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Among all the classical works on erotica, Vatsyayana's Kamasutra is easily the most important and the best known. Vatsyayana, an heir to a rich legacy, scientifically and meticulously incorporated the various schools of thought on the subject in his Kamasutra. The result is a detailed treatise covering the entire spectrum of love-making: the classification of males and females according to their passion and build, the various possibilities in love-play and sexual union for greater joy and satisfaction, the instruments of love-making, the psychology of sex and the role of a wife and courtesan. At a broader level, Vatsyayana also paints a vivid picture of the social manners and customs of his times.
"Vatsyayana, one of the greatest authorities
Havelock Ellis, Sex in Relation to Society.
is the most famous in a long list of works revealing a certain pre-occupation with the physical and mental techniques of sex
Will Durant, Our Oriental Heritage
"One of the world's great books."-
The Guardian, U.K.
In the literature of all countries there will be found a certain number of works treating especially of love. Everywhere the subject is dealt with differently, and from various point of view. In the present publication it is proposed to give a complete translation of what is considered the standard work on love in Sanskrit literature, and which is called the 'Vatsyayana Kama Sutra' or Aphorisms on Love, by Vatsyayana.
While the introduction will deal with the evidence concerning the date of the writing, and the commentaries written upon it, the chapters following the introduction will give a translation of the work itself. It is however, advisable to furnish here a brief analysis of works of the same nature, prepared by authors who lived and wrote years after Vatsya had passed away, but who still considered him as the great to Hindoo erotic literature.
Besides the treatise of Vatsyayana the following works on the same subject are procurable in India:
1.The Ratirahasya, or secrets of love.
2.The Paanchasakya, or the five arrows.
3. The Smara Pradipa, or the light of love.
4. The Ratimanjari, or the garland of love.
5. The Rasmanjari, or the sprout of love.
6. The Anunga Runga, or the stage of love; also called Kamaledhiplava, or a boat in the ocean of love.
The author of the 'Secrets of Love' was a poet named Kukkoka. He composed his work to please one Venudutta, who was perhaps a king. When writing his own name at the end of each chapter he calls himself "Siddha patiya pandita," i.e., an ingenious man among learned men. The work was translated into Hindi years ago, and in this the author's name was written as Koka. And as the same name crept into all the translations into other languages in India, the book became generally known, and the subject was popularly called Koka Shastra, or doctrines of Koka, which is identical with the Kama Shastra, or doctrines of love, and the words Koka Shastra and Kama Shastra are used indiscriminately.
The work contains nearly eight hundred verses, and is divided into ten chapters, which are called Pachivedas. Some of the things treated of in this work are not to be found in the Vatsyayana, such as the four classes of women, viz., the Padmini, Chitrini, Shankhini and Hastini, as also the enumeration of the days and hours on which the women of the different classes become subject to love. The author adds that he wrote these things from the opinions of Gonikaputra and Nandikeshwara, both of whom are mentioned by Vatsyayana, but their works are not now extant. It is difficult to give any approximate idea as to the year in which the work was composed. It is only to be presumed that it was written after that of Vatsyayana, and previous to the other works on this subject that are still extant. Vatsyayana gives the names of ten authors on the subject, all of whose works he had consulted, but none of which are extant, and does not mention this one. This would tend to show that Kukkoka wrote after Vatsya, otherwise Vatsya would assuredly have mentioned him as an author in this branch of literature along with the others.
The author of the 'Five Arrows' was one Jyotirisha. He is called the chief ornament of poets, the treasure of the sixty-four arts, and the best teacher of the rules of music. He says that he composed the work after reflecting on the aphorisms of love as revealed by the gods, and studying the opinions of Gonikaputra, Muladeva, Babhravya, Ramtideva, Nundikeshwara and Kshemandra. It is impossible to say whether he had purused all the works of these authors, or had only heard about them; anyhow, none of them appears to be in existence now. This work contains nearly six hundred verses and is divided into five chapter, called Sayakas or Arrows.
The author of the 'Light of Love' was the poet Gunakara, the son of Vechapati. The work contains four hundred verses, and gives only a short account of the doctrines of love, dealing more with other matters.
'The Garland of Love' is the work of the famous poet Jayadeva who said about himself that he is a writer on all subjects. This treatise is, however, very short, containing only one hundred and twenty-five verses.
The author of the 'Sprout of Love' was a poet called Bhanudatta. It appears from the last verse of the manuscript that he was a resident of the province of Tirhoot, and son of a Brahman named Ganeshwar, who was also a poet. The work, written in Sanskrit, gives the descriptions of different classes of men and women, their classes being made out from their age, description, conduct, etc. It contains three chapters and its date is not known and cannot be ascertained.
