient” to their husband and in-laws, because they totally depend on them. This complete loss of personal power of women has been compounded by the criminal distortion of the original idea of dowry.
Originally, the dowry was given to the bride by her father as strictly personal wealth she was supposed to use in emergencies to protect her independence.
The idea that a lady’s dowry could be even touched by her husband and in-laws was considered extremely sinful and openly condemned in Vedic scriptures in unequivocable terms.
Now the degradation has become so rampant that the misappropriation of the previously inviolable stri-dhana (“lady’s wealth”) has become the main focus of the marriage process, and a girl can hope to find a husband only if she is able to pay huge sums in cash and kind to the family of a boy, delivering all her “dowry” to them even before marriage, and remaining totally powerless and dependent on their good will. Tough spot, considering the moral and ethical degradation of the greatest part of the population.
Thus not only the girl is exploited and mistreated without any chance of protection, but her entire family must suffer because of the greedy demands of the in-laws. If the dowry is not deemed sufficient, the girl is beaten and humiliated constantly, and in many cases even killed. In 2010, the reported dowry deaths were 8391, not counting the non-reported cases passed off as “missing wife” or “suicide” or “kitchen accident”.
This situation obviously leads degraded people to believe that the birth of a girl child should be considered a disgrace rather than a happy event as in the case of a male child. In the most extreme cases, the disapproval of family and society can turn into serious neglect and discrimination towards the girl all along her childhood, if not into infanticide or foeticide when the ultrasound tests reveal that the unborn child is a female.
Such ideas do not find any support in any Vedic texts, either in a theoretical or in a practical form. Rather, the teachings of the Vedas lead in a completely opposite direction. Vedic civilization has the deepest respect and veneration for all women, who are considered incarnations and representatives of the divine feminine principle, the Mother Goddess.
There are no Vedic texts that endorse, contemplate or even mention the killing of girl children or the neglect or mistreatment of girls or women, of any age. On the contrary, according to the Vedic scriptures a woman or a brahmana must never be subject to physical punishment or mistreatment of any kind, even when they are factually recognized as guilty of some serious crime.
Such bad influence was actually introduced by the islamic invaders, as we can still observe in the countries subjected to the sharia law system. In Saudi Arabia for example there is no obligation of punishment for a man who tortured and killed his own wife and children; rape victims are regularly prosecuted for adultery, girls are used as gifts to settle disputes or debts, and child marriage and forced marriage are the righteous religious norm.
As degraded people normally resort to arranged marriages based on caste prejudice, in a sort of cow market where both bride and groom are evaluated in terms of financial power and social position, there is absolutely no space for a real love relationship, so the wife must be kept totally powerless and oppressed, so that she will not be “getting ideas” about her own personal value as individual within the family and society, but she should simply concern herself with producing a sufficient number of male children.
This idea does not have any foundation in the genuine vedic Tradition, and results in superficial and sometimes even hostile family relationships, where the wife is treated as nothing more than a free house keeper, a maidservant to cruelly tyrannical in-laws, and a source of dowry income. Sadly, she is often used as a punching ball, too, as from recent social research studies, over 70% of the interviewed women considered “normal” being beaten by husband or in-laws even for trifles such as a kitchen mishap, trying to go out in public alone, or wearing something else than the traditional sari.
A 2012 report by UNICEF found that 57 percent of boys and 53 percent of girls between the ages of 15 and 19 think wife-beating is actually justified (not simply “normal”). It should be no surprise that in India a husband is seen merely as a symbol of social position and security, and a provider of wealth – a sort of ATM machine.
Even worse, such bad marital relationships can easily degenerate in veritable wars, in which frustrated and embittered women channel their anger and resentment into spoiling the lives of her family members, even to the point of falsely accusing husband and in-laws of harassment or other criminal behaviors. Both camps often spice up the hostilities viciously with all possible means, from bad jokes and vignettes (usually on women) to petty revenges and blackmailing, sometimes with the wicked complicity of other family members.
The trend is echoed, confirmed, and reinforced by the awful Indian TV soap operas (called “serials”) that keep harping on the same disastrous tones and stories. This presentation of unending cruelty to innocent women as perfectly normal and inevitable is considered perfectly acceptable for the prudish TV Indian censorship.
