208. Kama Sutra : a guide to the art of pleasure, by Vatsyayana (3rd century AD)

There is no counting of the ways nor adherence to the rules; once the act of love begins (p. 58)

Plot:  A guide to love-making, seduction and sex. Instantly recognised by its title alone. My copy was a Penguin Classic, translated by A. N. D. Haksar, ISBN 9781846141096.

My thoughts:   Assumed to be only about various positions during sexual intercourse, but claimed to be a lifestyle guide as well by literary critics. Well, yes, it is a lifestyle guide if your lifestyle consists mostly of sex and seduction. The other goals of life (Dharma, or Virtue, and Artha, or Wealth) are not dealt with in detail, as there were other texts on these subjects. Kama, or Pleasure is anything which is enjoyed by the senses, but in the Kama Sutra, that is only covered by sexual pleasure.

The prose paragraphs are usually a listing of possibilities (when, where, what) but not particularly instructive on the actual hows. Illustrations would have been helpful, and there are plenty of illustrated guides on the market (including a pop-up version) but I doubt if these are complete in all the other chapters of advice.

The prose text is followed by verses which may limit or caution the possible to only the recommended or socially acceptable choices.

In addition to describing variations on the act itself, there is also lists of ways to bite, scratch, hit and moan, and various regional preferences for all the above throughout Indian states. Surprisingly, oral sex is not particularly encouraged.

There is advice to both men and women in expressing interest and seduction, but also guidance to women on being an only wife, a co-wife or courtesan. Arranged marriages are mentioned but there is also advice on acquiring the partner one is attracted to.

Seducing other men’s wives and getting access to harems is also covered

The text ends with various magic potions and tricks to make yourself attractive to your chosen lover, bewitching them, reviving spent passions, and increasing one’s virility or penis size. Personally I doubt wearing a hyena’s or peacock’s eye in a gold locket around my wrist will make me significantly more attractive. And as for rubbing insect bristles along … well, no.

And apparently, kings had a minister whose title was Master of the Roster, to advise him which wife in the harem he was due to sleep with each night. So difficult to keep these details in an orderly fashion otherwise.

Favourite lines/passages:

“Cries like those of doves, cuckoos, green pigeons, parrots, bees, moorhens, geese, ducks and quails are important options for use in moaning”  (page 56)

“The only wife has deep confidence in her husband and conforms to him as if he were a god”  (page 101)

Digressions/diversions:   😉

Personal rating:  Despite such sage advice as the quotes above, as a literary experience I can only muster up a 4/10.

Other reading:  

Crocodile on the Sandbank: The first in a series of mysteries by Elizabeth Peters, featuring the redoubtable Amelia Peabody, amateur archaeologist and formidable sleuth, on the trail of a mummy haunting their dig site, and various other villains. Fun in small doses.

Mike and Psmith : Wodehouse graduates from his school stories with this one, which rises above the cricket matches and public school rags with the creation of Psmith, an immaculately dressed young man with the gift of a well turned phrase and the ability to confuse and gain accord to his wishes from most of his colleagues.

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3 comments

  1. HahahahahahaHA!!! OK, I realise this makes me seem like a giggly schoolgirl, but… POP-UP VERSION!!! 🤣🤣🤣

    Not quite so sure that today’s only wives would be so easily convinced of their spouses’ god-like status…

    I enjoyed your review hugely! I’m off to practice crying like a bee now…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Years ago, our library operated a staff discount program on personal book orders. The Pop up Kama Sutra was very popular with the young female staff for gift giving.

      I have already discussed my God like status with Mrs Chronolibrarian and am pleased to report she immediately started biting her own bottom lip as per chapter. I take this to be a good sign.

      As for moaning like birds or bees (ah, now I understand that old saying) if she starts quacking like a duck I don’t think I could concentrate on the job

      Liked by 1 person

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