'The Stage of Love' was composed by the poet Kullianmull, for the amusement of Ladkhan, the son of Ahmed Lodi, the same Ladkhan being in some places spoken of as Ladana Mull, and in others as Ladanaballa. He is supposed to have been a relation or connection of the house of Lodi, which reigned in Hindustan from A.D. 1450-1526. The work would, therefore, have been written in the fifteenth or sixteenth century. It contains ten chapters, and has been translated into English but only six copies were printed for private circulation. This is supposed to be the latest of the Sanskrit works on the subject, and the ideas in it were evidently taken from previous writings of the same nature.
The contents of these works are in themselves a literary curiosity. There are to be found both in Sanskrit poetry and in the Sanskrit drama a certain amount of poetical sentiment and romance, which have, in every country and in every language, thrown an immortal halo round the subject. But here it is treated in a plain, simple, matter of fact sort of way. Men and women are divided into classes and divisions in the same way that Buffon and other writers on natural history have classified and divided the animal world. As Venus was represented by the Greeks to stand forth as the type of the beauty of woman, so the Hindus describe the Padmini or Lotus woman as the type of most perfect feminine excellence, as follows:
She in whom the following signs and symptoms appear is called a Padmini. Her face is pleasing as the full moon; her body, well clothed with flesh, is soft as the Shiras or mustard flower, her skin is fine, tender and fair as the yellow lotus, never dark colored. Her eyes are bright and beautiful as the orbs of the fawn, well cut, and with reddish corners. Her bosom is hard, full and high; she has a good neck; her nose is straight and lovely and three folds or wrinkles cross her middle-about the umbilical region. Her yoni resembles the opening lotus bud, and her love seed (Kama salila) is perfumed like the lily that has newly burst. She walks with swan-like gait, and her in rich dresses. She eats little, sleeps lightly, and being as respectful and religious as she is clever and courteous, she is never anxious to worship the gods, and to enjoy the conversation of Brahmans. Such, then is the Padmini or Lotus woman.
Detailed descriptions then follow of the Chitrini or Art woman; the Shankhini or Conch woman, and the Hastini or Elephant woman, their days of enjoyment their various seats of passion the manner in which they should be manipulated and treated in sexual intercourse, along with the characteristics of the men and women of the various countries in Hindustan. The details are so numerous and the subjects so seriously dealt with and at such length that neither time nor space will permit of their being given here.
One work in the English language is somewhat similar to these works of the Hindus. It is called 'Kalogynomia: or the laws of Female Beauty,' being the elementary principles of that science, by T. Bell, M.D., with twenty-four plates, and printed in London in 1821. It treats of Beauty, of Love, of Sexual Intercourse, of the Laws regulating that Intercourse, of Monogamy and Polygamy, of Prostitution, of Infidelity, ending with a catalogue raisonnee of the defects of female beauty.
Other works in English also enter into great details of private and domestic life: The Elements of Social Science, or Physical, Sexual and Natural Religion, by a Doctor or Medicine, London, 1880 and Every Woman's Book, by Dr. Waters, 1826. To persons interested in the above subject these works will be found to contain such details as have been seldom before published, and which ought to be thoroughly understood by all philanthropists and benefactors of society.
After a perusal of the Hindu work, and of the English books above mentioned the reader will understand the subject, at all events from a materialistic, realistic and practical point of view. If all science is founded more or less on a stratum of facts, there can be no harm in making known to mankind generally certain matters intimately connected with their private, domestic and social life.
Alas! Complete ignorance of them has unfortunately wrecked many a man and many a woman, while a little knowledge of a subject generally ignored by the masses would have enabled numbers of people to understand many things which they believed to be quite incomprehensible or which were not thought worthy of their consideration.
IT may be interesting to some persons to learn how it
came about that Vatsyayana was first brought to light
and translated into the English language. It happened
thus. While translating with the pundits the 'Anunga
Runga, or the stage of love,' reference was frequently found
to be made to one Vatsya. The sage Vatsya was of this
opinion, or of that opinion. The sage Vatsya said this,.and
so on: Naturally questions were asked who the sage was,
and the pundits replied that Vatsya was the author of the
standard work on love in Sanscrit literature, and no
Sanscrit library was complete without his work, and that
it was most difficult now to obtain in its entire state. The
copy of the manuscript obtained ill Bombay was defective,
and so the pundits wrote to Benares, Calcutta and
Jeypoor for copies of the manuscript from Sanscrit libraries
in those places. Copies having been obtained, they were
then compared with each other, and with the aid of a_
Commentary called 'Jayamangla' a revised copy of the
entire manuscript was prepared, and from this copy the
English translation was made. The following is the certi-
ficate of the chief pundit:
"The accompanying manuscript is corrected by me
after comparing four different copies of the work. I had
the assistance of a Commentary called 'Jayamangla' for
correcting the portion in the first five parts, but found
great difficulty in correcting the remaining portion, because,
with the exception of one copy thereof which was tolerably
correct, all the other copies I had were far too incorrect.