On the other hand, even the mere mention of the word “sex” or a kiss between husband and wife are cut off from movies, with the pretext of defending morality. What to speak of proper sex education: like in the most bigoted abrahamic regions, children will have to learn the “dirty secrets” from porn or from sexual abuse at school, in the family or in the street.
Such state of affairs seriously damages the entire purpose of human life, and degrades the entire society. The Kama shastra comes to our aid in this sad predicament, not only with the valuable knowledge of the art of love making (described in the second section of the text), but also with several chapters about the best way to manage a marital relationship – in the third, fourth and fifth sections, that form the greatest part of the text.
The Vedic system recognized the validity of several forms of marriage:
* brahmana, in which the father of the bride sends an invitation to a properly qualified man and entrusts the girl to him; the purpose of the marriage is the joint performance of the traditional religious duties
* daiva, in which the girl is married to a properly qualified brahmana who was invited to perform a sacred ritual; the purpose of the marriage is to perpetuate the good results of the sacrifice and to protect society in general
* arsha (of the Rishis), in which the married couple offer a symbolic gift of a bull and a cow (sacred animals considered the father and mother of human society) to the girl’s parents; the purpose of the marriage is cooperation in the study and practice of spiritual life
* prajapatya, in which the girl chooses a suitable husband directly or indirectly (for example in the svayamvara tournaments); the purpose of the marriage is the birth of a qualified progeny that will continue the dynasty
* gandharva, in which the girl and boy declare their love for each other (this is also the specific ritual for gays and lesbians, according to the 12th century commentator Jayamangala) and exchange vows and garlands; the purpose of the marriage is romantic desire and sensual pleasure – as examplified in the story of Sakuntala and king Dushyanta
* rakshasa, in which the girl is abducted from her home against the will of her family; this type of marriage is also popular with kshatriyas who want to overcome the blind opposition of the girl’s family to her wishes (as in the cases of Krishna’s wife Rukmini and sister Subhadra, who married Arjuna)
* asura, in which a girl and her family receive gifts, boons or wealth from the prospective husband to convince them of his good intentions; the most famous example in puranic history is Santanu, who married Satyavati by pledging exclusive succession rights to Satyavati’s sons
* pisacha, in which a girl is seduced into a sexual relationship by flattery, emotional pressure, mental manipulation, intoxication (with wine etc), or approached while she is sleeping and more vulnerable. The purpose of the pisacha marriage is mere satisfaction of sensual pleasure but still the women involved and the children conceived in such relationship are considered perfectly respectable by society.
In the Vedic concept, there is no discrimination or prejudice towards “illegitimate” children. A birth as a human being is always considered a blessing and an opportunity, and pure in itself (as opposed to the abrahamic concept of original sin). The most evident demonstration is the great Vyasa, the supreme Rishi who compiled all the Vedic scriptures at the beginning of this age: his birth resulted from the casual encounter of Parasara Rishi with Satyavati, a girl from a community of fishermen. Vyasa’s parents never married (or saw each other again, apparently), and Satyavati went on to marry king Santanu without reneging on her relationship with her son Vyasa. And nobody ever had anything to say against such a situation.
And that’s not just a matter of “Caesar can do no wrong” as many foolish people believe. The same open minded attitude was applied to everyone, including the obscure child of an ordinary prostitute, as exemplified by the story of Satyakama Jabala Rishi.
In the degraded casteist system established in the middle ages after the islamic invasions and presently peddled as the “age old Hindu tradition”, Vyasa or Satyakama would not be allowed even to enter a public temple, what to speak of studying Sanskrit or elaborating on shastra. Just imagine what the present situation in India could be, if Ambedkar had been treated according to the genuine Vedic system, instead of being subjected to the ignorant hatred and persecution of a bunch of casteist idiots and crooks passing off as “Hindu religious authorities”.
In order to understand the Vedic concept of marriage, we also need to remember that the puranas and itihasas offer a wealth of examples of the huge freedom afforded by all such types of marital relationships. Contrarily to what happens today, in Vedic society husband and wife could choose not to live together permanently, and were not bound to monogamy.
