Category Archives: E. Dharma and the Individual

Kamasutra Book 3: Virgins

The Kamasutra is an ancient Hindu text composed by Vatsyayana. The Kamasutra is believed to be a manual of sexual intercourse positions by most western societies, but the Kamasutra is a guide that helps people to achieve moral and noble lifestyles. The text discusses the nature of love, family lifestyles, forms of marriage, duties of a wife, behavior a man and woman should exhibit, traits to consider when choosing a partner and ways to develop physical attraction (Doniger 2007:66).

Marriage is the union of two people as partners in a legal relationship recognized by law. According to Rig Veda, marriage is the union of a male to a female virgin of the same class system. When a female is married to a male of equal class, the Dharma and Artha are satisfied based on the holy writing. They will be blessed with offspring and everlasting love. A man must become responsible and find a girl who comes from a noble and respected family, whose parents are alive, and is two or three years younger than himself. The female virgin must come from wealth, well connected, have stable and firm relationships with relatives and friends, good health and all her overall self must be beautiful. The man should, of course, also possess these qualities that the female virgin has (Doniger 2007).

Book three of the Kamasutra text, named Virgins, emphasizes exclusively on marriage, how to create confidence in a girl, on courtship and the display of the feelings by gesture and signs, things to be done only by the man on the acquisition of the girl, what a girl should do to win over a man and make him subject to her and forms of marriage (Doniger and Sudhir 2002).

There are five chapters in the text, Virgins, which focuses on the aspects of marriage. These five chapters are: (1) Courting the girl, (2) Winning a virgin’s trust, (3) Making advances to a young girl, (4) Advances a man makes on his own, (5) Devious devices for weddings.

Courting the Girl

When a man decides to court a beautiful girl from a respectable, well-connected and wealthy family with lucky marks on her body who is in good health., he has acquired both Dharma and Artha (Doniger and Sudhir 75). His parents and friends helps him court the girl especially the mutual friends of both his parents. The male friends tend to point out faults about the girl’s other suitors, and boost their friend’s good qualities to please the girl’s parents especially the girl’s mother. His friends dress like a fortune teller, and declare the future good fortune and wealth of the couple by showing the existence of all the lucky omens and signs, the good influence of planets, the auspicious entrance of the sun into a sign of the Zodiac, propitious stars and fortunate marks on his body (Doniger and Sudhir 75). However, girls who are pregnant, have a disgusting name like the name of one of the twenty-seven stars, or the name of a tree, or of a river, and whose name ends in ‘r’ or ‘l (Doniger and Sudhir 76)., are sick, betrothed to another, sweat a lot and are pimply should be avoided. The girl’s family dresses her up elegantly to events during the time of courtship. The girl’s family receive the man’s family who has come to court her (Doniger and Sudhir 77). Both family come to decision on how long they will wait to test the working of fate from the gods before giving her away. A man must marry by a wedding in the way of Brahma.

Winning a Virgin’s Trust

The Kamasutra prescribes that after the first three nights of the marriage, the couple should sleep on the floor, refrain from any sexual union and not eat any food that has salt or spices. The next seven days, they bathe with musical instrument playing, dress well, eat together, go to events together and visit their relatives. This is required to persons of all class systems. On the tenth night, the husband can begin gentle advances towards his wife when they are alone at night, thereby creating confidence in the girl. Babhravya followers say that when the husband does not initiate talk for three days with her, she assumes he is spiritless like pillar and begins to despise him (Doniger and Sudhir 78). Vatsyayana advices that the husband should slowly seduce her to win her trust and create confidence in his wife, by not forcing her but by gentle persuasion (Doniger and Sudhir 78-79). The husband should use tactics which she would like and become more confident with him. These tactics are as follows (Doniger and Sudhir 79):

He should embrace her the way she likes but not make it last a long time.

He should start by embracing her with the upper part of his body because it easier. He can embrace in the light if she is older and they are familiar with one another, but embrace in the dark if she younger.

When his wife accepts the embrace, the man should put a betel leaf in her mouth and if she does not accept it, he should use appeasing words, promises, and kneeling at her feet to seduce her. He should then begin by giving her some soft kisses, without making a sound. He should then encourage her to talk and ask him questions, which he will pretend to not know or answer with a few words (Doniger and Sudhir 79). He should not scare her if she does not talk but keep asking her if she has any questions over again and over again in a sweet manner, and he should urge her to talk if she does not after that. When she pestered again, she should reply by shaking her head.

When he asks her if she wants him or not, she should remain silent for a long time and when at last importuned to reply, should give him a promising answer by a nod of her head. He could call in the favor of a female friend, who they both trust, to continue the conversation (Doniger and Sudhir 79). When she engages in putting in scented oil near him or ties it in his upper cloth after becoming accustomed to him without talking, the man should touch her young breasts. If she prevents him from doing this, he should tell to her, I will not do it again if you will embrace me (Doniger and Sudhir 80)., thereby causing her to embrace him. While embracing, he should caress her whole body tenderly to gain her consent and when she does not give consent, he can scare her by saying, I shall impress marks of my teeth and nails on your lips and breasts, and then make similar marks on my own body, and shall tell my friends that you did them. What will you say then (Doniger and Sudhir 80). By doing this, he seduces her to gain her trust. On the second and third night, there is increase with confidence and she begins to trust him more, he can then begin to engage more sexual intercourse with his wife. He demonstrates his love to her by promising to be faithful to her in the future, and that she should dismiss all her fears with respect to any rival women (Doniger and Sudhir 81). He then begins to enjoy her in a way that does not scare her.

Making Advances to a Young Girl

A man with no money, no opportunity, a neighbor, dependent on his family, seen as a child or a guest, should not court a virgin. He can court a virgin if she falls in love with him from childhood (Doniger and Sudhir 82). Only men living with their uncle’s can try to gain over uncle daughter or some other girl, even if she is promised to another. When a man has decided the girl, he wants to court, he begins by spending time with her and her friends. He pleases her by playing various games with her, buying her flowers, cooking meals for her and playing six pebbles. He must become kind to the daughter of the girl’s nurse to gain her trust because she can affect the union between him and the girl he loves. The daughter can also talk about his good qualities to the girl’s parents and relatives. He should work hard to grant the girl’s wishes and buy gifts for her, so she sees him as someone who would do anything for her in the future. These gifts can be given privately or publicly. His reason for giving her gifts in private, is the fear that parents of both of them might be displeased (Doniger and Sudhir 84). When her love for him grows, he should amaze her with magic tricks, storytelling, music, moonlight festival and gifts like jewelry. To inform the girl of his sexual experience, he teaches the daughter of the girl’s nurse the sixty-four means of pleasure practiced by men. He finds out if she has sensual feelings for him by observing her gestures and signals like: She never looks the man in the face and becomes embarrassed when she is looked at by him, show some parts of her body to him, speaks to her attendants in an unusual way to gain his attention when she is far away from him, talks to her lover’s friends, shows gentleness to his servants and being sad when any other suitor is mentioned by her parents (Doniger and Sudhir 85).

Advances a Man Makes on His Own

After gestures and signals have been displayed, the man should gain various ways to make advances towards her like:

He should initiate hand holding whenever they are playing a game, engage in touching embrace, and giving her pair of human being couples cut out of a leaf a tree (Doniger and Sudhir 86).

He should dive close to her when playing water sports and tell her about his beautiful dream about her, but using other women’s names.

He sits near her during events and caress her foot and whenever he gives anything to her or takes anything from her, he should show her by his gesture how much he loves her (Doniger and Sudhir 87).

When he comes to know the depth of her feelings for him, he should pretend to be ill and invite her to his house to talk, and tell her that only she can make the medicine for him and nobody else. This pretense must last three days and three nights during which whenever she comes to visit, they should have long discussions. After the girl if finally won over, he may begin to enjoy her fully. The daughter of the girl’s nurse, or a female friend in which she trusts, comes handy when the man does not know how make advances to the girl.

When a girl makes advances towards a man she loves, she does so visiting him regularly with her friends or the daughter of her nurse. She offers him flowers and perfumes, talk to him about his hobbies, she should take care of him and engage in talks about ways to win a girl love. When a girl offer herself because of love, she loses her self-respect and is rejected. She should only be kind to a man who wishes to court her, and she may change her demeanor towards him but oppose when he tries to kiss her or ask for sexual union. If he agrees to not urge her, it proves her lover is devoted to her and she tells him to marry her soon, so that she would give herself to him. She should tell friends that she trusts when she loses her virginity.

Devious devices for weddings

When a girl’s love is won over, the man should cause fire to be brought from the house of a Brahman and spread the kusha grass upon the ground and make an offering of oblations to the fire, then he can marry her according to the guidelines the religious law (Doniger and Sudhir 92). After doing this ritual, he can inform his parents and her parents. The relatives both the girl and man should become familiar of the affair and the girl relatives should be told in a way that allows the marriage, and they should be offered gifts. A man should marry the girl according Gandharva form of marriage (Doniger and Sudhir 92). When the girl cannot make up her mind to marry him, he must come up with ways to make her marry him. The following ways are:

Using her female friends who he trusts and her family trusts, ask them to bring the girl to his house surprisingly, and he would then bring fire from the house of a Brahmin, and proceed as before described.

When the marriage of the girl to another suitor is drawing close, the man should mock the suitor’s future to the mother of the girl, and then have the girl to come to see him, with her mother’s consent, in a neighboring house, he would bring fire from the house of a Brahmin, and proceed as above.

The man should form a bond with the girl’s brother and ask for his help and bribe him with gifts. He tells the brother about his love for his sister and since young men will do anything for a fellow man with the same age, the brother finds a way to bring his sister to some secure place, and the man will bring fire from the house of a Brahmin and proceed as before.

The man can give the daughter of the girl’s nurse, an alcoholic substance to give the girl, and then she will be brought under pretense to a secure place for business, and before she recovers from her woozy state, the man should bring fire from the house of a Brahmin, and proceed as before.

The man should, with the help of the daughter of the nurse, take the girl away from her house while she is asleep, before she recovers from her sleep, the man should bring fire from the house of a Brahmin, and proceed as before.

When the girl visit some village in the neighborhood, the man should, with his friends, scare away her guards and forcibly carry her off, and proceed as before.




Doniger, Wendy (2002) “On the Kamasutra.” Daedalus 131:126-29.

Doniger, Wendy (2007) “Reading the “Kamasutra”: The Strange & the Familiar.” Daedalus

Sharma, Shailja (2002) “Kamasutra.” Counterpoints 169:103-07

Vatsyayana (2002) Kamasutra. Translated by Doniger Wendy and Sudhir Kakar. New York: Oxford University Press.


