Category Archives: b. The Four Goals/ Aims of Life

The Kamasutra (Book Four: Wives)

The Kamasutra is an old Hindu book on love. Kama in Sanskrit means sensory pleasure, and sutra is a word for a text. Contrary to popular belief in western society however, the Kamasutra does not solely focus on sex positions and erotic love. The Kamasutra not only contains positions for sexual intercourse, but also features information on many other topics. These topics include, but are not limited to: finding a partner, virgins, courting, marriage, marriage to more than one woman, wives, the role of women, the role of the man, committing adultery, and living with courtesans.

The Kamasutra was written by Vatsyayana Mallanaga. Not a lot is known about Vatsyayana besides the fact that he was a Hindu from India. The Kamasutra was originally written in Sanskrit but since then has been translated numerous times by numerous people. This article will mainly focus on the translation done by Wendy Doniger and Sudhir Kakar in 2002. Both Doniger and Kakar are accomplished authors and scholars and both have studied religion at university.

Book Four in the Kamasutra is all about wives and that is the main focus of this article. Book Four consists of two chapters and within the two chapters are eight topics. These topics include: The Life of an Only Wife, Her Behaviour during his Absence, The Senior Wife, The Junior Wife, The Second-hand Woman, The Wife Unlucky in Love, Women of the Harem, and A Man’s Management of Many Women.

The first chapter and topic in Book Four of the Kamasutra is The Life of an Only Wife. An only wife is to treat her husband as if he were a God. Everything she does is to be done for him. She also takes on the responsibilities and actions of a housewife. This includes keeping the house clean and beautiful to look at at all times. This also includes making the proper offerings three times a day to keep the household in good standings with the gods, and to make sure the gods are getting the proper amount of worship. The only wife is to treat her husband’s relatives based on their merits (Doniger & Kakar 94).

The only wife also tends to a garden. She should plant herbs, vegetables, flowers, mustard seed, sugar-cane, lemon grass, and much more. The garden should always be weeded. It should also have a pond and should be a wonderful display to look at. Her relationships are limited and she may not have a close one with any of the following: a  beggar, a Buddhist nun, a fortune-teller, or a magician. When preparing meals the only wife puts her husband first. She cooks meals that depend on what he likes, what he does not like, what is good for him, and what is not (Doniger & Kakar 94).

When she is called by her husband she is always ready to serve. She is never seen in his eyes without makeup or jewellery on, she is always to be made up and to be a pleasant sight to look at. She is only allowed to go out to an event, such as a wedding, or even just out with her friends with her husband’s permission. He is very much in control. Her sleep schedule depends on his. She is to only get slightly offended at her husband’s infidelities, making sure he is not too humiliated. The only wife makes sure to keep herself clean. This includes having clean teeth, no body odour, and she tries not to sweat at all, as this would not be pleasing to her husband. When going to make love to her husband, she must be dressed up in her finest clothes, jewellery, and oils. When her husband fasts or vows the only wife also undergoes these things with him (Doniger & Kakar 95).

When she has the money, the only wife spends money on household items, perfumes, oils, seeds for the garden, and more. She never tells anyone about these assets however. She strives to be much better than any other women in her grouping in every way. The only wife has a number of duties. She is to keep track of the finances, make meals, and after meals make things such as butter with the leftovers, she makes clothing out of cotton and thread, she works in the fields, and she takes care of the livestock (Doniger & Kakar 95-96).

The only wife finds use for all her husband’s old and worn out clothes. She stocks, uses, buys, and sells wine and liquor properly. She honours her husband’s friends and serves his parents. She likes the people her husband likes and hates the people he hates. She is kind and considerate to servants. That is the life an only wife is to lead (Doniger & Kakar 96).

The second topic in Book Four of the Kamasutra is Her Behaviour During his Absence. When her husband is away, the only wife fasts, dedicates herself to the gods, and takes care of the household. She goes to older relatives to get the same guidance she would normally receive from her husband. She is not to act on her own accord. She takes on her normal daily tasks and also needs to finish anything her husband has started and left. She is only allowed to see her own relatives on special occasions and even at that time she has to be escorted and cannot stay as long as she would like. She tries to make as much money as possible while her husband is gone by spending less and selling more (Doniger & Kakar 97).

When her husband returns from his absence, she honours the gods and gives offerings unto them. An only wife who cares about her husband tends to his every need, no matter what type of woman she is. Successful wives make their husbands happy in every way without the need of a co-wife (Doniger & Kakar 97).

The third topic begins chapter two in Book Four of the Kamasutra. It is The Senior Wife. If the only wife fails in her duties, her husband is to find a co-wife to aid her. A woman tries to avoid this in every way by working hard to make sure her husband is satisfied. If she cannot have children, she herself is to ask for a co-wife. She however, puts herself in the higher position. She becomes the senior wife (Doniger and Kakar 98).

The senior wife looks at the new wife like a sister. She helps her in every way she can. She does not concern herself if the new wife gets hostile or even makes a mistake with their husband. She might give some advice to the wife but will reveal everything that has happened to her husband privately (Doniger and Kakar 98).

She does not give special treatment to her co-wife’s children. She treats her servants and her friends special but does not give any special attention to her own relatives. She does however give special attention to the other woman’s relatives. If there is more than one co-wife, the senior wife will only associate herself with the wife directly below her. She will pick fights with the favourite and cause problems with the one her husband likes most. She keeps this fight going until the husband favours her, then she lets it go. This is the life a senior wife is to lead (Doniger and Kakar 98-99).

The fourth topic in Book Four of the Kamasutra is The Junior Wife. The junior wife is to look up to her co-wife and see her as a mother. She reports everything to her. She gets permission from her to sleep with the husband. She never gossips. She cares for other women’s children more than her own. Secretly however, she serves the husband more than the other wife. She tries to win all his love.  (Doniger & Kakar 99).

If the senior wife cannot have children the junior wife tries to get the husband to pity her, unless there is a chance that the junior wife can get rid of her altogether. If she can do this then the junior wife will assume role of the only wife. This is the life a junior wife is to lead (Doniger & Kakar 99).

The fifth topic in Book Four of the Kamasutra is The Second-hand Woman. A second-hand woman is a widow who gets to find a husband for a second time. She, however, is already tormented and so tries to find a good one who will make her happy. She seeks to find physical pleasure and so searches for a husband who is well endowed (Doniger & Kakar 100).