Polygamy (one man having more than one wife) was considered rather normal and even polyandry was considered perfectly legitimate socially. For example, Draupadi’s having 5 husbands did not jeopardize her family’s respectability at the highest level of royal dignity. The only disrespectful comments came from their sworn enemies, the evil Kauravas – and the Mahabharata openly condemns them as offensive and degraded, clearly explaining that such offenses were the cause of the destruction of the entire Kaurava dynasty.
Vedic society does not interfere with a person’s private life, as long as his private behaviors are not forcefully imposed on someone else: in this case, the violent behavior is considered an aggression (irrespective of its motivation) that legitimizes self defense to the extreme consequences and if necessary demands the intervention of the kshatriyas to protect the victim of the aggression.
A man is advised to accept a wife only if he is capable of fulfilling her needs, and warned about the damage caused by a bad marital relationship with a frustrated wife. So although polygamy is not condemned (and plenty of advice is given for good relationships between co-wives), monogamy is certainly praised as a wise and safe choice. Talking about marriage, we may need to note that in Vedic civilization a woman may choose to simply dedicate herself to family, children, husband, home, and concern herself about her own physical appearance without being forced to engage in other activities, but such occupations do not constitute a limitation, an obligation or a priority duty. Women earned great respect by choosing to pursue a career on their own, especially in the religious field, where they were called brahma vadinis.
The Vedic “housewives” are called sadhya vadhu. They may not be particularly learned or austere, but they are much respected nonetheless for the educational role and influence they have for their children, and for the support and care they provide to all the members of the family and the clan.
Unlike the women who live under the Islamic segregation regime, ordinary married women in Vedic society were totally free to move around, and they could go out in public either alone or escorted, to participate to the various social, religious or cultural functions, or for shopping or visiting pleasant or interesting places as described for example in the Kama sutras. In this regard there are many descriptions from various other scriptures and historical records.
Thanks to the pleasantness and comfort of traditional Vedic housing structures, endowed with vast orchards and kitchen gardens, water tanks, storing rooms and laboratories for the home production of various goods, the “mother of the family” did not need to leave her house in order to perfectly perform her duties.
In Vedic society merchants, craftspeople and independent service providers (such as astrologers, palmists, physicians, artists etc) were usually going from door to door to present their merchandise and service for the convenience of customers. There are no rules that prevent women from interacting with merchants (male or female), and for this reason the women of wealthy families did not need to take the trouble to go out of their homes to run errands or to enjoy the pleasures of shopping, entertainment or popular culture.
In India the practice of purdah, or imposition of veil and segregation of women only started after the islamic invasions. Just like the practice of child marriage and forced marriage, legal and social inequality between men and women, and even rape and sexual harassment of women. There are few ancient temples and Deities that remain still standing from previous times, and by comparing the images of those temples with the more recent ones, we can easily see the difference of attitude and perspective about women.
The merry participation of married and unmarried women to social functions and occasions was considered one of the most “auspicious” characteristics of the Vedic way of life. A dim reflection of those happy times is still found in the importance of the processions of girls and women carrying each a pot of water (symbol of their femininity) within the celebration of religious festivals, and in the depiction of young women (often scantily dressed) in temples and homes and in decorations in general, “for good fortune”.
So after speaking of the four purusharthas (in chapter 2) and the study of the 64 arts (in chapter 3), chapter 4 of Vatsyayana’s Kama sutras deals with interior decoration and many ways to make one’s daily life more pleasurable through social interactions, entertainment, etc. We can learn much here about home management, interior decoration of Vedic style, maintenance of gardens and kitchen gardens, and on the daily life of a city dweller (nagarika) regarding social engagements and various forms of entertainment and leisure activities.
The ideal house is surrounded by a beautiful garden and consists of two parts: a well protected private area where ladies can remain undisturbed, and a more open area where men and women can interact. In this regard, we should not let ourselves be fooled by the armored patriarchal concept that presents the gyneceum as a place where women are segregated, and from which they cannot get out (like a sort of harem).
On the contrary, this inner apartment was meant to be a space of total freedom and power, where no man could interfere or enter – not even the “lord of the house”. It was consecrated to grooming, letting one’s hair down in every sense, sleeping without worries, dressing or undressing comfortably, and even “girls only” parties, as we can see from many depictions of ancient times.