Related Topics for Further Investigation





Caste system




Game of six pebbles

Betel leaves


Kusha grass


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Article written by: Trust In God Odudu (March 2017) who is solely responsible for its content.

The Savitri and Satyavat Myth

The myth of Savitri and Satyavat is the fictional love story of a Hindu wife following her husband through death and saving him with her great dharmic wisdom. The origin of the story dates back to the Mahabharata. The sage Vyasa had written the Mahabharata with the help of the god Ganesa to give to the world as a gift. Within Vyasa’s telling of the Mahabharata the ideology of dharmic character is clarified and expanded on through side stories such at Savitri and Satyavat. The Mahabharata tells the epic story of the Pandavas and the Kauravas were battling each other, and at one point, the Pandavas were exiled to live in the forest for 13 years. During this time, the brothers meet with the rishi Markandeya. The most dharmic brother, Yudhisthira, was lamenting the kidnapping of Draupadi, the Pandava’s wife, as she had been taken by Jaydratha (Anand 2). He asked the rishi if he had ever met a more dharmic woman than Draupadi. The rishi responded with the myth of Savitri and Satyavat, answering his question by telling of the most dharmic woman possible.

The king Asvapati of the land Mudra had no heirs. Worried that he would die before his bloodline would be carried on, he devoted himself to prayers and sacrifices, asking the gods for many sons. After eighteen years, the sun Goddess Savitri answered Asvapati’s hundred thousand hymns to her (Narayan 182). The goddess explained that although she knew he requested for many sons, she would instead bless him with a single daughter, for whom he should be grateful (Anand 3). Soon after, Asvapati’s eldest wife gave birth to a baby girl, whom he named Savitri after the goddess. When Savitri had grown up, her beauty was so astounding that suitors would not ask for her hand in marriage. When the king requested a reason, they responded she must be an incarnation of a goddess and could not be married. The princess Savitri then began a penance, as she waited for a proposal. However, none appeared. The king decided Savitri must be married, and came up with a plan for her to find a husband. Savitri was told to search for her own husband that was well suited and that was as good to her as she was to her father (Narayan 183). Savitri was unsure how to do so, but agreed to do his bidding. The king sent an assembly of his men to accompany his daughter who were under the order not to interfere with her decision.

A year later, she returned to her father who was with the heavenly sage Narada. Narada did not understand why she did not have a husband yet, but the king was ready to receive her answer. Savitri reported that she named Satyavat her husband [often called Satyavan]. Narada strongly advised against her decision. He explained that although Satyavat was perfectly suitable, he was cursed to die in exactly one year from that day. Asvapati tried to persuade his daughter to find another husband, but Savitri refused. Satyavat was her first and only choice for husband, and she would not choose again.

Satyavat was son of the exiled, blind king Dyumatsena, and he took care of him and his mother in their forest hermitage. Before the wedding, Asvapati asked the exiled king for his blessing on the marriage (Nadkarni 2012:np). Dyumatsena was hesitant but agreed. Once the blessing was given, Savitri married Satyavat and joined him in his forest home. Savitri was the ideal wife and daughter in-law, and brought joy to the household (Narayan 185). However, she always remembered the curse and silently counted down the days. When four days were left before the cursed day, Savitri began a triratra vow, a severe penance of fasting, praying, and standing, for three days and nights. Her parents in-law were worried for her and insisted she end this penance, but Savitri refused. On the fourth day, when Satyavat was to begin his daily journey into the forest, Savitri begged him to allow her to join him. Satyavat was hesitant but agreed only if Savitri gained approval from her in-laws. Asking her parents in-law, they granted her wish as Dyumatsena knew she had never asked for anything before (Narayan 186). Travelling deep into the forest, Satyavat was unaware of his fate, but Savitri could not focus on anything else (Narayan 186). As Satyavat was swinging the axe to cut trees, he suddenly felt fatigued. Savitri went to his aid and brought him to rest his head in her lap. She realized this must be the hour that Narada had foretold. Satyavat soon fell into a deep sleep. Savitri continued to hold him when a figure came to hover over them. As Savitri focused on this figure, she saw that it was the God of Death, Yama, coming to take Satyavat’s soul. Savitri rested Satyavat’s head on the ground, and rose to address the God of Death. Savitri asked the God why he himself had come (Dutt 423). Yama answered that because Satyavat was such a distinguished person, he wanted to honour Satyavat in his death by bringing him to death’s halls himself. Yama recognized Savitri as an auspicious wife with a rare gift of being extraordinarily sensitive. But unwavering, Yama continued to take Satyavat’s soul to his kingdom against Savitri’s requests.

However, Savitri had begun to follow him to the land of death, a place where she could not go. Yama tried to persuade her to turn back, but Savitri was refused, knowing that where her husband went, she went, as it was her dharmic duty as a wife to accompany her husband through life and death. Impressed by her knowledge of dharma, Yama told her to ask for any boon other than the life of her husband and he shall grant it (Nadkarni 2012:np). Savitri asked for the return of her father in-law’s sight. They continued their conversation and Yama is repeatedly impressed, granting 3 more boons. Savitri asked for Dyumatsena’s kingdom to be restored, her father to have a hundred noble sons and for a hundred sons for herself and Satyavat. Yama granted these, but then realized too late that for the final boon to be granted Satyavat must be returned to earth. Yama kept his word and gave his blessing and Satyavat’s soul back to Savitri to return to his body (Nadkarni 2012:np).

Restoring his soul to his body, Savitri and Satyavat hurried home to his parents’ hermitage as they were late to return. Dyumatsena, with his sight recently restored, and his wife were worried when Satyavat and Savitri had not returned at their normal time. Neighbours had come to comfort them. When Savitri and Satyavat finally arrived, a celebration was thrown in their honour. Questioned on their reason for such a late arrival, Savitri began her story of all the transpired events, beginning with Narada’s prophecy up until their return home. She explained in detail her interactions with Yama, the God of Death, and the boons he had granted her (Dutt 429). The next day, Dyumatsena was informed his enemy, who had seized the throne, had been killed by the hands of one of his own ministers. Dyumatsena was once again declared king of the Shalwa kingdom. Savitri and Satyavat had their 100 sons who were brave, noble, and never fled from war (Dutt 430). Asvapati was also blessed with 100 sons who kept his bloodline and lineage strong for generations.

Savitri is used as the example of the ideal Hindu wife; a woman who is willing to follow her husband through death and back. Savitri symbolizes the dharmic wisdom that overcomes death (Anand 2). The perfect wife is to maintain her position beside her husband for all of time. In each dharmic marriage the man has the responsibility to take care of his family in all the physical aspects of life, while the wife “embodies the power to sustain their existence” (Rodrigues 125). She must maintain this power by being as auspicious as possible, and by being loyal by following orders from her husband. This enhances her personal spiritual power, or sakti. Her whole family depends on this spiritual power for their survival. By having this power, she is responsible to take part in sati, the ritual where the wife is required to lie on her deceased husband’s pyre, showing that she is willing to die with him and to use her sakti to cleanse his soul in a spiritual sense (Pitchman 26). Savitri is the ideal wife because when she completed sati she brought Satyavat back to life with her, proving she was purely dharmic. Her higher understanding of the dharmic teaching and her commitment to Satyavat is what brought her husband back to life (Verma 67). As they are two parts of a whole, both the husband and wife rely on each other to live a dharmic life. Their devotion to each other, especially Savitri’s, deems her the ideal wife in Hindu culture.


Anand, Subhash (1988) Savitri and Satyavat: A Contemporary Reading. Pune: Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute

Dutt, Manmatha Nath (1895) A Prose English Translation of the Mahabharata: (translated Literally from the Original Sanskrit Text). H.C. Dass.

Nadkarni, Mangesh V. (2012) Savitri-The Golden Bridge, The Wonderful Fire: An introduction to Sri Aurobindo’s epic. Auroville: Savitri Bhavan

Narayan, R. K. (1964) Gods, Demons, and Others. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press

Pintchman, Tracy (2011) Woman and Goddess in Hinduism: Reinterpretations and Re-envisionings. New York: Palgrave Macmillan

Rodrigues, Hillary (2016) Hinduism–The e-Book. Journal of Buddhist Ethics Online Books, Ltd.

Verma, K.D. (1977) Myth and Symbol in Aurobindo’s “Savitri”: A Revaluation. Michigan: Asian Studies Center, Michigan State University

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Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topicśvapati

Article written by: Abby Neudorf (Spring 2017) who is solely responsible for its content.

Savitri and Satyavan

The Hindu myth of Savitri and Satyavan, found in the Mahabharata, is a tale of the love and devotion a Hindu wife was expected to have for her husband. In the Hindu tradition women are expected to show this devotion to their husbands above all else, and the tale of Savitri’s devotion is one of the most poignant and significant examples of this.

The story begins with Aswapati, a king, who was virtuous and lived what could be considered a perfect dharmic lifestyle. Despite this, Aswapati could not conceive a male heir; as he grew older this became more and more of a concern. After 18 years of a perfect dharmic lifestyle, including performing ten thousand oblations daily and reciting Mantras in honour of Savitri, Aswapati was visited by the goddess Savitri herself, who is also called Gayatri. Savitri could not grant him a son, but instead granted him a daughter, who the king named Savitri after the goddess. In some versions Savitri did not grant him the child herself, but informed Aswapati that Brahma was granting him a child (Sarma 329). Savitri grew up to become a beautiful woman, compared by the people to a goddess, and because of her intimidating beauty none would marry her. Aswapati sent her off in search of a husband, as none in his land would marry her. (Ganguli 570-571)

When she returned, she tells her father of another king, Dyumatsena. Dyumatsena was a wise, virtuous kshatriya king. Dyumatsena grew blind, and thus his kingdom was overthrown by an old enemy, ousting Dyumatsena and his family and forcing them into a hermitage. Dyumatsena’s only son, Satyavan, grew up in this state of hermitage. Savitri met the adult Satyavan, and chose him as the one she would marry. She praised his virtues to her father, listing his energy, wisdom, bravery, and forgiveness. She compared his noble attributes to those of various gods, to further emphasize just how perfect a match Satyavan was. Her father’s counselors, who accompanied Savitri on this journey supported her statements. The king asked his trusted advisor if this seemingly perfect youth had any defects, and it is revealed that Satyavan was to die exactly one year from this meeting. Aswapati urged Savitri to choose another, but she had already made up her mind and refused to change it, stating that she had already selected Satyavan and will not select again. The king relented on seeing the full extent of her devotion, and the two were wed. (Ganguli 572-574)

