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Kaam Sutra

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Kaam Sutra

Kaam means desire (sensual or sexual) and Sutra (pronounced as Sootra) the line or rule or formula. This book is about how to fulfill one's desire of love. Its credit goes to sage Vaatsyaayan. The Kaam Sutra is the oldest and most notable of a group of texts known generically as Kaam Shaastra (we have 64 Kalaa or arts also to learn, this is one of them)

It is an ancient Indian Hindu text widely considered to be a standard book on human sexual behavior in Sanskrit language. It is largely in prose with some Anushtubh Chaand poetry. Kaam is one of the four Purushaarth of human life - Dharm (virtuous living), Arth (material prosperity), Kaam (aesthetic and erotic pleasure) and Moksh (liberation). Of these four the first three, virtue is the highest goal, a secure life by wealth is the second and pleasure the third one is 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, but there are exceptions.

Sage Vaatsyaayan says that a person should learn how to make livelihood in his childhood, youth is the time for pleasure, and as years pass one should learn and start living virtuously, and hope for the liberation from the bonds of life and death. It is not only sage Vaatsyaayan but Buddha also preached Kaam Sutra which is located in the Atthakavagga (Sutra No 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.

Nature of the Book
Many westerners consider the Kaam Sutra to be a manual of Taantrik Sex while this book is not about it - although many Taantrik traditions  do have sexual practices, but this is not among them and does not touch upon any of the sexual rites associated with any form of Taantrik practice.

It is not just the sex manual, but 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 life.

Historians attribute Kaam Sutra to be composed between 400 BC and 200 AD, but it is a compendium that was collected into its present form in the 2nd century AD. It contains 1,250 verses, distributed in 36 chapters, which are further organized in 7 parts.

1. General remarks - 5 chapters on contents of the book, 3 chapters on 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 - 10 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 behavior in women, superior coition and oral sex, preludes and conclusions to the game of love. It describes 64 types of sexual acts (given below). Although Kaam Sutra did not originally have illustrative images, part 2 of the work describes different sex positions.
3. Acquiring a wife - 5 chapters on forms of marriage, relaxing the girl, obtaining the girl, managing alone, union by marriage.
4. Duties and privileges of the wife - 2 chapters on conduct of the only wife and conduct of the chief wife and other wives.
5. Other men's wives - 6 chapters on behavior of woman and man, how to get acquainted, examination of sentiments, the task of go-between, the king's pleasures, behavior in the women's quarters.
6. About courtesans - 6 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 - 2 chapters on improving physical attractions, arousing a weakened sexual power.

Its translation is a very recent phenomenon. Several foreign English language translations are available, but the chief translation is by Bhagwanlal Indraji. 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 Kaam Sutra.

Names of 64 Arts in Kaam Sutra
Sage Vaatsyaayan's Kaam Sutra lists 64 arts to be studied by youth. The 64 arts of The Kaam Sutra are:-
1. Singing
2. Playing a musical instrument
3. Dancing
4. A combination of singing, using musical instruments and dancing
5. Writing and drawing
6. The Art of Tattooing
7. Adorning an idol with flowers
8. The art of spreading flowers on a bed or on the ground
9. Coloring fabrics, nail and body with colors from plants
10. Fixing colored glass tiles on floor
11. The art of making a bed
12. Producing music by striking glasses of water
13. The art of storing water in reservoirs
14. The art of picture making and decorating
15. Making rosaries, necklaces, garlands
16. Tying turbans
17. Stage playing
18. The art of making ear ornaments
19. The art of making perfumes
20. Proper care of jewels, decorations and ornaments
21. Magic (sorcery)
22. Manual skills
23. Cooking (culinary skills)
24. Making combination drinks and flavored drinks i.e.– lemonades, sherbet etc
25. Tailoring and sewing
26. Making handicrafts e.g.– parrots, flowers etc. from thread
27. Skills to solve riddles, puzzles and covert speeches
28. The skill of Antaaksharee (a singing game were one must start with the letter with which other person’s song ended)
29. The skill of imitating natural sounds
30. Reading, chanting and intoning
31. Mastering tongue twisters
32. Skills at martial arts (the skills to use sword, stick, bow and arrow)
33. Skill to reach logical conclusions based on given facts
34. Carpentry
35. Architecture
36. Knowledge about gold, silver and gems
37. Chemistry (knowledge of properties of materials)
38. The art of coloring jewels or beads
39. Knowledge of mines
40. Gardening
41. The art of cock fighting (getting cocks, quail or rams to fight and make the fowl/animal victorious)
42. Teaching parrots or starlings to talk
43. Applying perfumes on body and hair
44. Understanding of code language
45. Spoonerism (purposefully interchanging position of letters of words while speaking)
46. Knowledge of languages
47. Knowledge of making flower chariots
48. Knowledge of making mystical graphics, spells and charms and ways to avoid spells
49. Mental exercises
50. Composing poems
51. Knowledge of dictionaries and vocabulary
52. The art of impersonation
53. Impersonation of materials i.e.– make common things appear fine rare substances (make cotton appear to be silk)
54. Knowledge of gambling
55. Using mantras (enchantments) to take away others’ possession
56. Skills in sports and games
57. Art of social conduct, paying respect and sending compliments
58. Knowledge of war, arms and army deployment
59. Knowledge of gymnastics
60. The skills of knowing a person’s real character from his conduct
61. Skill of reading and composing verses
62. Skill of enjoying arithmetic puzzles
63. Making artificial flowers
64. Making images with clay

A public woman, endowed with a good disposition, beauty and other winning qualities, and also versed in the above arts, obtains the name of a "Ganikaa" or public woman of high quality (not prostitute as prostitute word is used for a very low grade woman), and receives a seat of honor in an assemblage of men. She is, moreover, always respected by the king, and praised by learned men, and her favor being sought for by all, she becomes an object of universal regard. The daughter of a king too as well as the daughter of a minister, being learned in the above arts, can make their husbands favorable to them, even though these may have thousands of other wives besides themselves. If a wife becomes separated from her husband, and falls into distress, she can support herself easily, even in a foreign country, by means of her knowledge of these arts. Even the bare knowledge of them gives attractiveness to a woman, though the practice of them may be only possible or otherwise according to the circumstances of each case.

While a man who is versed in these arts, who is loquacious and acquainted with the arts of gallantry, gains very soon the hearts of women, even though he is only acquainted with them for a short time.”


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Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/06
Updated on 02/27/14