At any time, any woman or girl could leave the inner apartments without the permission of anyone, for free interaction with the male members of the family, household or society. And yes, even for sex between the lord and the lady of the house.
In the outer section of the house, a spacious pleasure room is furnished with a large, comfortable and beautiful bed, covered with a clean white cloth and well decorated with scented flowers, with a canopy and suitable pillows. Besides the bed, there should be a couch, a round seat and a low table with flowers, perfumes, mouth-fresheners and other desirable items. Other recommended items are a box of ornaments, a stringed musical instrument hanging from a decorative peg, some books, a board for drawing, a board for playing dice or chess, a toy cart, and other similar objects for artistic or otherwise pleasurable activities. Just outside this room, the garden is equipped with a swing and a cosy alcove built with flowering creepers and bushes.
After examining all the aspects of home comforts, the text describes examples of leisure activities that are considered appropriate to a civilized life, from personal hygiene and shaving, to the proper time of meals, rest and enjoyment. The day starts with the usual religious and professional duties, that are expected to take the entire morning. Lunch is followed by amusement with animals, then by a mid day nap, and a refreshing bath as still exemplified in the temple routine in Deity worship.
The afternoon is spent in the company of friends and conversations, and in the evening there should be singing, dancing and similar artistic performances. On special occasions, civilized people attend various religious festivals, picnics, swimming parties, dancing parties, poetry competitions, quiz competitions, and even drinking parties where pleasant beverages are served according to specified recipes.
Chapter 5 of the Kama sutra defines the categories of friendship and social relationships that one should cultivate, and also those that are to be avoided. It clearly explains which women one can legitimately try to approach for a relationship with sexual implications, and the civilized way to make friends with them and to manifest one’s desires, especially through the agency of messengers.
One should never indulge in an intimate relationship with a woman who is unclean, immodest, unable to keep a secret, or is in a dangerous position in society or family. Especially, one should never target a tapasvini or female ascetic, or a female friend that is bound by some type of obligation, or a childhood friend, a fellow student, and so on.
The text clearly states that one should not try to seduce the wives of others, especially the wife of a friend, a relative, a brahmana or a king – who can be especially dangerous if irritated. When other ordinary married women appear interested in romance, a respectable man should not get involved merely out of lust, unless of course it is the lady herself that clearly expresses such desire. The pursuit of extra-marital affairs is particularly justified and advisable when there is some solid good reason to please the lady, as she is in a position to give great help in society either directly or indirectly.
Only the second section of the text (Samprayogika) deals with the sexual union proper, starting with physical compatibility and elegant and refined preliminaries, kissing, embracing, body language, various sounds, information about natural tendencies, extreme passionate expressions such as love bites and nail marks, and finally concluding the encounter in a proper way.
In this section, the 64 social arts described in the first section are mirrored by the 64 sexual arts, considered equally valuable and respectable. Undoubtedly Vatsyayana Rishi does not feel embarrassed in describing the various factors in an intimate sexual relationship, but then again, those who have seen the “erotic” sculptures in very ancient temples should be able to understand that there is nothing to be scandalized about. The prudish moralism of abrahamic societies inevitably creates a sinful and guilty attitude of sexual perversion and pornography that certainly exists and thrives, albeit more or less hidden from the public eye.
On the contrary the healthy, natural and joyful approach of Vedic society favors a greater cleanliness and purity of mind towards the beauty and pleasure inherently provided by the body. This serenity and refinement, conducive to ultimate sublimation and detachment, are expressed in the Rishi’s elaborations about the sexual intercourse exactly in the same artistic manner we find in the classical maithuna temple depictions.
Sexual experimentation and enjoyment is openly seen and described as a legitimate and laudable engagement for civilized men and women – in other words, it can be described as “religiously enjoying life”. The third section of the Kama sutras (called Kanya samprayuktaka) specifically explains how one should find a wife or husband, the process of courtship, and how to establish a sense of confidence and attraction. It’s a sort of crash course at a charms school – something so valuable for today’s young generations not only in India, who struggle trying to find clues on how to get themselves a date.