As the day of Satyavan’s death approached, Savitri offered prayers and ascetic observances for the three days prior to Satyavan’s preordained demise. Savitri and Satyavan went out in the woods on the day in question to pick fruits and cut down tree branches. Satyavan began to feel weak, and Savitri laid him on the ground with his head in her lap. The next moment, Yama, the god of death, appeared to Savitri. He had come to personally take Satyavan’s soul. He did so and departed, but Savitri proceeded to follow him out of her devotion to her husband. She spoke to Yama of Satyavan’s virtues, and he was impressed by her words and her devotion and granted her a boon, anything she wanted except Satyavan’s life. She requested that her father-in-law, Dyumatsena, regain his eyesight and his strength. Yama granted this, and continued on his way. Savitri followed him still, telling Yama more of Satyavan. Yama granted her a second boon, and she asked for Dyumatsena to regain his kingdom. She continued to follow him, this time speaking of mercy, and Yama granted her a third boon. She asked to beget children to continue her father’s line, and Yama granted her that she may have a hundred sons. She proceeded to speak about justice. Yama had heretofore been very impressed with Savitri’s devotion and extensive wisdom, and he granted her a fourth boon. She asked for a century of sons, begat by her and Satyavan, and Yama granted this before realizing the implication. He realized Savitri had tricked him and, impressed with her cunning, granted Satyavan’s life back, as she could not father sons with him if he was dead. This differs, as in some versions it is not by Savitri’s cunning, but by her continued devotion that she convinced Yama to give Satyavan back (Sarma 334). When Savitri and Satyavan returned, they found Dyumatsena’s eyesight and strength had returned, and he ascended once again to his rightful place at the head of his kingdom. Savitri and Satyavan had many children, and all was well (Ganguli 576-585).

Savitri’s devotion to her husband is the key theme of this myth. Even before they are married, she is unshakeable in her conviction to stand by Satyavan despite his impending death, and this devotion is what impresses her father so much that he allows the two to be wed. This is especially significant due to the inauspicious status of widows in the Hindu tradition, and the prohibition of remarriage (Rodrigues 127-128). She also shows devotion towards her husband’s family, who in the Hindu tradition essentially becomes her new primary family. Her requests of Yama to return her father-in-law’s sight, strength, and kingdom exemplify this ideal. Lastly, her devotion to Satyavan even in death is impressive. She follows Yama, death himself, and he grants her multiple divine boons, eventually even giving her Satyavan back. It is interesting to note however, that Savitri is not a helpless damsel following Yama because she is incapable of anything without her husband. If anything, after Satyavan’s death she shows her many other impressive characteristics in convincing Yama to bring Satyavan back.

The ideal of pativrata is described by Rodrigues as “ascetic dedication to [the woman’s] husband” (Rodrigues 124). It is the highest vrata, or ascetic observance, that Hindu women follow. The pativrata is closely related to sakti, spiritual power, and the husband was dependent on this spiritual power for his survival and strength. The story of Savitri exemplifies this, as Savitri’s devotion is very closely tied to her husband’s strength and survival, literally bringing him back from death. Savitri initially tries to prevent his death, performing vrata for three days just prior to the promised time. When this fails, she follows Yama, an extraordinary display of ascetic devotion, and her spirituality is a key factor in convincing Yama to bring Satyavan back.

Some scholars explore the similarities and differences between Savitri and Draupadi. Indeed, the entire reason this myth was told in the Mahabharata was in response to Yudhisthira asking if there had ever been a woman whose devotion matched Draupadi’s (Ganguli 570). Weiss looks at Savitri’s marriage as a sort of inversion of Draupadi’s. Savitri is an ascetic wife, while Draupadi is married to five men, both deviations from the Hindu norm. As Weiss states: “Savitri lowers her social status by an act that creates social discontinuity (ascetic practices terminate social lineage), and Draupadi limits the natural capacities of her husbands by marrying all of them.” (Weiss 268-269).  The feminist scholar Lohia gently criticizes Savitri in comparison to Draupadi, stating that loyalty was important, but only as a single aspect of a woman’s personality (Yadav 110). Ultimately, both women represent distinct aspects of the Hindu ideal.

The story of Savitri and Satyavan exemplifies Hindu ideals of a wife’s devotion to her husband. Savitri marries the man she chooses regardless of his impending death, and refuses to let him go. When he does die, it is her devotion and strength of character that brings him back to life. In my opinion, she epitomizes the ideal of pativrata, and is an example of how the Hindu epics teach how one should live through tales with simple moral principles.


Ganguli, Kisari Mohan (1990) The Mahabharata of Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa Vol.III (5th Edition). New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers.

Rodrigues, Hillary (2016) Hinduism – The eBook. Journal of Buddhist Ethics Online Books, Ltd.

Sarma, Bharadvaja (2008) Vyasa’s Mahabaratam. Academic Publishers.

Weiss, Brad (1985) “Mediations in the Myth of Savitri.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion Vol. 53, No. 2: 259-270.

Yadav, Kumkum (2010) “Draupadi or Savitri: Lohia’s Feminist Reading Of Mythology.” Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 45, No. 48: 107–112.

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Gayatri (goddess)






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This article was written by Thomas Hill (Spring 2017), who is entirely responsible for its content.

A Summary of Book 6 of the Kama Sutra

The Kamasutra is an ancient Hindu text on the art of attainting kama, or pleasure, one of the three prescribed goals for twice born males in the Hindu tradition (Doniger, Kakar and Vatsyayana XI). It was composed by Vatsyayana Mallanaga, possibly in the third century CE and has since been the subject of commentaries, criticisms, and translations. Vatsyayana drew on many scholars before him, and this text is certainly not the only of its kind. In the west, the book is often perceived as a catalogue of sex positions. For Hindus, it is a unique and elaborate text containing several books on topics such as finding and pleasing a wife, and the use of drugs and other substances to enhance kama.

For many years, the translation by Sir Richard Burton, published in the 19th century stood as the western world’s best understanding of the erotic Kamasutra (Burton and Vatsyayana, 1981). However, a more recent translation by Wendy Doniger and Sudhir Kakar provides a fresh insight into the discussions of the Kamasutra, its nature, its function as a religious text, and the argument of whether it is to be a descriptive versus prescriptive text. Of course, in ancient India and even today, the reader should decide with discretion. The 2002 translation by Doniger and Kakar was used for this summary.

An important aspect of the Kamasutra is that its audience was most likely male, but according to Wendy Doniger in her book, Redeeming the Kamasutra, the Kamasutra can be useful to women (Doniger 93). In Doniger and Kakar’s translation, Vatsyayana suggests nuns and courtesans are the only women in Hindu society who are truly [socially] free (Doniger, Kakar and Vatsyayana XIV); Book 6 of the Kamasutra is dedicated entirely to the courtesan (a high class entertainer for men), which exposes an attitude towards courtesan’s that is very different from the popular opinion in the west. Vatsyayana’s text suggests that courtesans have long played an important role in the Hindu social order. What sets Book 6 apart from the other books of the Kamasutra is that it appears to be written by the courtesan, for the courtesan. She appears to be faithful and affectionate towards her lover at all times, yet she is often involved with more than one man. The courtesan’s main concern is profit, although she makes it appear to her lover that he is her top priority (Doniger, Kakar and Vatsyayana 137).

Chapter one of book six explores how the courtesan “decides on a friend, an eligible lover, and an ineligible lover” (Doniger, Kakar and Vatsyayana 131-136). Men trust women who are driven by desire, sex, and passion, and this is how the courtesan poses herself. Vatsyayana suggests that every woman possesses these traits to an extent, and because the courtesan’s main goal is to make money, she is a natural born tradesperson. She exhibits no greed as she displays herself as goods for purchase, always beautiful but secretive (Doniger, Kakar, and Vatsyayana 131). The courtesan may choose the men with whom it is appropriate to keep company, particularly what kind of company, as she has the whole community at her disposal. Policemen and powerful individuals may offer protection, “ward off loses” and “get money” for her. These men should be considered friends; men who sell goods that aid in the seduction of lovers could also be considered friends because they can ultimately bring her greater wealth and more lovers with their services and connections (Doniger, Kakar, and Vatsyayana 131). Even when choosing a lover, there are certain guidelines that deem whether or not a man is suitable: some lovers are good only for money (jealous, greedy, or impotent men), while other men possess good qualities (knowledgeable, poetic, generous men) and are, therefore, considered the prescribed lovers (Doniger, Kakar and Vatsyayana 133-135). The courtesan should stay away from sick men, old men, and men who are devoted to their wives.

Hindu social norms dictate a woman should be intelligent, honest, of sound mind and body; she should only speak when spoken too, and be knowledgeable enough in the Kamasutra to please her man. Additionally, a courtesan must be all these things, as well as being beautiful, young, versed in the arts, and of course, have a sexual nature (Doniger, Kakar, and Vatsyayana 133-134). These traits will make her a suitable lover.

There are various reasons for taking a lover that Vatsyayana’s predecessors suggested, including passion, fear, gain, religion, and future prospects. Vatsyayana suggests, for the courtesan, that “gain, warding off loses, and love” are reasons she may take a lover; however, gain should come first for her, as her goal is to make money, but she should use her judgement and consider other reasons as well (Doniger, Kakar and Vatsyayana 135).

Before a courtesan engages a lover, she must get his attention and learn about him. Even if he has propositioned her, the courtesan remembers that men want most what is difficult to attain. A courtesan may utilize her friendships to send gifts to her potential lover, in an attempt to mediate the beginnings of the relationship. After this, the courtesan may meet with her prospective lover, and attempt to seduce him (Doniger, Kakar and Vatsyayana, 135-136).

The second chapter of the Kamasutra discusses how the courtesan properly entertains her lover by giving him what he desires (Doniger, Karkar, and Vatsyayana 137-142). She may act as a wife does, infatuated with him, inquiring about his interests and behaving as if he is the centre of her life, suggesting that she may even become ill if he does not make love to her. Of course, this is all a façade, as the courtesan must act attached even though she is not (Doniger, Kakar and Vatsyayana 137 lies). If questions of infidelity arise, the courtesan may refuse to eat in order to show that she is upset and remains dedicated to her lover. At the same time, she is known to be deceptive—such as inventing a demanding mother to whom the courtesan is obligated or devoted—when she is to meet with another man.

The traditional Hindu wife, as depicted in the Kamasutra via the perspective of Vatsyayana and the courtesan, is that of a devoted, infatuated woman, who speaks only of things her husband knows and prays for him while he is away, even taking up ritual responsibilities in order to honour him. She affirms his intelligence and proclaims a love that will last beyond life itself. A courtesan may actually engage in some or all of these practices, but she most definitely portrays herself as a loving devotee to her man—as Vatsyayana comments at the end, however, this is the nature of the courtesan, as she is really just playing a part.