However, I took that portion as correct in which the
majority of the copies agreed with each other."
The 'Aphorisms on Love' by Vatsyayana contain about
one thousand two hundred and fifty slokas or verses, and
are divided into parts, parts into chapters, and chapters. into
paragraphs. The whole consists of seven parts, thirty-six
chapters, and sixty-four paragraphs. Hardly anything is
known about the author. His real name is supposed to be
Mallinaga or Mrillana, Vatsyayana being his family name.
At the close of the work this is what he writes about
“After reading and considering the works of Babhravya
and other ancient authors, and thinking over the meaning
of the rules given by them, this treatise was composed,
according to the precepts of the Holy Writ, for the bene-
fit of the world, by Vatsyayana, while leading the life of
a religious student at Benares, and wholly engaged in the
contemplation of the Deity. This work is not to be used
merely as an instrument for satisfying our desires. A
person acquainted with the true principles of this science,
who preserves his Dharma (virtue or religious merit), his
Artha (worldly wealth) and his Kama (pleasure or sensual
gratification), and who has regard to the customs of the
people, is sure to obtain the mastery over his senses. In
short, an intelligent and knowing person, attending to
Dharma and Artha and also to Kama, without becoming
the slave of his passions, will obtain success in everything
that he may do."
It is impossible to fix the exact date either of the life
of Vatsyayana or of his work. It is supposed that he must
have lived between the first and sixth century of the
Christian era, on tbe following grounds: He mentions
that Satkarni Satvahan, a king of Kuntal, killed Malaye-
vati, his wife, with an instrument called kartari by striking
her in tbe passion of love, and Vatsya quotes this case
to warn people of the danger arising from some old
customs of striking women when under the influence or
this passion. Now this king of Kuntal is believed to have
lived and reigned during the first century A.D., and con-
sequently Vatsya must have lived after him. On the other
hand. Virahamihira, in the eighteenth chapter of his
'Brihatsanhita treats of the science of love, and appears
to have borrowed largely from Vatsyayana on the subject.
Now Virahamihira is said to have lived during the sixth
century A.D., and as Vatsya must have written his works
previously, therefore not earlier than the first century
A.D., and not later than the sixth century A.D., must be
considered as the approximate date of his existence.
On the text of the 'Aphorisms on Love,' by Vatsyayana,
only two commentaries have been found. One called
'Jayamangla' or 'Sutrabashya,' and the other 'Sutravritti.'
The date of the 'Jayamangla' is fixed between the tenth
and thirteenth century A.D., because while treating of the
sixty-four arts an example is taken from the 'Kavya-
prakash a,' which was written about the tenth century A.D.
Again, the copy of the commentary procured was evidently
a transcript of a manuscript which once had a place in the
library of a Chaulukyan king named Vishaladeva, .a fact
elicited from the following sentence at the end of it;
"Here ends the part relating to the art of love in the
commentary on the 'Vatsyayana Kama Sutra,' a copy
from the library of the king of kings, Vishaladeva,who was
a powerful hero, as it were a second Arjuna, and head
jewel of the Chaulukya family."
Now it is well known that this king ruled in Guzerat
from 1244 to 1262 A.D., and founded a city called
Visalnagur. The date, therefore, of the commentary is
taken to be not earlier than the tenth and not later than
the thirteenth century. The author of it is supposed to be
one Yashodhara, the name given him by' his preceptor
being Indrapada. He seems to have written it during the
time of affliction caused by his separation from a clever
and shrewd woman, at least that is what he himself says at
the end of each chapter. It is presumed that he called his
work after the name of his absent mistress; or the word
may have some connection with the meaning of her
This commentary was most useful in explaining the
true meaning of Vatsyayana, for the commentator appears
to have had a considerable knowledge of the times of the
older author, and gives in some places very minute in-
formation. This cannot be said of the other commentary,
called "Sutra vritti," which was written about A.D. 1789,
by Narsing Shastri, a pupil of a Sarveshwar Shastri; the
latter was descendant of Bhaskur, and so also was our
author, for at the conclusion of every part he calls himself
Bhaskur Narsing Shastri. He was induced to write the
work by order of the learned Raja Vrijalala, while he was
residing in Benares, but as to the merits of this commen-
tary it does not deserve much commendation. In many
cases the writer does not appear to have understood the
meaning of the original author, and has changed the text
in many places to fit in with his own explanations.
A complete translation of the original work now
follows. It has been prepared in complete accordance
with the text of the manuscript, and is given, without
further comments, as made from it.
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