She will get the husband to cover costs of her parties and entertainment. If she is to leave the man, she has to return everything except for love gifts he has given her. If he decides she has to leave, however, she gets to keep everything. She takes over the house. She has great skill and knowledge from her past experiences. She does favours for her co-wives by paying special attention to their children. They are to serve her in return. She is always in the mood for partying. This is the life a second-hand woman should lead (Doniger & Kakar 100-101).

The sixth topic in Book Four of the Kamasutra is The Wife Unlucky in Love. The wife unlucky in love seeks support from the favourite wife of the husband. She has no secrets. She does the job of nurse for all her husband’s children. She leads the house in religious offerings and fasts. She treats the servants well and actually sees herself no greater than they are. She mends fights with the women and the husband. This is the life a wife unlucky in love should lead (Doniger & Kakar 101).

The seventh topic in Book Four of the Kamasutra is Women of the Harem. The woman of the harem brings gifts from the queens to the king. The king gives these back to the queens as a gift. The women of the harem are all very well dressed. At the end of the day the king goes to see them all together. He treats the women according to how long they have been in the harem. That is what their worth is based on. After this he goes to see his second-hand women, his courtesans, and his dancing girls (Doniger and Kakar 102).

When the king wakes in the afternoon, the servants of the woman whose turn it is to sleep with him, the woman who has been passed over, and the woman who is fertile go to him bringing scented oils and the stamp of each woman. Whichever one the king takes is the woman he will sleep with that night (Doniger and Kakar 102).

At festivals and other events all of the women of the harem are honoured. These women however never go out, and only select few are allowed in so as the worlds do not mix. This is the life women of the harem should lead (Doniger and Kakar 102).

The eighth topic in Book Four of the Kamasutra is A Man’s Management of Many Women. A man must treat all of his acquired wives equally. He must not tell the wives about the others. A man should keep his wives happy by honouring her, giving her gifts, and confiding in her. He should spend time with each wife individually. A woman who behaves properly puts her husband in power  (Doniger & Kakar 103).

Another popular translation of the Kamasutra is the translation done by Richard Burton. Although similar, the translation done by Richard Burton varies from the translation done by Wendy Doniger and Sudhir Kakar. In Book Four of Burton’s translation of the Kamasutra, the chapter titles are much more detailed but the chapters themselves are more condensed. Book Four in Burton’s translation is called About A Wife and it only consists of two sections. These sections are: Chapter One: the Manner of Living of a Virtuous Woman, and of Her Behaviour During the Absence of Her Husband, and Chapter Two: On the Conduct of the Elder Wife Towards the Other Wives of Her Husband, and on That of a Younger Wife Towards the Elder Ones. Also on the Conduct of a Virgin Widow Remarried; of a Wife Disliked by Her Husband; of the Women in the King’s Harem; and Lastly on the Conduct of a Husband Towards Many Wives. Doniger and Kakar separate the topics into specific, easy to follow, subheadings. Burton, however, places everything within Book Four into two very broad chapters. Although the contents of Book Four in both translation are very similar the wording is very different and each and each translation focuses on different specific points.


References and Further Recommended Reading

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

Vatsyayana (2006) Kamasutra. Translated by Richard Burton. New York: Dover Publications.


Related Topics for Further Investigation


Kamasutra Book Four

Hindu Wives

Wendy Doniger

Sudhir Kakar

Richard Burton

The Senior Wife

The Junior Wife

The Only Wife

Women of the Harem


Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic


Article written by: Nicole Atkinson (March 2016), who is solely responsible for its content.

The Artha Sastra



The Artha Sastra means sastra (science) of Artha (earth/wealth/polity) (Prakash 5).The Artha Sastra is one of few written documents that represent ancient India’s political views. The authorship of the Artha Sastra is credited to Kautilya (also known as Chanakya) and it is believed to have been written around 300 B.C. (Boesche 10). According to R. Shamasastry (3), “This Arthasastra is made as a compendium of almost all the Arthasastras, which, in view of acquisition and maintenance of the earth, have been composed by ancient teachers”. Kautilya’s Artha Sastra is comprised of 15 books (Samasastry 2).

Chandragupta Maurya (c. 317-293 B.C.E), who is known for being the first emperor of India, united India by defeating the Nanda kings and by stopping the invasion of Alexander’s successors (Boesche 10). Kautliya was the chief minister of Chandragupta’s court (Prakash 4). In order to govern efficiently and expand the vast Mauryan Empire that was even larger than the Mughal Empire or the British Empire in India, a constitution was needed (Boesche 12). In this situation, Arthasastra was written and came into play.

 Arthasastra deals with all aspects of an empire. Kautliya gave utmost importance to the four sciences. These are:

  1. Anvikshaki (philosophy)
  2. Trayi (the triple Vedas- Sama, Rig, and Yajur, deals with four classes (Varnas) and four orders (ashrams))
  3. Varta (agriculture, cattle breeding and trade)
  4. Danda-Niti (science of government). (Samasastry 9; Ghoshal 128)

Reason for this, according to Samasastry’s word,

“Righteous and unrighteous acts (Dharmadharmau) are learnt from the triple Vedas; wealth and non-wealth from Varta; the expedient and the inexpedient (Nayanayau), as well as potency and impotency (Balabale) from the science of government.” (10).

Kautliya believed that these four sciences should be taught only by specialist teachers (Samasastry 15).

Then he explained the efficiency of learning (vidhyasamarthyam) and enforced that the disciples including the prince(s) should strictly follow it (Samasastry 16).

Unlike today’s government, ancient empires were ruled by kings; but like today’s government, ministers played an important role in ancient times too. So Kautilya wrote about duties and responsibilities of a king as well as the importance of skilled and knowledgeable ministers. According to Samasastry, words that Kautilya used to warn a king are:

“If a king is energetic, his subjects will be equally energetic. If he is reckless, they will not only be reckless likewise, but also eat into his works. Besides, a reckless king will easily fall into the hands of his enemies. Hence the king shall ever be wakeful.” (51)

In his point of view, a king’s day and night should be divided into eight nalikas (1.5 hours) or according to the length of the shadow and each division should be passed fulfilling certain duties (Samasastry 51). Besides this, a king should attend the court on a regular basis and should listen to the petitioners and take appropriate action to avoid public disaffection (Samasastry 51). He also alerted the king about six enemies: kama (lust), krodha (anger), lobha (greed), mana (vanity), mada (haughtiness), and harsha (over joy) (Samasastry 16).