Of course, as previously mentioned, the courtesan has a goal, which is to make money. According to chapter three of Book 6 in the Kamasutra, there are natural and contrived ways in which a courtesan may be able to extort money from her lover (Doniger, Kakar and Vatsyayana 142-147). Vatsyayana disagrees with previous scholars when he says that the courtesan can heavily increase her profits if she uses contrived means. She may create debts to creditors, or even terrible scenarios, such as being robbed of her jewellery, or a fire that burned down her home and all of her belongings, in order to gain sympathy and ‘reimbursement’ from her lover (Doniger, Kakar and Vatsyayana 142-143). She may even pretend to need money in order to bring gifts to him, or help friends of his/hers that are in need. The courtesan may also then express to her lover how much his kindness has helped her and made her happy. The lover often obliges and gives the woman money or gifts, as it is implied throughout Book 6 of the Kamasutra that this is how a man shows attachment, or at least this is his understanding of showing attachment.

Occasionally, her lover may shows signs that his passion is fading or that he is no longer interested, and the courtesan is a master at picking up on these signs (Doniger, Karkar, and Vatsyayana 145). He may portray his receding desire through his body language or his actions, by giving her too much or too little money, sleeping elsewhere, or breaking his promises. A courtesan knows that a devoted man does not act in this way, and because her affection is only manufactured for profit, she’ll make one final attempt to hustle what remains of his money from him, and then she will get rid of him. In Doniger’s commentary text, she suggests that this may reflect the courtesan’s attitudes and point of view (Doniger 105).

There is an entire section of chapter three dedicated to getting rid of a lover (Doniger, Karkar, and Vatsyayana 145-147). The courtesan needs very few reasons to abandon her lover; if he is depleted of funds to give her, if he desires another woman, or if his passion diminishes, she will leave. In Redeeming the Kamasutra, Doniger suggests that the courtesan “employs…passive-aggressive behavior to indicate that it is time to [end the affair]” (Doniger 105). This includes refusing to sleep with him, showing contempt for his interests, making herself seem unattractive and uninterested in him. This will often result in the ending of the relationship. At the end of this section, Vatsyayana includes a verse that summarizes the job of the courtesan: she is to enchant man, take his money, and then release him (Doniger, Kakar and Vatsyayana 147).

A courtesan may, after careful consideration, get back together with an ex-lover. There are conditions, of course, she must consider, which are outlined in chapter four of the sixth book of the Kamasutra (Doniger, Kakar and Vatsyayana 147-151). In fact, there are six different scenarios that the courtesan should consider, and then there are suggestions as to how to deal with these different scenarios. Essentially, the courtesan should only get back together with her ex-lover if he still has money or has made more money, if he is still interested in/attached to her, and/or can continue to provide the courtesan with a source of income. She should reject him if he is fickle or ungenerous. If the relationship rekindles, a courtesan will begin courting her lover again. She may bring back her demanding mother to make her lover believe that it was the mother who was keeping them apart all along. A messenger may suggest to her man that even though she has a new lover, she is not in love, and only desires this one man. At the end of the chapter, Vatsyayana once again disagrees with his predecessors when he suggests that, between a new lover and an old one, a new lover is more aligned with her goals. He then comments that this can be dependent on the nature of the man (Doniger, Kakar and Vatsyayana 150).

In the fifth chapter, Vatsyayana discusses how the courtesan may weigh or prioritize her profits, posing it as a discussion between himself and past scholars. A courtesan should not limit herself to one lover if she feels she can make more money this way, but there are scenarios to consider. In the choice between lovers, Vatsyayana suggests that the one who gives gold is preferable to the one who gives her what she wants, because gold is most valuable and can give her the greatest monetary return. Vatsyayana elaborates on other scenarios, but the answer is always the same. However, he does suggest that there are certain situations in which avoiding conflicts or losses can be more beneficial to the courtesan than monetary profit.

The sixth chapter in the Kamasutra’s sixth book contains methodological approaches to calculating gains and losses, consequences, and doubts (Doniger, Kakar and Vatsyayana 155-159). Losses are the result of fate, or of some fault of character or decision making. These losses may have terrible consequences and should therefore be carefully avoided. As a business person, a courtesan should focus on gains. Vatsyayana says that there are three losses: money, religious merit, and hatred; and three gains: money, religious merit, and pleasure (Doniger, Kakar and Vatsyayana 155). Vatsyayana suggests a formula that considers doubt as either pure or mixed, and consequences as having one sided, two sided, or group results. This formula can help the courtesan control her losses. The discussion that follows is one of contemplation, and suggests that gains and losses of the three types can occur depending on the level of doubt that is present. Essentially, because the courtesan wants to maximize gains and minimize losses, she should consider these arguments for the purpose of her business.

The last chapter of book six, entitled “Types of courtesans” (Doniger, Kakar and Vatsyayana 159-160) suggests that there are certain women more suited to this profession than others. In contrast to women who are virgins, courtesans may be women known for dancing, artistry, or simply for being an intelligent member of an upper class. These women may be more inclined to money than passion (as opposed to virgins and wives), and could therefore be considered for this particular kind of work.

Ultimately, Book 6 of the Kamasutra depicts courtesans as intelligent, masters of deceit and feminine sexuality. They are not portrayed as shameful women who are degraded in society; instead, they are respectable business women who play a major role in cultivating a Hindu man’s sexual experience. They reverse the conventional gender norms that Doniger discusses in her commentary; instead of being passive and innocent, she is active and powerful (Doniger 109). The Kamasutra and the courtesan are similar in this way, neither are well known [in the west] for their religious and social functions in Hindu society. At the end of the second chapter of Book 6, Vatsyayana writes a verse that could be used to sum up the portrayal of women, mostly courtesans, in this book of the Kamasutra:

Because of the subtlety and excessive greed of women,

And the impossibility of knowing their nature,

The signs of their desire are hard to know,

Even for those who are its object.

Women desire and they become indifferent,

They arouse love and they abandon,

Even when they are extracting all the money,

They are not really known (Doniger, Karkar, and Vatsyayana 142).




Burton, R. and Vatsyayana (1981) The Kama Sutra: The Richard Burton Classic Translation. London: Unwin Paperbacks.

Doniger, Wendy (2016) Redeeming the Kamasutra. New York: Oxford University Press.

Doniger, W., Sudhir Kakar, and Vatsyayana (2002) Kamasutra: Oxford world’s classics. New York: Oxford University Press Inc.


Related Readings & Websites


Doniger, Wendy (2002) “On the Kamasutra.” Daedalus 131: 126-129.

Doniger, Wendy (2007) “Reading the ‘Kamasutra’: the strange & the familiar.” Daedalus 136: 66-78


Courtesans, Kamasutra:

Kamasutra Summary:









This article was written by: Jessica Freehill (Spring 2017), who is entirely responsible for its content.

The Kamasutra: Book Three

The Kamasutra is the most widely known document within the Kamasastra genre of books in the Hindu tradition. This text deals with Kama, one of the four worthy goals in life, according to Hindus, and how to pursue it. Kama can be described as desire, sensory pleasure, and the fulfillment of sexually pleasurable human needs (Rodrigues 114-117). This goal is to be pursued within the householder life stage to help love between the married couple flourish (Rodrigues 117). The Kamasutra explains many aspects of the sexual experience, as well as other elements that are involved in enhancing the erotic occasion. The first book describes how a single man should behave, the second explains the many sexual positions, and the third clarifies exactly what kind of woman the man should be pursuing (Doniger 20). The fourth book depicts the man’s marriage and how he should live with his chosen mate(s), the fifth details the ways in which the man could woo the wives of other men (Doniger 20-21). Lastly, the sixth book explains courtesans and their place within desire, and the seventh book talks about magic used to enhance the sexual experience (Doniger 21). Book three is the main focus here and this section focuses on a man’s attention being directed toward virgins; mainly discussing how to pick one and what it takes to seduce her. This book, however, does have a small section dedicated to instructing virgins on the techniques to use when seducing a man (Doniger 21).

Book three’s first chapter goes into detail about the qualities a man should search for in a virgin, as well as qualities that should be avoided, and the various techniques that could be used to court the right girl (Doniger and Kakar 75-78). In this chapter, viable virgins are under scrutiny in regard to their looks and other personal qualities. She, for instance, should not be “pimply, like a bull, or promiscuous” (Doniger and Kakar 76) among other unsatisfactory qualities, she must come from a good family, and many of her traits cannot be excessive nor insufficient (Doniger and Kakar 75). The ideal qualities are normally described in regard to what a woman should not be. In this chapter there is mention of the woman being “like any other piece of merchandise,” (Doniger and Kakar 77) and therefore should be displayed as such (Doniger and Kakar 76-77). This union between two individuals is also about the union of two families, so both families should be happy and fully satisfied with the prospective wedding (Doniger and Kakar 78). After presenting what kind of women a man should be looking for, chapter two establishes exactly how said virgin should be charmed and led to trust the man attempting to woo her (Doniger and Kakar 78-82). She must first be able to trust him in order to proceed sexually with him, or else she may begin to feel scared of the entire process and men in general (Doniger and Kakar 81). This chapter explains that a man can provide too much attention and affection, or he can offer too little, and that he should attempt to avoid both extremes (Doniger and Kakar 78-81).

After the virgin begins to trust him, he may begin to make greater sexual advances involving her, like those that are laid out in chapter three (Doniger and Kakar 82-86). These advances include: playing games with her, giving her gifts, impressing her, and having sex with her foster-sister (Doniger and Kakar 83-84). These advancements will lead to responses from her, and those are also laid out in the third chapter to ensure that the man will be able to understand how she is feeling in regard to his actions (Doniger and Kakar 85-86). Many of the advances that a man can carry out are with the help of other women communicating with the one he wants. These conversations normally involve confessions of his good qualities, or their own established love for him, in order to make the desired woman also want to love him (Doniger and Kakar 83). The fourth chapter discusses how consistent a man should be with his particular advances to eventually wear her down, and it also specifies how a virgin can advance toward a man she desires (Doniger and Kakar 86-90). In order to wear her down he has to invest in a regime of touching her whenever possible, especially her feet and toes. He is encouraged to touch her toes enough “so that she eventually tolerates it,” (Doniger and Kakar 87) and then he can continue to touch her feet and eventually the rest of her. The few techniques that he can carry out alone are explained in chapter four, alongside the advances that the virgin can make toward him (Doniger and Kakar 87-89). In this portion of the Kamasutra, the woman is able to become an active agent in the courting process. This is accomplished by the fact that she is able to decide when the man can take her virginity because she is already interested in this event occurring with him (Doniger and Kakar 89).

