India, Bharat, Hindustan        
    A society as contradictory as the land is colorful. Past and present,        
    all jumbled together. Change and continuity existing cheek by jowl.        
One set of statements on contemporary      
India is likely to be as true as any other.      
A set may go like this: Indian society is      
changing rapidly. The impact of modern     
media, especially television, is     
revolutionizing the relationship between     
the sexes. Women are demanding a much      
greater role for themselves. In both love     
and work. Sexual permissiveness is on the      
rise. The power balance between the     
generations has shifted. The young are no     
longer respectful of the aged. The social     
landscape is in a state of flux. Western     
culture has penetrated deeply into the     
urban areas. Religion and religious values     
are in a process of decline.     
      Yet another set of statements, equally true, may
      go like this. Under all apparent signs of modernity,
      Indian society remains deeply conservative. More
      than three quarters of all Indians still have their
      first sexual experience within marriage. Children
      and family remain the priority of all women. Even
      of those dedicated to their careers. The family, 
      with its traditional patterns of command and
      deference, remains the cornerstone of Indian
      society. Far from declining, religion is enjoying  an
      unprecedented revival. The heyday of Western
      style individualism is long over. People are again
      turning to family and community in search of
      meaning. The Indian vision of fulfilled life remains
  This page will seek to resolve the contradictions where it can and explore them in all their fascinating        
  detail when it cannot. It will travel into the past whenever a perspective on the present is needed. It        
  will bring to life the continuities and changes in the arena of intimate relations, in marriage and the        
  family. It will take a searching look at the emerging trends in the evolution of the Indian middle        
  class. It will highlight the social and religious conflicts that often threaten to tear apart the fabric of        
  Indian society. But, above all, it will celebrate the essential spirit of an age-old civilization that has         
  perfected the art of transforming the alien into the familiar. Of Indianizing social forms and patterns        
  which first enter the country as foreign imports.        
We will begin with the perennially     
fascinating question of the relationship        
between the sexes. And, yes, with          
sexuality. We will first travel to the      
past, to the "golden age" of Indian         
civilization. What were our ancient         
sexual mores and attitudes? How have           
they changed over the centuries? What           
are the contemporary trends in intimate           
    The journey will take many months and begins with the Kamasutra. Yes, Sanskrit dramas        
  and love poetry give us tantalizing glimpses of the ways men and women fantasized about        
  and approached each other. But if one really wants to know about intimate relations in the        
  classical age, there is no better source than the Kamasutra. An ancient book that is also        
  startlingly modern in many of its attitudes. A text as maligned as it is misunderstood. For        
  the Kamasutra, as most people think is not about positions in sexual intercourse. It is, as        
  Wendy Doniger remarks in a soon to be published translation (with Sudhir Kakar), about        
  finding a partner, maintaining power in a marriage, committing adultery, living as or with        
  a courtesan, using drugs-and also about the positions in sexual intercourse.        
 prologue   THE KAMASUTRA        
The Kamasutra is a treasury of information     

about sexuality in ancient India. No other     
existing text, literary or scientific, comes even     
close to it in revealing the sexual attitudes of     
our ancestors. The Kamasutra tells us about     
the place of pleasure in the ancient scheme of     
things. Especially vis-a-vis morality. It tell us     
what the ancients thought about the sexuality  
of women. About marriage. About homosexuality.  
adultery. Prostitutes, male and female. But  
before we look at the different sexualities, we  
need to first get acquainted with the text itself.  
 subject moderators          
 social landscapes          
 pot pourri      
    What is the Kamasutra?        
  First, it is the oldest existing textbook of erotic love in India. It was composed in Sanskrit,        
  the literary language of the classical period. Its authorship is attributed to Mallanaga        
  Vatsyayana. Nothing is known about the author except, as he tells us in the text, he        
  composed it "in chastity and in the highest meditation." It was these words that led me        
  to call my fictional biography of the author of the Kamasutra, published a couple of years        
  ago, "The Ascetic of Desire."        
                        Vatsyayana also tells us that the Kamasutra is not 
     an original text but a distillation of the works of
     other authors who preceded him. They are
     Shvetaketu Auddaliki and Babhravya who wrote
     standard works on the subject. But also
     Suvarnanabha who wrote on erotic advances,
     Ghotakamukha on the seduction of girls,
     Gonardiya on the duties and rights of a wife,
       Gonikaputra on sexual relations with other men's
        wives, Dattaka on courtesans and Kuchumara on
       occult sexual lore. All these works are lost.
    The Kamasutra, then, is not the first text in the Hindu science of erotics. Nor was it the last. Many        
  others followed. All acknowledged Vatsyayana's pre-eminence. The best-known of the later texts        
  are Kokkaka's Ratirahasya (pre-13th century), well-known today under the name of Kokshastra,        
  Kalyanmalla's Anangranga (15th century), Bhikshu Padamshri's Nagarasarvasva and Jyotirishvara's        
  Panchasayaka (11th to 13th centuries). The date of Kamasutra's own composition is uncertain.        
  Though different dates between the 1st and 5th centuries have been advanced by scholars, the best        
  guess is that it was written sometime in the second half of the 3rd century. Most believe that it was        
  composed in North or Northwestern India. Why North? Because the text exhibits a detailed knowledge        
  of this part of the country. And it is often condescending, if not downright disapproving when it talks  
  of sexual practices in the eastern and southern parts of India.  
Most of the Kamasutra is in the form of sutras. A     
sutra, literally a thread, on which pages (palm leaves)     
or thoughts are strung, is a prose aphorism. A sutra is     
generally so condensed and cryptic that its meaning     
is not completely clear. It often needs the help of a     
commentary before the meaning reveals itself. The     
best known commentary on the Kamasutra is from     
the 13th century. This is the Jayamangla by       
Yashodhra which nowadays always accompanies the      
original text. The Kamasutra is not entirely in prose. A     
few verses, shlokas, are cited at the end of each     
chapter. Generally, the prose parts describe what     
people actually do while the verses are more     
imperative in tone. They tell people what they should     
do. We do not know the origins of these verses. They     
may derive from other, unknown texts or composed     
by Vatsyayana himself.  
  The Kamasutra is divided into seven parts: General Observations, Sexual Approaches, Seduction of        
  a Virgin, Rights and Duties of a Wife, Other Men's Wives, On Courtesans and, Occult Sexual Lore. Of        
    these, the second part, with its description of positions of sexual intercourse, of caresses, kisses,        
    scratches and love bites, is the best known. Or, rather, notorious. The primary aim of all the chapters  
    is the pursuit of pleasure. Actual sources of pleasure in classical India are  surveyed. Other sources  
    of pleasure are suggested. Yet, besides the sex, the Kamasutra has a great deal  of information  
    about daily life in ancient India. About fashion. Food. Games. Drugs. But also about the banal aspects  
    of housekeeping. But enough on the architecture of the Kamasutra. The next time we'll enter one of  
  the rooms of this grand edifice. The Women's Room. That is, we'll discuss the theme of women and  
  sexuality. Not only in the Kamasutra but also in ancient India.