Obviously, Kautliya wanted to represent the king as an ideal figure to the nation to win the support and loyalty. Since in ancient India, high priest and other priests were important figures, he advised they should be chosen with caution and only the most qualified one should be appointed as high priest (Samasastry 21). While talking about ministries, Kautilya wrote about a conversation between few people and advised that a king should take all of these opinions into consideration while forming the council of ministers (Samasastry 19-20) and encouraged the king to discuss each and every matter with a mantri parisad (council of ministers) that were divided in two levels. The inner cabinet were made of a chief minister, chief priest, military commander and crowned prince, while the outer cabinet were represented by prominent members of the society (Prakash 10). Even after someone is selected as a councillor or a priest, he should be kept under close observation and examined from time to time to check his loyalty to the king (Samasastry 23). According to Prakash (9), Artha Sastra also introduced the concept of saptaganga (state having seven elements) (Kautilya: Book 6, Ch. 1; Sarkar, 1922:167-9; Verma, [1954] 74:80; Rao 1958:82). These are:

  1. Swami (Monarch)
  2. Amatya (Officials)
  3. Janapada (Population and Territory)
  4. Durga (Fort)
  5. Kosa (Treasury)
  6. Bala (Military)
  7. Surhit (Ally)

Only a combination of these seven elements would help a king establish a prosperous state. Kautliya also discussed the importance of choosing a rightful heir to the throne, since the future of the empire is dependent on it. So he set up a guideline to train a prince or steps that a king might take in absence of a rightful heir (Samasastry 45-50). He also legalized the use of spies as a necessary precaution to test government figures’ loyalty to king and to avoid enemy invasion. But he enforced that only those free of any family bonds and members of sudra caste should be used as spies (Samastry 28-31).


Since the Mauryan Empire was a rapidly expanding empire, as a chief minister Kautliya tried his best to perfectionize the science of warfare. Expansion of the kingdom was his foremost priority. His plan was to build a skilled and superior army. In order to achieve this goal, his suggestion was that the commander and even the king should be trained in all kinds of warfare and weapons (Boesche 22). He advised that the king should not trust other people when it comes to war and military matters, and he should supervise everything himself (Boesche 22). In Kautilya`s point of view, there are three kinds of war: open war, concealed war and silent war (Boesche 22). Open war is predetermined and happens face to face, while concealed war is mostly about guerrilla warfare (Boesche 22). On the contrary, silent war is all about secrecy. According to Boesche (23), Kautilya originated the concept of secret war (Mojumdar 63). Kuatilya documented different approaches to infiltrate enemies and weaken their power in the Artha Sastra (Boesche 23-24). He favoured all necessary means including use of spies, prostitutes, and even the elders of the army when it comes to war (Boesche 22). He believed in the expansion of a kingdom (Boesche 28). That is why he suggested that any state showing sign(s) of weakness should be attacked and invaded in a favourable condition considering loss of men, wealth and profit (Boesche 28). He also gave utmost importance to defense. That`s why he described a blue print of a well protected fort in the Artha Sastra (Samasastry 66-70). With the intention of giving his army the best chance of victory, he described briefly about marching against an enemy, marching in hostile territory, unifying forces with allies, calculating the favourable time of an invasion, and other warfare techniques in several books of the Artha Sastra.


In order to govern the vast Mauryan Empire, Kautilya developed a complicated and organized network of bureaucracy. He divided responsibilities into thirty categories and employed thirty adhyaksas (chiefs) to look after each category (Prakash 13). Adhyaksas were provided with a house and a handsome salary. To encourage the bureaucrats, he also developed a reward system by which each bureaucrat would get a part of the taxes as an incentive (Prakash 13). Besides, Kautilya realized that the continuity of a successful state depends on an interactive system between tax payers and state government as well as on trade and commerce. So, bureaucrats in the Mauryan Empire were responsible for providing three kinds of goods – the quality control machinery, the system of currency and system of weights and measures (Prakash 13). He also promoted imports as a way of enriching the state with goods that either they did not have or the production was really expensive (Prakash 13). His taxation system was equally sophisticated. According to Prakash (11), “Kautilya visualized a ‘dharmic social contract’ between the King and the citizens”. The superintendant of tolls was responsible for taking taxes from merchants, while adyaksas were responsible for taking taxes from other tax payers (Prakash 13, Samasastry 155). He also documented specific instructions to the superintendant of tolls on how, where and when merchants should pay their taxes (Samasastry 155). Counterfeiting was a punishable crime in the Mauryan Empire. On the other hand, citizens of the Mauryan Empire also enjoyed specific tax free trade and the janapads (districts) had the right to ask for tax remission under special circumstances (Samasastry 156, Prakash 11).


According to Prakash (12), “Kautilya did not view law to be an expression of the free will of the people”. In Kautilya`s point of view, law should be based on dharma (scared law), vyavhara (evidence), charita (history and custom), and rajasasana (edicts of the king) (Prakash 12). He visualized a royal court having 6 members – 3 with the knowledge of dharmasastras (sacred law) and 3 ministers of the king. He also described brief penalty system in accordance with the offence committed in the Artha Sastra.


Female figures did not possess a high status in ancient India`s male-dominated society. The same was true for Kautilya. He was in favour of using women as spies. He also legalized prostitution and brought it under taxation system. Although, aniskasini (women from upper caste who did not leave their work) were allowed to earn their livelihood by spinning, they had to do all their transactions in dim light to avoid being seen by men (Jaiswal 51). Women who were involved in service of the king were considered a treasure of the state and enjoyed a handsome salary and protection (Jaiswal 54). Besides, intercourse with a girl against her will or intercourse with a minor girl was a punishable crime (Jaiswal 53).

The Artha Sastra deals with all aspects of a well-constructed government as well as a monarchical empire. Kautilya succeeded in constructing a constitution that shaped a vast successful empire. Some of these rules are still in play.



Boesche, Roger (2003) “Kautilya’s “Arthaśāstra” on War and Diplomacy in Ancient India” Journal of military history, Vol. 67, No. 1.

Ghoshal, Upendra (1923) A History of Hindu Political Theories. London: Oxford University Press.

Jaiswal, Suvira (2001) “Female images in Artha Sastra of Kautilya” Social Scientists, Vol 29 No.3 /4.

Mojumdar, Bimal (1995) The military system in ancient India. Calcutta: World Press Ltd.

Prakash, Aseem (1993) “State and Statecraft in Kautilya’s Arthasastra” Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, Indiana University, Bloomington

Shamasastry, Rudrapatnam ([1915] 1967) Kautilya’s Arthashastra ([1915] 1967), eighth ed. Mysore, Mysore Printing and Publishing House.