The second, third, and fourth chapters all develop different features of the courting process, whereby the man uses the methods described in the book to seduce a virgin into marriage and bed with him. The fifth and last chapter entails the devious ways the man can acquire the woman he desires, and help the virgin desire him as he desires her (Doniger and Kakar 90-93). This last chapter is interesting because it defends rape as a viable marriage device in order for the man to get the woman he desires (Doniger and Kakar 93). This chapter is about the methods that a man should employ if he is not winning the virgin over. Aside from rape he can persuade other women to talk to his desired woman about all his good qualities along with the terrible qualities of other suitors (Doniger and Kakar 92). He may also talk to the girl’s mother, or to her brother in order to become the most favourable suitor and stamp out the competition (Doniger and Kakar 92). In all these situations, he will begin a wedding ceremony with the woman he desires, after whichever conversation occurs, therefore creating a circumstance that cannot be avoided or stopped (Doniger and Kakar 92). This is the beginning of a “love-match wedding,” (Doniger and Kakar 92) where a certain fire ritual initiates the ceremony and cannot be taken back (Doniger and Kakar 92).

There are many people around the world who view the Kamasutra as a sex textbook containing only the sex positions and other notions about sex (Doniger 18). This is not entirely true as there is just one book entirely focused on sex and sexual positions, but even that book eludes to other arts besides sex that are necessary for Kama. Book three, for instance, is focused on how to marry the right woman. This is accomplished by allowing a virgin to slowly trust him and any advances that would precede marriage and sex. The third book also examines how these advances could influence the desired woman negatively and/or positively. The Kamasutra was able to lay out and control sexual practices, and allow Hindu people to explore Kama and their erotic pleasures alongside love and Dharma (Gautam 4-6). The Kamasutra as a whole has also been viewed as a text that does not fully explore both genders sexually, especially in regard to women’s pleasures, but that has been disputed through a newer translation release (Doniger 18). This newer translation is able to give a better idea of how women were able to be active in many aspects of Kama, like what is described in sections of book three even when they are being courted.


Doniger, Wendy, and Sudhir Kakar (2002) Vatsyayana Kamasutra. New York: Oxford University Press.

Doniger, Wendy (2003) “The “Kamasutra”: It Isn’t All About Sex.” The Kenyan Review 25(1):18-37. Accessed February 6, 2017.

Gautam, Sanjay K. (2014) “The Courtesan and the Birth of Ars Erotica in the Kamasutra: A History of Erotics in the Wake of Foucault.” Journal of the History of Sexuality 23(1):1-20. Accessed February 6, 2017.

Rodrigues, Hillary (2016) Hinduism – The eBook: An Online Introduction. Journal of Buddhist Ethics Online Books, Ltd.

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Kamasutra Book One
Kamasutra Book Two
Kamasutra Book Four
Kamasutra Book Five
Kamasutra Book Six
Kamasutra Book Seven
Householder stage
Feminist influences on Kama
Cultural influences on Kama

Websites Related to the Topic

Article written by: Justine Fisher (Spring 2017), who is entirely responsible for its content.

Goddesses and Women’s Empowerment

According to Knott within Hindu society women are given a lesser status than men (82). This leads to the oppression of women in both the public and private spheres of their religious and everyday lives. This pattern of oppression has led to a narrow and demanding vision of how women should behave. Women are expected to be submissive to the men in their lives, and to be the perfect wife and mother (Knott 81-82).

Through the possession of women by goddesses, they are allowed to express their frustration with the society that oppresses them in a socially acceptable way (Diesel 1998:76). Possession is also seen as a divine experience and those possessed by a goddess are honored. Possession may occur more than once in an individual’s life and there are even those who become possessed regularly and aid others in solving problems (Diesel 1998: 77). These individuals are regarded as a sort of “shaman” in their societies. Women who become possessed and help their community are seen as meaningful to their communities and are therefore held in high regard by society. This high status in the community also gives women a sense of self-worth they may not have previously had. Even if they are not appreciated in their societies being close with the deities they are being possessed by gives them dignity (Diesel 1998:77-79). Women may also use their prominence to aid other women and to increase equality in society.

The goddesses that are usually seen as role models for women are the goddesses that are “the ideal, selfless, submissive wife” (Diesel 2002:8) also known as pativrata. Despite this there are goddesses that are sometimes considered controversial that women see as role models for themselves. Kali, who is a fierce and wild goddess provides inspiration to many women in Hinduism and is viewed as a “redeemer of both nature and women” (Dalmiya, 126). Many of these goddesses have experienced trauma or abuse such as the wife of the Pandava brothers Draupadi in the Mahabharata. She had been subject to the humiliation of Duryodhana attempting to disrobe her in front of his court (Rao, 34-37). This humiliation that Draupadi endured is something that women can relate to. Because of the patriarchal nature of Hindu society women are expected to honour their husbands no matter the circumstance. Despite this expectation of women, there are many who find a model in controversial goddesses such as Kali and a variety of amman goddesses (Diesel 2002: 8-9).

There is also the issue of sexual violence within Hindu society especially when it comes to things such as devadasi [marrying girls to deities] who are often in ritual slavery or used for sexual exploitation (Black 180). One example of a deity who suffered at the hands of men is the goddess Draupadi from the Mahabharata epic. Throughout the epic she goes through many traumatic experiences but her ritual purity helps her overcome the trauma of these events unharmed and unaffected (Diesel 2010:9). There are also many tales of girls and women who are connected with the amman goddesses such as Mariamman or Podilamma. After being wrongly accused of indecent acts or killed because of actions that are deemed improper, the goddesses seek revenge on those who wronged them in their past lives (Diesel 2002:13-15). These tales give women a chance to relate to the goddesses through their mutual suffering.

Being a diverse and widely spread religion means that Hinduism has sects that are different from the rest of the religion. In some of these sects’ women are equal to men and are allowed to be a part of and perform ritual practices usually barred to women (David 337). One of these sects is located in England and is a Tamil diaspora from Sri Lanka (David 338). This sect is led by a man who is often possessed by a female deity and has claimed that his intention is to establish equality between men and women. The women within this Sri Lankan community are able to participate in rituals. They are also given the opportunity to become priests within these areas if they want to (David 341-343). This equality of men and women allows women to receive the same amount of respect as men. It also diminishes the influence of the caste/class system (David 341).

Women’s status in Hindu society is expected to be that of subjection and obedience to men. Despite this woman allow themselves moments of freedom through possession by goddesses (Diesel 1998:76). This gives them a sense of power even if it is only for a short period. Those women who do not experience possession find power through the goddesses in different ways such as accepting them as role models or relating to them through shared experiences (Diesel 2002:9). Often times, these connected events relate to oppression or violence by men. In certain areas of the world, these women are beginning to receive support to be empowered and participate in rituals banned from the majority of women (David 337). Through these and other experiences women are given empowerment and can begin to feel as though they are not just there to serve men. They can feel that they are valued members of their communities.

References and Other Recommended Reading

Black, Maggie (2009) “Women in Ritual Slavery: Devadasi, Jogini and Mathamma in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, Southern India.” Pakistan Journal of Women’s Studies= Alm-e-Niswan=Alm-I Nisvan16,1/2:179-205.

Dalmiya, Vrinda (2000) “Loving Paradoxes: A Feminist Reclamation of the Goddess Kali.” Hypatia 15,1:125-150.

David, Ann R (2009) “Gendering the Divine: New Forms of Feminine Hindu Worship.” International Journal of Hindu Studies 13,3:337-355.

Diesel, Alleyn (1998) “The Empowering Image of the Divine Mother: A South African Hindu Woman Worshipping the Goddess.” Journal of Contemporary Religion 13,1:73-90.

Diesel, Alleyn (2002) “Tales of Women’s Suffering: Draupadi and Other Amman Goddesses as Role Models for Women.” Journal of Contemporary Religion 17,1:5-20.

Knott, Kim (2016) Hinduism: a very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 81-82.

Rao, Shanta Rameshwar (2011) “The Mahabharata.” Telangana:Orient BlackSwan.

Related Topics for Further Investigation


Amman Goddesses

Draupadi Fire Walking Ceremonies


The Mahabharata


Goddess Worship

Goddess Possession



Noteworthy Website Relating to the Topic

Article Written by: Lundyn Davis (February 2017) who is solely responsible for its content.

The Kama Sutra (Book Seven: Erotic Esoterica)

Vatsyayana’s Kamasutra is an ancient Hindu text belonging to the Kama Sastra genre of literature (Rodrigues 152). The title, Kamasutra, is composed of two Sanskrit words: kama meaning “desire/pleasure,” and sutra meaning “treatise” (Doniger and Kakar 13). The Kamasutra covers a variety of topics, among them ways of attaining the goals of life (dharma, kama, and artha), finding and keeping a partner, sexual positions and techniques, adultery, and dealing with or as a courtesan (Danielou 20-21).

The last section of the Kamasutra, Book Seven, deals with “erotic esoterica” (Doniger and Kakar 233) or “occult practices” (Danielou 487). Book Seven consists of two chapters, “Making Luck in Love,” and “Rekindling Exhausted passion,” each of which is made up of three sub-divisions (Doniger and Kakar 233-242).

The first chapter, “Making Luck in Love” begins with a preamble stating that the methods and recipes mentioned in Book Seven should be utilized only if the methods discussed in previous books have proven unsuccessful (Danielou 489). From there, the chapter continues with methods to make yourself lucky in love. Techniques in this section claim to either enhance beauty or sex appeal, promote good luck, or make one “lucky in love” (Danielou 490-491). Methods include: wearing a garland of lotus flowers, wearing an amulet made with a conch shell or jujube berries while chanting verses from the Atharvaveda, or applying a makeup, cream, or ointment made from honey or butter and a variety of plants, flowers, or fruits. The section ends with methods specifically for courtesans and performers- many of which involve extending a daughter or servant girl’s hand in marriage in exchange for money or “special favours on a musical instrument” (Doniger and Kakar 233-235).

The second subdivision of the first chapter deals with “Putting Someone in Your Power” and contains a variety of recipes for ointments and powders which claim to enchant, captivate, or subdue a person or their sexual partner when applied to certain parts of the body (Doniger and Kakar 235). One recipe involves mixing powdered milk hedge, red arsenic, and sulphur with monkey feces; it is stated that if you sprinkle this mixture over a girl, she will not feel attraction towards anyone else (Danielou 497).

