When I was a little boy, my uncle José Luis, a teenager at the time, gave me surreptitiously a copy of the Kamasutra to peek at the drawings of racy variants of coitus.
But that universally known repertory of acrobatic positions to make love was much more than an erotic compendium to laugh at. It was serious business. And still is.
Wendy Doniger, an authority on Indian literature, has placed this book in the larger context of Indian treatises, an ancient and comprehensive library. She gives special attention to the Arthashastra, the treaty in Sanskrit on the use and abuse of political power, supposedly written by the scholar Kautilya.
She proposes that the erotic manoeuvres of the Kamasutra are a variant of the stratagems and deceptions of the Arthashastra, as conquering a woman and a city might need similar tactics based on deception and skulduggery. It is also related to the more archaic Dharmashastra or the book of Manu.
These texts illustrate the three “purusharthas” (lifetime’s goals) of the Hindu religious tradition, which are “dharma” (law), “artha” (self-interest) and “kama” ( pleasure). The Kamasutra is a compendium of the multiple erotic situations that a generic Indian character, wealthy and carefree, called “the nagaraka” (man-about-town) discovers in his hedonistic vagabondage.
This profane text harks back to the nebulous times of the Vedic antiquities. Nandin, the bull that guarded the door of the chamber where Shiva and Uma had an intercourse lasting for a thousand years, jotted down notes of the feat. That erotic knowledge was passed down through the centuries to humans, albeit in a much more reduced form, as they could not hope to apply it all.
In classical India, the body of knowledge, large and thorough at the outset, gets shrunk until it reaches the Kali Yuga, the wasteland we are living in. In Vedic India, everything is inter-related, including eroticism and philosophy. In our all too rational societies where emotional frustration due to unsatisfactory relationships is widespread across all ages and societal strata, we have a hard time to grasp that ancient wholeness.
What do you think? Please tell us.
Don’t leave me alone.