Related topics for further investigation:

  • Chandragupta Maurya
  • Bindusara Amitraghata
  • Chayanakya
  • Mauryan Empire
  • Nanda Empire
  • Jain tradition
  • Dharma


Noteworthy websites related to the topic:


Article written by Fazla Chowdhury (April, 2013), who is solely responsible for its content.

The Kama Sutra

The purpose and the meaning of the Kama Sutra have been widely misconstrued throughout most of the Western world to be a text regarding the positions in sexual intercourse. Though the Kama Sutra does contain information about intercourse and the various ways of performing sexually, it is much more than that. It is a text about a certain way of living – “about finding a partner, maintaining power in a marriage, committing adultery, living as or with a courtesan, and using drugs” (Doniger and Kakar xi). This text describes in great detail the principles and rules (sutra) of love (kama). The Kama Sutra was originally composed in the ancient Sanskrit language of India. It is not known when the text was written and there is little information on its author, Vatsyayana Mallanaga. Clues as to the origins of this text are found within the writings but scholars have not come to a collective decision about the exact dates of authorship. Vatsyayana begins the Kama Sutra with an allusion to the four goals of life: dharma, kama, artha, and moksa. Righteousness, pleasure, wealth, and liberation respectively describe the terms used above. Vatsyayana explains that he wrote the Kama Sutra in order that others may learn about pleasure just as other texts such as the Dharma Sastras are used to learn about other goals in life.

The Kama Sutra belongs to a set of texts that are part of an erotic science known as kamashastra (the science of kama). Vatsyayana lays out particular guidelines and methods in this text that he believes to be the appropriate and standard ways of living, not just sexually, but more broadly sensual. Sensuality includes food, perfume, and music in addition to the obvious sexuality. Vatsyayana says that “because a man and a woman depend on each other for sex, it requires a method” (9). The Kama Sutra is therefore, a text explaining methods required to please both the man and the woman in sexual intercourse. The text is mainly directed at men because men are supposed to be in power when it comes to sexual prowess. They must learn the techniques and processes involved in order to be successful.

The understanding of the text is a science because Vatsyayana’s prose can be very obscure and mysterious. One must understand the connections that are being made within the text by being aware of the context and subject of the words. Because the text is written in sutras (similar to the English words ‘sew’ and ‘suture’) one can describe the Kama Sutra as having threads of meaning that are connected throughout the entire body of literature. Because of this ambiguity it is easy to understand why most people think of just sexual positions when they hear the name Kama Sutra. Most people do not understand the deeper meanings and religious significance behind sexual intercourse and the life of a woman and a man pursuing kama.

Vatsyayana produces information about sexual behaviour in the Kama Sutra which can be interpreted as merely guidelines. He is not stating in this text that one has to use a specific sexual position or that one must act in a certain way around one’s spouse, he says that one ‘should’ act in a certain way or perform in a certain sexual manner. After describing one method of oral sex Vatsyayana states that “when a man has considered the region, and the time, and the technique, and the textbook teachings, and himself, he – or may not – make use of these practices (Mallanaga 69).

The pursuit of kama is the main focus of this text because Hindus believe that kama is one of the four main goals of life. This concept is related to the idea that pleasure is the most important pursuit of humanity. This way of thinking is related to the philosophy of hedonism. The pursuit of pleasure is placed at the highest importance in hedonistic thinking. The Kama Sutra can be considered a hedonistic text because it portrays how men and women can strive to achieve the highest state of kama through desire and pleasure. He describes how to kiss, how to perform oral sex, how to win a virgin, and many other situations that would arise throughout one’s quest for pleasure.

Although the Kama Sutra contains many books describing the acquisition of pleasure, it also has many books on other aspects of sexual relationships that are not quite as positive but can still be considered hedonistic. Chapters such as “Ways to Get Money from Him” (Mallanaga 142-145) and “Ways to Get Rid of Him” (Mallanaga 145-147) are surprising to people who only believe the Kama Sutra to be about sexual positions. The text contains many of these surprisingly harsh and blunt subjects that one would not expect to see in a book about love and lust.

One of these surprising subjects is homosexuality. In book five, Vatsyayana discusses female homoeroticism in the women who are part of a harem. The women of the harem have one husband shared by many so he explains how the females satisfy themselves sexually without the aid of a man. According to Vatsyayana, a woman may satisfy her sexual needs through the use of masturbation or homosexuality. A servant girl can dress up as a man and relieve the desires of another woman through the use of “dildos or with bulbs, roots, or fruits that have that form” (Mallanaga 126). The female plays a role as a man in order to fulfill sexual needs.

The concept of homoeroticism and the ambiguity of gender can be seen through the writings of other authors who are interested in this text as well. Walter Penrose discusses female homoeroticism and the ambiguity of fixed gender roles in his article entitled “Hidden in History: Female Homoeroticism and Women of a “Third Nature” in the South Asian Past.” Penrose states that the Hindu religion allows “institutionalized gender variance” (4). This confirms Vatsyayana’s belief that women are allowed to act as men when their purpose is to relieve their desires. However there are a great number of stories that claim homosexuality is not something to be desired.

Ruth Vanita discusses the story of Bhagiratha’s birth to two women in her article entitled “Born of Two Vaginas”. According to this story, a child born as a result of female on female sexual intercourse results in the conception and birth of a lump of flesh or jelly. The child has no bones because a male was considered to be the one who contributes the bones to the baby. This story can be read in the Sushruta Samhita, written in the first century. Vatsyayana refers to this story in the Kama Sutra in the chapter entitled “Sexual Typology” (28-37). He agrees that sexual desire must be between a man and a woman because “the man is the active agent and the young woman is the passive locus” (Mallangaga 34). They complement each other in such a way that a woman and a woman could not.

There are numerous books in modern literature that clam to be influenced by Vatsyayana Mallangaga’s Kama Sutra but all that they entail is a detailed description of sexual positions and the pleasure that sex gives to men and women. The Kama Sutra does indeed include descriptions and pictures of sexual positions but it is not the main focus of the text. The text focuses on power in the relationship, methods in which to please your partner in ways other than sexual and just general advice on how to live a life in which kama is fully achieved.


Vatsyayana, Mallanaga. Kamasutra. Trans. Wendy Doniger and Sudhir Kakar. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003

Penrose, Walter. “Hidden in History: Female Homoeroticim and Women of a “Third Nature” in the South Asian Past.” Journal of the History of Sexuality 10.1 (2001) 3-39. 31 January 2009

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

Vanita, Ruth. “Born of Two Vaginas: Love and Reproduction between Co-Wives in Some Medieval Indian Texts”. A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies11.4 (2005) 547-577. 31 January 2009

Related topics for further investigation




Sushruta Samhita



Noteworthy Wesites Related to the Topic

Article written by: Sarah Sawatzky (March 2009) who is solely responsible for its content.