The final part of chapter one covers “Stimulants for Virility” (Doniger and Kakar 236). This portion contains multiple recipes one may consume to increase virility, and/or lifespan (Danielou 499-503). Most of these recipes include milk and/or butter, sugar, and honey. Other ingredients include, but are not limited to, “dog’s-fang,” asparagus, and prickly-fruit (Doniger and Kakar 233-237). There are also multiple recipes that claim to provide the ability to copulate with numerous women. A recipe for biscuits made from crushed sweet potatoes, sugar, honey, cow’s milk, ghee, and wheat flour claims that consumption will provide a man with the capability to sleep with countless women (Danielou 501).

The chapter comes to a close with a passage that says one may learn erotic techniques from magicians, experienced people, and the Vedas. It is stated that one should not employ procedures that are harmful, dangerous, painful, or unhygienic; apply only methods prescribed by Brahmins or other competent people (Doniger and Kakar 237-238).

The second chapter, “Rekindling Exhausted Passion” begins with a section of the same title. It is stated that if a man is unable to satisfy a woman, he should fondle her with his hand prior to copulation, engage in oral sex, or make use of an artificial phallus (some of which may require harnesses or attachments) that may be made of copper, gold, horn, iron, ivory, lead, tin, or wood (Danielou 508-510). According to Vatsyayana, those made of wood most closely resemble a real penis, and therefore are the most sought after (Doniger and Kakar 238-239). The rekindling passion section concludes with methods for piercing a penis, including ways to clean, widen, and accessorize said piercing (Danielou 512-513). According to the Kamasutra, “a man whose penis has not been pierced does not experience real sex. And so the people of the South pierce a boy’s penis just like his ears” (Doniger and Kakar 239).

The next section of chapter two is “Methods of Increasing The Size of The Male Organ” (Doniger and Kakar 240). The techniques mentioned claim to cause swelling of the penis that can last up to a month, six months, or a lifetime- depending on the technique used. One technique that is said to produce permanent swelling involves rubbing the penis for ten nights with a mixture of oil and the hairs of tree-inhabiting insects; when swelling begins, one should sleep face-down on a wooden cot and allow the penis to hang through a hole in the cot (Danielou 514-515). The Kamasutra warns that all of the methods for increasing penis size should be learned from an expert (Doniger and Kakar 241).

The final section “Unusual Techniques” contains methods for making objects invisible, turning iron pots into copper, removing passion, changing hair color, and causing insanity, among other things (Doniger and Kakar 241-241). One technique claims that if a woman bathes in buffalo’s milk with mint, extract of cow’s bile, and yellow amaranth mixed in, any man who sleeps with her afterwards will become impotent (Danielou 516). The Kamasutra comes to a close by stating that sensible people will not be consumed by passion; one must know when it is appropriate to make use of the practices mentioned (Danielou 520).



Danielou, Alain (1994) The Complete Kamasutra. Rochester: Park Street Press.

Doniger, Wendy (2003) “The “Kamasutra“: It Isn’t All About Sex.” The Kenyon Review 25(1): 18-37.

___ (2002) “On the Kamasutra.” Daedalus 131(2): 126–129.

Rodrigues, Hillary (2006) “Hinduism the eBook: an Online Introduction.” Journal of Buddhist Ethics Online Books. 0-9747055-4-3.

Vatsyayana, Mallanaga (2009) Kamasutra. Translated by Wendy Doniger and Sudhir Kakar. New York: Oxford University Press.

Related Topics for Further Investigation



Kama Sastra

Mlecchita vikalpa









Noteworthy Websites related to the Topic


Article written by: Riley Wilcox (April 2016) who is solely responsible for its content.

Sexuality in Hinduism

Sexuality in Hinduism is most notable through the observance of kama, one of Hinduism’s catur-purusartha’s (four human aims).  Within the Dharma Sastras contain prescriptions for how one should live one’s life, as well as outlining various religious duties (dharma).  Kama in this instance refers to fulfilment of sensual and sexual pleasure (Lidke 108).  Attainment of kama for males is prescribed in the second of the four asramas (life stages), the grhastha stage. This stage of life is known as the householder stage, and in it Hindus are expected to marry.  Sexual relations within a Hindu marriage are meant to be for procreation, however it is expected that couples will be intimate for pleasure also.  Sexual indulgence can become a problem that will cause unhappiness for grhasthas and self-restraint is cautioned.  Mentioned in various scriptures such as the Bhagavad Gita is extramarital sex, considered taboo as marriage is seen as contractual and for life (Mehta 66-67).  The catur-purusartha exists within Hinduism’s caste system, and only the upper three classes undergo the rituals that transition from one asrama to the next (Mehta 63).

Rgveda 10.85 begins by telling us that there is a divinity to human marriage, in that it is modeled after the gods, before focusing on more on the humanness of marriage.  Simply by being a woman, a bride is seen as having inherent value to not only her husband, but her husband’s family as well.  This has to do with the expectation that children will be the result of a marriage (Menski 56).  If a husband dies before the woman has conceived, she is not destined to remain a widow, but can be married to another member of her husband’s family in the hopes of conception.  Ideally the original marriage will bear children, and so gods are invoked in certain rituals in the context of fertilization; Indra is invoked for strong sons while Agni is invoked for many sons (Menski 56).  At the same time that a bride is seen as an asset to her husband and his family, she may also be seen as a danger.  On a couples’ wedding night there is an expectation that the hymen will break and a woman will bleed during the act of intercourse.  This, of course, will defile the bedding, but it is also seen as a destructive blood in a Vedic marriage.  For this reason, a husband may consult a Brahmin to purify the cloth and bring longevity to the marriage (Menski 58).

Some Puranas personify kama as Kamadeva, the god of desire and passion.  By contrasting this god with Siva in the Siva Purana, this Purana is full of insight into how Hindus view sexuality.  As Siva is sometimes seen as the eternal brahmacarin and supernaturally chaste, his interactions with Kamadeva show the sexual side of Hinduism (O’Flaherty 141). Much of the literature focuses on Kamadeva as he relates to Siva, but the information gathered in these texts give the reader some idea of what influenced Hindu attitudes and rituals relating to sexuality.

While Siva is seen as chaste in many rituals, the idea that he is tempted or does not remain chaste throughout are common. Some of the myths actually place him in the position of the creator, with an erect penis (linga) and seminal fluid that acts as the seed of creation (O’Flaherty 143).  Siva’s chastity is, however, his most powerful weapon in myths in which he is juxtaposed with Kamadeva.  In one such myth, Siva is responsible for burning Kamadeva up, destroying him.  Modern interpretations of this myth hold it as a temptation story, whereas early interpretations view it as a wholly asexual act.  Siva, being compared to fire, when the two interacted is said to have melted or destroyed Kamadeva, who is likened to snow.  In this analogy, Siva is so pure and chaste that Kamadeva’s sexuality could not possibly have affected him (O’Flaherty 143-34).

The Puranas include a different story of Siva burning Kamadeva.  Siva may be aroused by the act or bring Kamadeva back more powerful.  In the Puranas, it is suggested that Siva, rather than being so chaste that he is not affected by Karmadeva, in fact recognizes his power and possibly admires him (O’Flaherty 145).

Hinduism is unlike many western religions in that it does not have a single canonical text, but many.  Other texts from early Hinduism that mention sexuality include the Upanisads and the Tantras (Doniger 2011).  Some Upanisads compare Vedic rituals to sexuality, such as the oblation of butter into the fire resembling the acts of procreation.  Each action taken in the ritual has a counterpart in love-making and eventual birth.  The Tantras take this notion one step farther and suggest that sexual intercourse is not simply like a ritual, but that the act itself is a ritual (Doniger 2011). The most in-depth text dealing with kama is the Kamasutra, a text from approximately the third century B.C.E.  By modern standards, the Kamasutra is a liberal text, with thoughts put forth on subjects such as women’s sexuality and homosexual behavior (Doniger 2011).  In opposition to the Vedas, the author of the Kamasutra, Vatsyayana, dismisses the notion that people should only have to procreate.  There is also the idea that since people of all ages are capable of understanding sexual acts, all should be familiar with the text.  The idea of female pleasure and sexuality is strong in the text, even suggesting a woman leave her husband if he is not satisfying her, in contrast to what earlier law texts say (Doniger, 2011).

The Dharma Sastras’ view of homosexuality is one of taboo; a man who engages in same sex activity is to be punished, however slightly, for the transgression. Vatsyayana holds different ideas, where instead of the defamatory kliba [translated as eunuch, but holds many other meanings] he uses hijra, a term that means third gender.  Rather than transgressive, third genders in the text are described in a more neutral way; hermaphrodites and bi-sexuals are treated the same as all others.  Throughout the Kamasutra are references to servants and friends who perform oral sex on members of the same sex.  The Kamasutra is unlike other texts, it is not a law book, but rather one that categorizes and attempts to explain sexuality.  In this way, it is not judgmental (Lidke 124).  This lighter view of homosexuality and transsexuality is found throughout both ancient and modern India (Doniger 2011).

Homoeroticism is an important aspect of Hindu literature, even if textual authorities disagree on its morality.  The Hindu concept of rebirth, as well as its views of gods as being androgynous, means that gender and sexuality can be viewed as fluid.  Heterosexuality, however, is still highly regarded as the normative sexuality (Lidke 124-125).  Hijras can also be found in the stories of the epics, such as the Mahabharata and the Ramayana.  In the former is the story of Sikhandhin, who begins the tale as Amba and is captured by a warrior.  After spurning his advances in favor of one she loves elsewhere, she is eventually rejected by both the one she loves and later the warrior and his brother.  She is granted a boon by Siva and asks to be reborn a male.  She is reborn as a female hijra, her boon having not been granted as she had hoped (Lidke 126-127).  Despite a long history of hijra populations and homoeroticism attitudes about sexuality and behavior changed during and after colonization. The British imposed anti-sodomy laws in 1860 and worked to impose Christian values (Lidke 127).  Despite the efforts of the British, hijras still exist in India to this day and include those who proclaim themselves neither man nor woman.  For a majority of Hijras the dominant gender is female, with dress and mannerisms being feminine whether one is biologically male or biologically female.  In lesbian relationships this means that both partners are feminine, since masculine hijras are rare (Penrose 4).

The Kamasutra also speaks explicitly about females and their sexuality, not only in regards to hijras and males but also in regards to their relations with other females.  There are references to penetration with sex toys, both of males and females.  The word used for the penetrator is svairini, although some translators also put forth that svairini can also mean oral sex partner or prostitute (Penrose 15).  The Kamasutra describes women as penetrators, both of men and of other women.  The text, while describing homosexual acts, does not categorize the women as such (see Kama Sutra 2.8.13).  Women’s sexuality in this context is defined by her dominance in the act of penetrating, not by the gender of her partner (Penrose 16).