The text clearly speaks about the different psychological tendencies of boys and girls, suggesting how a boy can properly woo a girl, and how a girl can win herself the boy she likes. It also discusses the subtleties of engagement and the various types of marriage we mentioned earlier. The fourth section of the text (Bharya dhikarika) constitutes a sort of marriage manual for a good married life even in polygamous situations.
The fifth section of the text (Pari darika) speaks about the wives of other people, and particularly of how to understand which women are willing to have extra-marital relationships, and which women are not. Here again, the role and professional description of the messenger is given in very good details: practically it is the equivalent of contemporary dating agencies.As a balancing counterpart, we also find elaborate advice on how to keep one’s wife happy and protected, so that she will not be attracted to seek other relationships.
The sixth section (Vaishika) is meant for the various categories of women who are normally willing to have promiscuous sexual relationships, listed in more or less respected categories. The ganikas (“society women”) were educated and refined, and valued for their knowledge and skill in the 64 arts. They had a place of honor in the city assembly and at the religious functions where their presence was considered auspicious. They maintained close friendly relationships – both socially and personally – even with kings, royalty members and religious authorities at the highest level.
Their company did not necessarily entail sexual contacts, but it was rather about an atmosphere of very civilized sophistication and beauty. The ganikas were highly appreciated as teachers for boys and girls from good families (including princes and princesses) in the subjects of good manners, elegance, attitude, refinement and fine arts, because their behavior and their life style were considered the highest example of quality of life.
Often they were requested to manage and administer public or private properties, or to perform diplomatic missions to other kingdoms and regions, and their home was often visited by those who wished to improve their social status and to meet important and influential people. A ganika could also be in a marriage relationship with one man, more or less permanently, but she would always retain the complete control of her own life, her household and her activities.
The “independent women” (svairini) that were not capable of getting a livelihood from activities at such a high level, could engage in the occupations of nati (dancer), silpa karika (crafts woman), kumbhadasi (water carrier), dasi (housemaid in a large mansion), kliba (masseuse or beautician) or paricharika (house help).In the course of their professional activities such women had the opportunity to accept lovers in a more or less casual way, and this enabled them to receive gifts in cash or valuable objects as a token of appreciation for their beauty and sexual skills. Such gifts were always offered and accepted in a civilized and respectful way, and the personal relationship was always based on friendship, something that is generally very difficult to understand for those who are used to the present concept of “prostitution”.
This life style was also very popular with gays, transexuals and transvestites, that in Vedic society were a normally respected albeit small community called hejira.
In Vedic culture there is no homophobia: whatever negative feelings towards homosexuals we can observe in today’s Indians is certainly inherited more or less consciously from abrahamic ideologies. Those who make a livelihood exclusively by sexual services (because they had no other skills) were defined, in decreasing order of social position and level of personal culture, as veshtya, rupajiva, kulati, prakashavinasta, or pumschali. Such services were reduced to the simple intercourse as a favor of friendship, to be reciprocated by suitably valuable gifts, offered in friendship and respect.There was no degradation, humiliation, spite or violence of any kind; there were no pimps or red lights districts, no segregation or social stigma, and no exploitation from corrupt officers or groups.
It is important to understand that Vedic culture does not consider sexual acts (as long as they are based on mutual consent) as illegal or immoral, even when they are performed with the intent of gaining some monetary profit.
In the section called Vaishika we find a candid elaboration on the advantages of using sexual relationships to obtain personal advantages – which include money, favors or even revenge. It also illustrates how to balance romantic and friendly sentiments with profit, and even how to choose a suitable husband among the worthiest habitual contacts.
This section also contains instructions specifically destined to prostitutes – for stylish dressing and ornaments, beauty and personal hygiene, interior decoration and ornamentation of the house, witty and refined conversation, the exchange of small gifts to develop friendship, the offering of garlands and perfume oils, refreshments and mouth-fresheners, psychological attentions and even a good amount of modesty, “because excessive exposure will give the impression of a lesser value”. The section of the text entitled Apamshadika also deals with potions of aphrodisiac and stimulating effects to enhance sensual pleasure.
Vatsayana concludes his own compilation on the ancient science of Kama by summarizing the four purposes of life and highlighting the importance of personal evolution, that culminates in the highest success of human existence. Have a good look around our present societies, and if you are intelligent enough, you will understand the real value of genuine Vedic civilization and knowledge.
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