The Hindu concept of moksa is that of complete liberation from suffering and death. Once moksa is attained, individuals are free from the cycle of karma, within which they must endure or reap the consequences of their actions, as well as samsara (the cycle of rebirth) or worldly existence (Shivkumar 77). Moksa is the last of the four Hindu goals of life and may be sought during the samnyasin (renouncer) stage of life (Prasad 5). [More about the four goals of life can be found in Rodrigues (2006)]. While it is scarcely mentioned in the other Vedas, the Upanisads declare the importance of liberation and the Advaita Vedanta school of philosophy formed by Sankara has emphasized it as the ultimate goal of life (Kumar 22). Advaita Vedanta teaches that avidya (ignorance) and maya (illusion) in this world keep people from the realization of the true self (atman) and Ultimate Reality (Brahman) (Shivkumar 30).

According to the Upanisads, Brahman is the creator of the universe, transcends the universe, and is the universe (Shivkumar 28). Atman is the very essence of the true self within each person and is also Ultimate Reality. Atman and Brahman are one entity and this realization, that one’s true self is also Brahman, is what brings about moksa. This is illustrated in the Upanisads by the story of Svetaketu and his father Uddalaka (Arapura 73). Although Svetaketu has completed his formal education, his father must still teach him about the subtle essence of reality, which is the truth about Brahman and Atman, tat tvam asi (that thou art). In this way, Uddalaka shows his son that Atman and Brahman are one. This understanding is only possible once the two forms of ignorance, nama (name) and rupa (form), have been defeated (Shivkumar 149). Just as the name and form of a river disappears when it is united with the sea, one who achieves right outlook or wisdom (vidya) becomes united with Brahman. Although there is debate over the characteristics of enlightenment after one achieves moksa, the Upanisads declare that this state of pure consciousness is filled with intense joy (Chakrabarti 7).

Vedanta philosophy asserts that an adhikari (eligible person) for the pursuit of moksa must undergo personal training through spiritual practices (Kumar 112). This training creates within adhikaris four main qualities that help them to attain liberation. The first, called nityanityavastuviveka, is the power to discriminate between permanent and impermanent. This is especially important since one must identify the transcendent essence of the universe. Ihamutrarthabhogaviraga, the second quality, is detachment from worldly and other-worldly objects. This can be cultivated during the samnyasin stage of life by renouncing one’s possessions and migrating frequently from place to place (Rodrigues 2006:93). The third quality, samadamadisadhanasampat, is the development of self-control through six properties: restraining the internal organ, controlling the external sense organs, abstaining from all but the pursuit of truth, practicing tolerance, focusing the mind, and having faith in spiritual teachings (Kumar 112). Finally, the adhikari must possess mumuksutva, which is a strong desire to be released from samsara. Even though the end of suffering may not be enough to fuel this desire, as it also entails giving up worldly pleasure, Advaita Vedanta enhances motivation by characterizing enlightenment as perpetual bliss (Chakrabarti 5).

Three main paths (yogas) to attaining moksa are emphasized in the Bhagavad Gita, which is part of the famous epic the Mahabharata (Shivkumar 30). The first of these is jnana (transcendental knowledge), which is gained through contemplation and meditation on the true nature of the self (Raghavachar 266). One may also develop knowledge by learning from a guru (spiritual teacher) or an individual who has already achieved enlightenment (Shivkumar 141). Study of the Vedas with close attention to Vedanta can also lead to the accumulation of knowledge required to bring about the realization of moksa. In addition, Patanjali’s Raja Yoga, and other forms of yoga can also be used to pursue knowledge of Atman/Brahman because it leads to the silence of the mind so that one can see the truth (Ravindra 177). Although the Bhagavad Gita maintains that anyone, regardless of class (varna), can achieve moksa, it may be easier for individuals in certain varnas to pursue a specific path to liberation. Since intense study of spiritual matters is an asset in following jnana, the Brahmin priestly class who spend a great deal of time learning and reading Vedic texts may be exposed to an environment that is more facilitative to the attainment of moksa through jnana than individuals in other varnas.

The second main path to moksa is that of karma (action) (Shivkumar 145). The Bhagavad Gita teaches that action should be disciplined. In detaching themselves from this world, adhikaris should renounce all attachment from the fruits of their actions. For example, they should not perform deeds simply because these deeds will bring them success. However, this does not mean that a person seeking moksa should renounce all action and practice inaction. Rather, God (or Visnu) in the form of Krsna declares that the world would be destroyed if he did not perform actions. He concludes that people should dedicate all their actions to God. The philosopher Ramanuja further interprets this instruction as stating that followers should put themselves under the control of God and become God’s tools (Raghavachar 266). As a result of this dedicated action, the cyclic law of karma falls away and gives rise to one’s inner spirit or Atman/Brahman. Despite this focus on action, there is some controversy over whether or not practicing dharma (righteousness/duty) is a valid way to attain moksa (Ingalls 3). This is very similar to the debate over the importance of good works versus faith in Protestant Christianity as a means for entering heaven. Regardless of Sankara’s insistence that dharma is a worldly goal bound by samsara, many Hindus follow the Bhagavad Gita’s view of righteous action as an essential part of the journey to attaining moksa.

Bhakti (loving devotion) is the third core path to moksa. This path, of which anyone is capable, requires full faith in God, an intense love for him and absolute surrender to him (Shivkumar 147). Ramanuja proclaims that bhakti must evolve from the disciplines of karma and jnana and that love emerges from the decision of the seeker to meditate on the nature of Brahman (Raghavachar 267). Devotion is the result of experience or knowledge of God, love of God cultivated by experience, and disciplined service to God. Despite these philosophical stipulations, this path is often seen as a simpler way of achieving moksa than both karma and jnana. Bhakti is believed to extend divine grace to seekers of Brahman/Atman because it can be followed by anyone regardless of caste, knowledge, opportunity for action or past deeds. Therefore, it is often spoken of as a universal and democratic way to enlightenment.

There are also other ways of attaining moksa than those accentuated in the Bhagavad Gita. Prapatti (self-surrender) is the humble offering of one’s burden and responsibility as part of humanity over to God in order to attain enlightenment (Raghavachar 270). It is performed in a single act that is final, absolute and cannot be repeated. Seekers hand over their whole selves, along with the responsibility of attaining moksa, to God. In the Ramanujite tradition, the actual process of prapatti entails three meditative mantras (sacred utterances), two self-offering sentences, and the recitation of the last verse of Krsna’s instruction to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita.