Sexuality in Hinduism has been influenced by divine myths and written and revealed texts and has an effect on many aspects of life.  Each of the four stages of life (asram vyavastha) have something to say on the topic and dharmic prescription in place.  Sexuality also includes how gender is defined for Hindu’s, as the large and continuing hijras population is proof of.  The texts also often have a lot to say about how one should conduct oneself in regards to sexuality, although with multiple texts there are often times contradictions.



Benton, Catherine (2006) God of Desire: Tales of Kamadeva in Sanskrit Story Literature. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Doniger, Wendy (2011) “From kama to karma: the resurgence of Puritanism in contemporary India.”   Social Research 78:1. Accessed February 7, 2016.

Herdt, Gilbert H (1994) Third sex, third gender: beyond sexual dimorphism in culture and history. New York: Zone Books

Kalra, Gurvinder “Hijras: the unique transgender culture of India” International Journal of Culture and Mental Health 5:121-26. DOI:10.1080/17542863.2011.570915

Lidke, Jeffrey S (2003) “A Union of Fire and Water: Sexuality and Spirituality in Hinduism.” In   Sexuality and the World’s Religions, edited by David W. Machacek and Melissa M. Wilcox, 101-32. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.

Mehta, J.M (2009) Four Spans of Human Life: Ashram Vyavastha. Daryaganj: Hindoology Books.

Menski, Werner F (1991) “Marital Expectations as Dramatized in Hindu Marriage Rituals.” In Roles and Rituals for Hindu Women, edited by Julia Leslie, 47-67. Jawahar Nagar: Shri Jainendra Press.

Nanda, Serena (1990) Neither Man Nor Woman: The Hijaras of India. Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing Company.

O’Flaherty, Wendy Doniger (1973) Siva the Erotic Ascetic. London: Oxford University Press.

Penrose, Walter (2001) “Hidden in History: Female Homoeroticism and Women of a “Third Nature” in the South Asian Past.” Journal of the History of Sexuality 10:3-39. Accessed February 7, 2016.


Related Topics for Further Investigation

The Kamasutra

Ashram vyavastha






The marriage of the Pandeva’s

The Ramayana

The Mahabharata


Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic


Article written by: Adam Smith (April 2016) who is solely responsible for its content.




The Kama Sutra (Book Two: Sex)

The Kama Sutra is one of the most recognizable titles in much of the literate world.  The reasons for this, however, are largely misinformed.  Thanks, in large part, to both common misspelling and mispronunciation many assume the text’s title is actually Karma Sutra.  However, the book is not about karma.  Additionally, due to publications like The Cosmo Kama Sutra: 99 Mind-blowing Sex Positions, Kama Sutra: A Position a Day, and other such titles readily available in a Chapters bookstore or on the Amazon website, it is also widely believed that the Kama Sutra in its entirety is all about sex.  Again, this is not true.  Rather, it is better regarded as a guide to the pursuit of sensory pleasure.  Kama refers to more than simply sexual pleasure (Rodrigues 152).

Nevertheless, this article is indeed about the segment of the Kama Sutra that is dedicated to sexuality.  Wendy Doniger and Sudhir Kakar offered their translation of Vatsyayana Mallanaga’s ancient text in 2002.  Although this is not the first or only translation, it will be the translation used throughout this article.  The entire text is divided into seven “books”, each with its own chapters.  For the purposes of this article, the word “book” will refer to the portion of the Kama Sutra which Doniger and Kakar title as “Part Two: Sex”.  The purpose of this book is educational in nature.  Richard Shusterman contends as much, indicating that it was created with the understanding that “human sexual performance therefore can and should be rendered more enjoyable and rewarding through the application of knowledge, methods and refinements introduced by learning, thought, and aesthetic sensitivity” (Shusterman 61).  As such, the pages of this book are divided into chapters providing information on everything from genital size to sexual positions to the manner in which an encounter of sexual intercourse should be ended.  The rest of this article will be spent examining each chapter.

The first chapter deals with “sexual typology.”  Men and women are categorized according to the size of their genitals, and regarding the joining together for sexual intercourse, it is suggested that “among these, the equal couplings are the best” (Doniger and Kakar 29).   Additionally, temperament and endurance are discussed in terms of their variations.  The author discusses a variety of arguments regarding differences in orgasm for men and women.  He concludes that “the woman should be treated in such a way that she achieves her sexual climax first” (Doniger and Kakar 35).  Different types of love are said to take four forms, listed as “arising out of habit, erotic arousal, transference, and the objects of the senses” (Doniger and Kakar 37).

Chapter 2 is titled “Ways of Embracing.”  These ways are divided into two categories, the first of which occur “when a man and woman have not yet made love together”, and are intended to “reveal the signs of their love” (Doniger and Kakar 40).  Some of the descriptions are very specific and provide an incredibly intimate understanding of the culture (Doniger 2007:75).  The second category describes embraces that are meant to be used during the act of lovemaking.   Vatsyayana specifically notes that massaging does not qualify as a form of embrace, as it “takes place at a particular time set aside, has a different use, and is not enjoyed by both partners” (Doniger and Kakar 41).

The next three chapters discuss kissing, scratching and biting.  The author argues that there is no specific order in which these three actions must occur, because they all involve passion; “Vatsyayana says: Everything at any time, because passion does not look before it leaps” (Doniger and Kakar 42).  Having said that, kissing is the first topic discussed.  Despite noting the near endless variety of kisses, Vatsyayana argues that varying local customs permit specific types only and, as such, not all types of kisses are for all people (Doniger and Kakar 42).  Types of kissing are outlined, as well as the best kisses to be used depending on how comfortable and familiar the individuals are with each other.

Following the chapter on kissing comes a chapter on scratching.  Vatsyayana is careful to note that scratching is not for everyone, and not meant for all times: “Scratching is for their first time together, or on a return from a journey or a departure for a journey, or for a woman who has just relented from her anger or is drunk” (Doniger and Kakar 45).  He discusses different sized fingernails and the types of scratching the sizes are capable of.  Additionally, he suggests that illicit lovers ought to leave marks only in concealed places, so as to “increase their passion and make them remember” (Doniger and Kakar 47).  It is worth noting that, right before this remark, he contends that variety can help keep the passions alive.  This variety extends beyond the imaginations of a monogamous couple; indeed, an entire portion of the Kama Sutra is devoted to showing men how to win other men’s wives.  This chapter ends with the words “there are no keener means of increasing passion than acts inflicted with tooth and nail” (Doniger and Kakar 48).

Biting is the next topic discussed, in chapter five.  It is said that all “the places for kissing are also for biting, except for the upper lip, the inside of the mouth, and the eyes” (Doniger and Kakar 48).  Vatsyayana briefly notes that there are both good teeth and bad teeth; he then discusses the types of biting.  Ultimately, when a man scratches or bites, “he is making advances” (Doniger and Kakar 49).  However, it is important that a man “treat a woman according to the nature of the region she comes from” (Doniger and Kakar 49); Vatsyayana then outlines the different sexual demeanors of women from a variety of areas in and around India.

Chapter six is the chapter that spawned the idea of the Kama Sutra as a guide to sexual positions.  Indeed, this chapter discusses the “Varieties of Sexual Positions” (Doniger and Kakar 51).  Sexual positions are described largely in terms of the size of one’s genitals.  For example, a woman thought to have a small vagina, in terms of both depth and circumference, is referred to as “doe” (Doniger and Kakar 28).  Vatsyayana says, “A ‘doe’ generally has three positions to choose from”; he then proceeds to outline three positions in which, one assumes, it would be easier and more comfortable for such a woman to receive a larger penis into her vagina (Doniger and Kakar 52).  It could be said that at least some of the information presented surely must have been intended to teach readers how to give a woman pleasure (Doniger 2003:30).  Further general positions are mentioned, some of which “can only be done with practice” (Doniger and Kakar, 54).  Doniger suggests that even Vatsyayana himself regarded some of the positions as “over the top” (Doniger 2007: 77).  Vatsyayana then mentions “unusual sexual acts”, some of which simply include different sexual positions; however, he also mentions threesomes and group sex.  The final unusual sexual act mentioned is “sex below”, that is, anal sex (Doniger and Kakar 56).

Chapter seven of the book is entitled “Modes of Slapping and The Accompanying Moaning.”  Much of the chapter is devoted to outlining manners in which a man might strike his lover during sex.  While some of the described acts seem rather violent and might elicit cries from the woman, there is no mention of stopping the action.  Doniger suggests that this passage “inculcates what we now recognize as the rape mentality – ‘her mouth says no but her eyes say yes’” (Doniger 2007: 70).  Vatsyayana does warn of the dangers of certain regional customs and practices, mentioning two women who had died and one who had been blinded as a result of certain slapping techniques (Doniger and Kakar 59).

The next chapter begins with “The Woman Playing the Man’s Part.”  It briefly discusses the woman-on-top position during sex, before delving into the various movements a man might make with his penis while having intercourse.  Of note, there is mention of certain movements causing a woman’s eyes to “roll when she feels him in certain spots” (Doniger and Kakar 62).  This could represent an ancient recognition and understanding of what we refer to as the G-spot (Doniger 2007: 75).  There is further discussion of a multitude of manners in which a man may thrust during intercourse, along with a brief mention of movements a woman can make whilst on top, or “playing the man’s part”.  It is said that “a man can learn everything – a woman’s personality, what sort of sex excites her – from the way she moves on top” (Doniger and Kakar 64).  At the same time, Doniger argues, Vatsyayana “acknowledges a woman’s active agency and challenges her stereotyped gender role” when he discusses women taking on the “man’s role” during sex (Doniger 2003:29).

Chapter nine discusses oral sex, in terms of both the act itself as well as the type of people who like to engage in it.  Eight acts of oral sex are outlined when it is performed by a “person of the third nature” (Doniger and Kakar 67).  This “third nature” may be reference to cross-dressing men and women, and Doniger discusses this particular portion of text at length in a separate article (Doniger 2003: 26-28).  Ultimately, though Vatsyayana himself seems opposed to the idea of oral sex, he nonetheless suggests that, “since learned men disagree and there are discrepancies in what the religious texts say, one should act according to the custom of the region and one’s own disposition and confidence” (Doniger and Kakar 68).

The tenth and final chapter of the book begins by discussing the “start and finish of sex.”  Vatsyayana mentions a specific room in a man’s house, “dedicated to sex” (Doniger and Kakar 70).  There is mention of friends, alcohol, music, and touching, utilizing “the embraces and so forth that have already been described” (Doniger and Kakar 70).  When it has been determined that the woman is aroused, and at which point the friends have been sent away, the man loosens the knot of the woman’s waistband; “that is the beginning of sex” (Doniger and Kakar 70).  The end of sex is outlined in great detail.  The man and woman leave the room separately, to bathe, “embarrassed, not looking at one another, as if they were not even acquainted with one another (Doniger and Kakar 70).  Upon returning from bathing, they are no longer embarrassed.  Indeed, they relax and enjoy some food and drink, sometimes retiring to the rooftop porch to “enjoy the moonlight and tell stories to suit their mood” (Doniger and Kakar 71).  Furthermore, “as she lies in his lap, looking at the moon, he points out the rows of the constellations to her; they look at the Pleiades, the Pole Star, and the Garland of the Seven Sages that form the Great Bear.  That is the end of sex” (Doniger and Kakar 71).

Before the chapter is complete, Vatsyayana mentions the “different kinds of sex” according to levels of passion or levels of class (Doniger and Kakar 72).  He finishes the chapter, and this book, with a brief discussion of the causes of “lovers’ quarrels”.  How might one avoid such quarrels?  The solution comes in studying the sixty-four arts alongside the Kama Sutra.  Indeed, “the lover who employs in this way the sixty-four arts of love that Babhravya taught is successful with the best women” (Doniger and Kakar 73).



Betageri, Ankur (2011) “Books at a Glance.” Indian Literature 55, No. 2: 222-224.

Doniger, Wendy (2007) “Reading the ‘Kamasutra’: The Strange and the Familiar.” Daedalus 136, No. 2: 66-78.

Doniger, Wendy (2003) “The ‘Kamasutra’: It Isn’t All about Sex.” The Kenyon Review 25, No. 1: 18-37.

Grant, Ben (2005) “Translating/’The’ ‘Kama Sutra’” Third World Quarterly 26, No. 3: 509-516.

Kureishi, Hanif (2011) “It’s a sin: the Kama Sutra and the search for pleasure.” Critical Quarterly 53, No. 1: 1-5. Accessed February 4, 2016. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8705.2011.01984.x

Rodrigues, Hillary (2006) Hinduism – The eBook. Journal of Buddhist Ethics Online Books, Ltd.

Shusterman, Richard (2007) “Asian Ars Erotica and the Question of Sexual Aesthetics.” The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 65, No. 1: 55-68.

Vatsyayana. (2002) Kamasutra. Translated by Wendy Doniger and Sudhir Kakar. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Related Topics for Further Investigation

Alternate translations of the Kama Sutra (Richard Burton, Alain Danielou)


Kama Sastras


Tantric Sex


Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic


Article written by: Eric Selles (2016) who is solely responsible for its content.


Hindu Monasteries (Matha)

Hindu monasteries or mathas are any residential monastic establishments or educational centre for renouncers or sannyasis; even though, the ideal monk is classified as a wanderer. A matha can also refer to a single hut with only one ascetic or a large community of ascetics and their disciplines and students. They were founded by Sankara, a great teacher, in the 8th century. The original four mathas were strategically placed in India to be used as bulwarks for the missionaries and centres for Sankara’s ten religious groups: on the east coast, in Puri, the Govardhana matha for the Aranyakas and the Vana orders; in the Himalayas, near Badrinath, the Jyotih matha for the Giri, Parvaya, and Sagara orders; on the west coast, in Dvaraka, the Sarada matha for the Tirtha and Asrama orders; and lastly, in south India the Srngeri matha for the Bharati, Puri, and Sarasvati orders (Encyclopaedia Britannica). Later a fifth matha arose in Kancipuram, near Madras, called the Saradaptha matha (Encyclopaedia Britannica).

Each matha that was founded by Sankara is led by either a teacher or a spiritual leader also known as a Sankaracarya or a Jagadguru. Individual mathas and their history are directly associated with the succession of its spiritual leader; therefore each matha operates completely independent to any other matha. Typically, the current Sankaracarya appoints one of his followers to become the new spiritual leader in the event of his passing; however, issues can arise if no successor was named and the Sankaracarya passes away unexpectedly. Eventually gurus were even given the responsibility of providing social and economic services to the community. Each Sankaracarya has their own set of followers and their goal is to meet their own religious needs such as “focus on ritual activity and devotional worship rather than renunciation or meditative realization of non-dual brahman” (Fort 613).

There are several important initiations rites to the ascetic life. According Miller and Wertz the first being that after one has determined they want to enter the ascetic life they need to acquire a guru who is willing to take them as his discipline (84). The guru can either be an ascetic from one’s village, a religious teacher or in some cases an uncle (Miller and Wertz 84). Then the discipline must cut all his family ties by performing death ceremonies with his parents (Miller and Wertz 85). After the death ceremony the discipline will no longer be allowed to perform any household services (Miller and Wertz 85). The head ascetic of a monastery will then administer a ritual called diksa (Miller and Wertz 84). The head ascetic must be a man who has already performed his last vows of renunciation (Miller and Wertz 84). The two forms of diksa are when the guru administers the ritual to a lay disciple and the other is only given to ascetic disciples (Miller and Wertz 84). This recognizes the “would be” ascetic and that he is permanently separating himself from his former life (Miller and Wertz 84). Finally, the discipline must acquire a religious name that ends with his sub-order’s name (Miller and Wertz 84). After performing these basic initiation rites a man can enter the ascetic life.

According to Guru Saccinananda the main function of a matha is to give ethical advice and moral teachings to the disciples in hopes of creating “honest, peace-loving, independent, moral, and well behaved” people (Miller and Wertz 25). However, according to Saccinananda several other functions are “to provide education in Sanskrit, to feed guests, to give money to the poor, shelter to the helpless, and the burial to the dead who have no family’ (Miller and Wertz 25). He also claimed that there are ten daily practices that are basic steps to liberation. The first is that the discipline must get up before sunrise each morning (Miller and Wertz 26). The second is that they must pay respect every morning and evening to the sun God Savitri (Miller and Wertz 26). The third is each day while bathing the discipline must recite sacred mantras or verses to a deity of their choice (Miller and Wertz 26). The fourth is that they must perform daily sacrificial fire offerings and yoga postures (Miller and Wertz 26). The fifth is that they must service all their guests (Miller and Wertz 26). The sixth is that the funeral offerings to one’s ancestors must be performed at noon (Miller and Wertz 26). The seventh is that they must take sacred food in the  afternoon and before each evening (Miller and Wertz 26). The eighth is that each evening the disciples’ deity of choice must be worshipped (Miller and Wertz 26). The ninth is that each evening before they go to bed they must perform meditation for the welfare of humanity (Miller and Wertz 26). Lastly, they are only allowed to sleep from the hours of 11pm to 4pm (Miller and Wertz 26).

According to Jagadananda, in a Hindu matha, there a ten precepts of ethical behaviour that one must follow. The first is that you must act kind towards a harsh and unpleasant man and by doing so you have the ability to change him (Miller and Wertz 34). The second is that even if others do not like you that does not mean you have to dislike them back. Eventually these people will lose their power and someday feel bad for their negative actions (Miller and Wertz 34). The third is that you need to ensure you are using the appropriate dialogue when conversing with others as this is a main factor when determining if they will be an enemy or a friend (Miller and Wertz 35). The fourth is that you must respect others when it is their turn to talk as everyone was created equally and by God (Miller and Wertz 35). The fifth is that you should not be disrespectful to people in lower classes as you might be born into that class or position on your next rebirth (Miller and Wertz 35). The sixth is that only ignorant men are prejudiced to one’s caste and skin colour (Miller and Wertz 35). The seventh is that you must consider your “superiors as well wishers and your inferiors as blessed” (Miller and Wertz 35). The eighth is that you need to be independent but also care for your parents needs at the same time as they were the ones who made you into the man you are by giving up their money, time and resources (Miller and Wertz 35). The ninth, is that when you pray to a deity you should be praying for the greatness and happiness of humanity  and not for yourself; the deity will only listen and respond to a man who is concerned about the welfare of others (Miller and Wertz 35). Lastly, “do not grasp onto things” or be materialistic; Brahman, the Vedic creator god, is always around and is everywhere in the universe (Miller and Wertz 35).

Even though numerous mathas have been established over the years as either additions to other institutions or by an individual guru, the original four mathas created by Sankara are still the main ones. Srngeri, Dvaraka, Badrinath and Puri are special and are also known as the amnaya mathas as they are connected with the four Vedas, the matching Upanisad Mahavakyas and Sankara’s four main followers (Sundaresan 110). The most famous and influential matha is Srngeri, in Karnataka State, in South Asia. It is also known as the centre of the Sankaran Vedanta tradition and was originally used as a place to stay and study for samnyasins. In the Srngeri matha the samnyasins who reside there highly regard the Vivekacudamani (Sawai 22).  However, since the fourteenth century it became a place for pilgrimage, worship and philosophical study (Fort 613). The main goddess that is now worshipped at Srngeri is Sri Sarada (Fort 613). The lay adherents of the Vedic tradition or smartas also now visit Srngeri for advice and boons from the Sankaracaryas (Fort 613).



Fort, Andrew (1994) The Faith of Ascetics and Lay Smartas: A Study of the Sankaran Tradition of Srngeri. Journal of Asian Studies 53.2: 613. Web. 29 Feb. 2016.

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Miller, David M., and Dorothy C. Wertz (1976) Hindu monastic life: The monks and monasteries of Bhubaneswar. McGill-Queen’s Press-MQUP. Web. 5 Feb 2016.

Prasad, Leela (2006) Text, Tradition, and Imagination: Evoking the Normative in Everyday Hindu Life. Numen 53.1: 1–47. Web. 5 Feb 2016.

Sawai, Yoshitsugu (1987) The Nature of Faith in the Sankaran Vedanta Tradition. Numen 34.1: 18–44. Web. 5 Feb 2016.

Sears, Tamara (2008) Constructing the Guru: Ritual Authority and Architectural Space in Medieval India. The Art Bulletin 90.1: 7–31. Web.7 Feb 2016.

Shankara (2016) Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. Web. 07 Feb. 2016 <>.

Sundaresan, Vidyasankar (2000) Conflicting Hagiographies and History: The Place of Sankaravijaya Texts in Advaita Tradition. International Journal of Hindu Studies 4.2: 109–184. Web. 7 Feb 2016.


Related Topics for Further Investigation




Smarta tradition


Advaita Tradition

Srngeri matha

Amnaya mathas




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Article written by: Hailey McLean (March 2016) who is solely responsible for the content