In contrast, Hindu Grammarians believe that words are both reflections of Brahman/Atman as well as the means through which he can be known (Coward 209). In both the Vakyapadiya and his commentary on Patanjali’s Mahabhasya, Bhartrhari emphasizes that the study of grammar, through the correct use of words and the knowledge of their essence, can lead to moksa. The use of speech purified by grammar gives the speaker spiritual merit, which results in wellbeing and moral power. Conversely, speech that is tainted by the incorrect use of words confuses the mind and creates ignorance (avidya). Therefore, the Yoga of the Word as the practice of studying and abiding by grammar rules is another way to realize the true essence of Atman and Brahman.

The concept of moksa also exists in Jainism but the ideas that surround it are somewhat different. Jains believe that individuals are held in the bondage of samsara through karmic matter that clings to the self as a result of one’s evil desires and predispositions (Shivkumar 84). Moksa is achieved through cutting off the self from any connection with karmic matter. The way to liberation is composed of the three jewels: right belief, right knowledge and right conduct. Once an individual has achieved moksa and becomes liberated, that person transcends samsara and remains forever at the apex of the universe (Jaini 223). Here, the liberated individual resides in a state of pure consciousness and supreme peace (Shivkumar 116).

Conversely, Buddhism holds the concept of nirvana, which is akin to moksa in that it is the end of all worldly suffering (Shivkumar 161). However, nirvana does not involve connecting oneself to a god-like concept such as Brahman. It postulates that the self is impermanent and there is no Atman or greater self (Rodrigues 2004:174). Rather, nirvana is an understanding of Ultimate Reality as dynamic process that is continually changing and this realization leads to the extinction of desire, hatred and illusion. Nirvana is achieved through adherence to the Noble Eightfold Path, which requires the individual to strive for right view, right aspiration, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration (Shivkumar 174).

Moksa is a goal that encompasses many common human desires: to find one’s true self, to end ignorance and worldly suffering, and to connect oneself with a more meaningful and powerful whole. Such enlightenment does not come automatically to an individual; rather, it must be sought after. As a result, there are many different paths to moksa and many more interpretations of how to follow these paths (Kumar 49). However, all Hindu interpretations consistently convey that a person must reach an understanding of Atman and Brahman as the true essence of reality in order to attain moksa.


Arapura, John (1995) “Spirit and Spiritual Knowledge in the Upanisads.” In Hindu Spirituality: Vedas Through Vedanta [Vol. 1]. Krishna Sivaraman (ed.). Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 64-85.

Chakrabarti, A. (1983) “Is Liberation (Moksa) Pleasant?” Philosophy East and West, 33, no. 2 (Apr): 167-182.

Coward, Harold (1995) “The Reflective Word: Spirituality in the Grammarian Tradition of India.” In Hindu Spirituality: Vedas Through Vedanta [Vol. 1]. Krishna Sivaraman (ed.). Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 209-228.

Ingalls, Daniel (1957) “Dharma and Moksa.” Philosophy East and West, 7, no. 1/2 (Apr-Jul): 41-48.

Jaini, Padmanabh (1980) “Karma and the Problem of Rebirth in Jainism.” In Karma and Rebirth in Classical Indian Traditions. Wendy O’Flaherty (ed.). Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 217-238.

Kumar, Shashiprabha (2005) Self, Society and Value: Reflections on Indian Philosophical Thought. Khajuri Khas: Vidyanidhi Prakashan.

Prasad, Rajendra (1971) “The Concept of Moksa.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 31, no. 3 (Mar): 381-393.

Radhakrishnan, Sarvepalli (1980) The Hindu View of Life. London: Mandala Books.

Raghavachar, S. (1995) “The Spiritual Vision of Ramanuja.” In Hindu Spirituality: Vedas Through Vedanta [Vol. 1]. Krishna Sivaraman (ed.). Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 261-274.

Ravindra, Ravi (1995) “Yoga: The Royal Path to Freedom.” In Hindu Spirituality: Vedas Through Vedanta [Vol. 1]. Krishna Sivaraman (ed.). Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 177-191.

Rodrigues, Hillary (2006) Introducing Hinduism. New York: Routledge.

Rodrigues, Hillary (2004) “Buddhism.” In World Religions: A Guide to the Essentials. Tom Robinson, Hillary Rodrigues, Jim Linville, and John Harding (eds.). Lethbridge: University of Lethbridge. pp. 157-185.

Shivkumar, Muni (2000) The Doctrine of Liberation in Indian Religion. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal.

Related Topics for Further Investigation



Bhagavad Gita

Advaita Vedanta






Hindu Grammar


Patanjali’s Raja Yoga


The four asramas

The four purusarthas

The Upanisads




Tat tvam asi


The four varnas






Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

Article written by: Stefanie Duguay (March 2008) who is solely responsible for its content.

Hindu Asceticism

In traditional Hindu life, there are four stages which a Hindu would, theoretically, complete in order to acquire the greatest chance of attaining the ultimate goal of moksa (liberation). These stages include the sisya (student) stage, the grhasta (householder) stage, the vanaprastha (forest-dweller) stage and the samnyasin (renouncer stage). This last stage of the samnyasin is one of total renunciation of social and material things. It would typically be this time in one’s life when one would dedicate oneself entirely to attaining moksa, particularly by engaging in specific practices. One such set of practice that these renouncers would often adopt was asceticism. However, it is important to note that ascetic practices are not limited to the samnyasins. Many laypeople also practice forms of asceticism, such as Vrata [On Vrata and the Pativrata Ideal, see Rodrigues 2005: 160-167], to achieve higher objectives. Nevertheless, in general, the asceticism practiced by renouncers is usually more concentrated and intensely followed. This essay will be focusing mostly on the asceticism of the samnyasin. Therefore, any reference to asceticism or ascetic practices will refer to the customs of the standard samnyasin, unless otherwise stated.To go into great detail of all the differentiations and variations of ascetic practices would probably construct a small book. I can only give a brief background, explain the practices that are most widely used, and give the example of a famous ascetic who has contributed to modernization of the practice.

Before discussing the particularities and practices of asceticism, it is important to look at the background and origin of this practice. According to David M. Miller and Dorothy C. Wertz, in their book Hindu Monastic Life, the word “ascetic” is a translation into the word sadhu, which actually translates as “holy man” (Miller and Wertz 2), a term often used to describe a renouncer.This can give us an idea of what the literary origin is, but to discern the actual foundation of the practice is quite a bit harder.As Patrick Olivelle informs us in his translation of the Samnyasa Upanisads, there are many theories about where the practice of asceticism originated (Olivelle 19-22).He breaks these down into two main theories: that asceticism is a development of the Vedic tradition, and that asceticism is a newer practice than the traditional Vedic religion which “challenged and transformed the Vedic religion” (Olivelle 20).Olivelle sides with the assertion that ascetic practices did not develop out of the old Vedic tradition, but that they are a recent custom which tested and criticized the old Vedic ways. Even so, Olivelle states clearly that ascetic practices could not have appeared out of nowhere and says that “[he does] not subscribe to the view put forward by some scholars that ascetic modes of life were non-Aryan in origin” (Olivelle 21).Olivelle suggests that, even though asceticism has close ties with sacrificial religion and even though the Vedic religion set the conditions in which asceticism is set, asceticism acts as an original element that challenged some of the old Vedic traditions, such as sacrificial theology.

With this brief background of asceticism we can begin to discus what asceticism really is.To become an ascetic means to give up completely, as mentioned before, social and material things. The ascetic is then meant to meditate and concentrate on attaining the final goal of moksa. Since ascetics do not have anything at all, except perhaps a begging bowl and a staff, they rely totally on the lay community to provide for them food and sometimes clothes and shelter. As Vail F. Lise says in his article “Unlike a Fool, He Is Not Defiled: Ascetic Purity and Ethics in the Samnyasa Upanisads”: “ascetics are told to remain in solitude as much as possible, meditating and dis-identifying with their bodies. Nonetheless, Upanisadic passages about the virtues and behaviour proposed for samnyasis are unexpectedly rich in ethical reflection” (Lise 374). Lise is commenting on how, although ascetics are prescribed to not care about any worldly thing, they are taught to be moral, just, and wise among other men. Lise explains this further by saying that “the liberated renouncer is a master of silence, quite patient, and wise in matters of Brahman” (395). In response to this, a question that might arise is: how would one know about these rigorous ascetic practices and ways? The answer is in the Samnyasa Upanisads which “provide a basis in Vedic revelation for the institution of renunciation (samnyasa) and for the rules and practices associated with that state” (Olivelle 5). Therefore, the Samnyasa Upanisads are used as a guideline as how to live the life of the holy man. These Upanisads have been studied rigorously and elaborated on as the practice of asceticism grows and popularizes. Nonetheless, one of the only ways to fully understand true asceticism is to watch and learn from a genuine ascetic. It is important to remember that the customs mentioned are the typical routines practiced by Hindu ascetics. There are many people who do not follow the samnyasin path quite so rigorously and there are those take it to the extreme.

There have been many significant Hindu ascetics in the Indian history; for example, Mahatma Gandhi who helped India fight for independence from Britain [For additional information on Mahatma Gandhi see Robinson and Rodrigues (2006) pg 160; and Rodrigues (2005) pg 47-48, 422-424, and 249-250]. In their article “Karma Samnyasa: Sarkar’s reconceptualization of Indian asceticism” Shaman Hatley and Sohail Inayatullah discuss the life of the guru (teacher) Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar. Sarkar was a Tantric [On Tantrism see Robinson and Rodrigues (2006) pg 158-159] teacher who lived in the 20th century and who revolutionized Hindu asceticism. Hatley and Inayatullah go into detail about what Sarkar thought that asceticism really was, as they say, “the ascetic stands as a critic of society – not merely a post modern literary critic but one that questions the basis of current society by attempting to transform it” (Hatley and Inayatullah 14). In this way, Sarkar is saying that asceticism is not only about the physical state of renunciation, but also about the exercise of proper mental ethics. The article also emphasizes how Sarkar’s studies did not hold much interest in the traditional ways of Hinduism, but wanted to transform the religion by using asceticism to “eliminate elements based in social custom (such as asrama) and myth” (Hatley and Inayatullah 14).By studying Sarkar, Hatley and Inayatullah have introduced an interesting, modern, way to look at the practice of asceticism.

Overall, the practice of asceticism is a broad topic with a rich history and development.Ascetic practices have been used to help change and develop the Vedic Hindu tradition.Even the concept of the samnyasin has become increasingly revolutionized as more people become interested in these ascetic ways.This practice has, recently, even travelled to the West. Westerners are becoming increasingly interested in Hindu practices. Many books on ascetic practices such as meditation, renunciation, and cleansing of the mind now line the shelves of Western bookstores.


DeBary, William (1966) The Hindu Tradition. New York; Random House Inc.

Hatley, Shaman and Sohail Inayatullah (Feb 99) “Karma Samnyasa: Sarkar’s

Reconceptualization of Indian Asceticism”. Journal of Asian & African Studies

(Brill). 34:139, 14

Kaelber, Walter (1989) Tapta Marga: Asceticism and Initiation in Vedic India. Delhi; Sri

Satguru Publications

Miller, David and Dorothy C. Wertz (1976) Hindu Monastic Life: the Monks and

Monasteries of Bhubaneswar. Montreal and London; Mc Gill-Queen’s

University Press

Narayan, Kirin (1989) Storytellers, Saints, and Scoundrels: Folk Narrative in Hindu

Religious Teaching. Philadelphia; University Press

Olivelle, Patrick, trans (1992) Samnyasa Upanisads: Hindu Scriptures on Asceticism and

Renunciation. New York; Oxford University Press

Robinson, Thomas and Hillary Rodrigues (2006) World Religions: A Guide to the

Essentials. Peabody, Massachusetts; Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.

Rodrigues, Hillary (2005) Hinduism: The eBook. Journal of Buddhist Ethics; Online

Books, Ltd.

Vail, Lise (Fall 2002) “Unlike a Fool, He Is not Defiled: Ascetic Purity and Ethics in the

Samnyasa Upanisads.” Journal of Religious Ethics. 30:373-397, 25

Related Topics for Further Investigation:







Yogas (Karma, Jnana, Bhakti, Raja, Kondalini, Hatha)


Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic:

Article written by Jahliele Paquin (April 2006) who is solely responsible for its content.

The Six-Fold Policy of the Arthasastra

History and Background

Authored by Kautilya in 300 BCE the Arthasastra was written as a “science of politics” (Boesche 9-10). As the key advisor to the Indian king Chandragupta, Kautilya offered the Arthasastra as discussions on war and diplomacy. Kautilya’s desire was for his king to conquer the world, through teachings of “how to defeat his enemies and rule on behalf of the general good” (ibid. 10-11). As opposed to the idealism of Plato, Kautilya’s Arthasastra is typically classified as a book on political realism. It does not offer how the world should or ought to work, but rather how the world does work and the measures that a king must sometimes take to maintain common good and the state (ibid. 13-14).

Kautilyan Foreign Policy

Kautilyan foreign policy offers the theory that “an immediate neighbouring state is an enemy and a neighbour’s neighbour, separated from oneself by the intervening enemy, is a friend” (Rangarajan 542). The conqueror would thus affect the line of allies and enemies, as well as the differing types of allies and enemies a conquering king has. Kautilya describes a Circle of States like a wheel with the conqueror at the hub. His allies are pulled towards him along the spikes although they may be parted by enemy territory (ibid. 561). When appropriate, the conquering king shall apply the six methods of foreign policy, regularly known as the six-fold policy, to the various components of his Circle of States. These methods work interdependently and bind others to the conqueror so he may do as he pleases with them when necessary.

Six-Fold Policy

Different teachers believe different policies. For example, Vatavyadhi taught that there were only two approaches to foreign policy: make peace or wage war. Kautilya however believes that there are spin-offs of these, thus providing six methods of foreign policy. These are making peace, waging war, staying quiet, preparing for war, seeking support, and the dual policy of making peace with one while waging war against another (Rangarajan 563). One’s circumstances will dictate which methods should be used.

To make peace, one must enter into an agreement, such as a treaty, with specific conditions. Treaties can have specific conditions, or will not have any obligations. Treaties without conditions are mainly used for gaining information on the enemy, so the king may strike after learning of the antagonists’ weak points (ibid. 581). Treaties with commitments allow a “wise king to make a neighbouring king fight another neighbour to prevent them from uniting and attacking him” (ibid. 582). The only time a king will make peace is when he finds himself in relative decline compared to his enemy (ibid. 563).

When a king is in a superior position compared to his enemy, he will attack and wage war (ibid. 568). There are three types of war as part of this second method of foreign policy. There is open war which has a specified time and place; secret war that is sudden, terrorizing, threatening from one side and attacking from another, etc.; and undeclared war which uses secret agents, religion or superstition, and women as weapons against the enemies (Rangarajan 568-569; Boesche 10). Kautilya approved weapons-of-war that tricked unsuspecting kings and fought in unconventional ways. The use of secret agents to befriend and then kill enemy leaders, “religion and superstition to bolster his troops and demoralize enemy soldiers” (Boesche 10), and women who seduced the enemy as means of war (ibid.) were all examples of they way Kautilya believed one should wage an undeclared war.

By neither making peace nor waging war, one acts indifferently to a situation and stays quiet. If a king feels that his enemy and he are equal and neither can harm the other nor ruin the other’s undertakings, then he shall choose to do nothing (Rangarajan 563-565).

When a king increases his own power and has special advantage over his enemy, he will take part in the forth approach of Kautilyan foreign policy by making preparations for war (ibid. 563). While preparing for war, the king must ensure that the enemies’ undertakings will be destroyed while his own will come to no harm (ibid. 565).

In contrast to preparing for war, a king may require the help of another to protect his own undertakings. This idea of building an alliance is Kautilya’s fifth method of foreign policy. A king seeking an alliance must ensure that he finds a king more powerful than the neighbouring enemy. Sometimes it is not possible to find a stronger king than the enemy; in this case one should make peace with the enemy (ibid. 573).

Lastly, having a dual policy of befriending one through peace and promoting one’s own undertakings, whilst ruining another’s mission by waging war against them is the sixth method (ibid. 563-565). Under this method the conqueror may have supplies and reinforcements provided from allies, prevent an attack from the rear where the Circle of States warns us there is an enemy as a neighbour, and have twice as many troops as the other. After discussing waging a war with allies and agreeing on terms a treaty is concluded. However, if the allies do not accept the obligations they are considered and treated as hostile (ibid. 575).


Boesche, R. (2003) “Kautilya’s Arthasastra on War and Diplomacy in Ancient India.” Journal of Military History, 67, 1, 9-37.

Rangarajan, L.N. (1992) The Arthashastra: Edited, Rearranged, Translated and Introduced. New Delhi, India: Penguin Books India Ltd.

Further Readings

Jatava, D.R. (2003) Riddles of Indian Politics. Jaipur, India: ABD Publishers.

Kangle, R.P. (ed. and trans.) (1960-61) Kautilya’s Arthashastra. Bombay: University of Bombay.

Sharma, P. (1975) “Kautilya and modern thought.” Proceedings of the First International Sanskrit Conference, 2.2, 247-252.

Rangarajan, L.N. (1992) The Arthashastra: Edited, Rearranged, Translated and Introduced. New Delhi, India: Penguin Books India Ltd.

Roberts, James Deotis (1965-66) “Religious and political realism in Kautilya’s Arthashastra.” Journal of Religious Thought, 22.2, 153-166.

Related Research Topics

Kautilyan State and Society

King Chandragupta

Different Books/ Parts of the Arthasastra ( e.g. Law and Justice, Sources of Revenue, Departments of the Government, Defence and War, etc.)

Notable Websites

Written by Janelle Tibbatts (Spring 2006), who is solely responsible for its content.

The Kamasutra

The full details of the composition of the Hindu literary text, Kamasutra, is not fully known but is estimated to have been composed around the first century B.C.E. (Peterson 135). It was composed by Vatsyayana in northern India and written in the ancient Indian literary language, Sanskrit. There is very little on the background of Vatsyayana but it is believed that he was a Hindu religious man who was a part of the upper classes (Peterson 135). Vatsyayana had taken pieces of earlier works from the Kamasastra [Tradition of works and literature on erotics, love and pleasure (science of love)] to put together what the western world terms the “paradigmatic textbook for sex” (Doniger 2003:18). Vatsyayana directs the reader’s attention towards the promotion of the greater whole. “He made this work in chastity and in the highest meditation, for the sake of worldly life, he did not compose it for the sake of passion” (Kakar 7.2.57). Since works from the Kamasastra were not easily accessible, Vatsyayana wanted to summarize these works into one. The Kamasutra is the aphoristic summary of the Kamasastra and since sutras precede the sastras in Indian history, it is given more religious authority than the Kamasastra (Doniger 2001:82). Hence the name sutra, which literally means a “thread of thoughts and pages” are put together in such a way to form a “string” of meaning (Doniger 2001:82). Another example of this type of literary composition consists of the literature on dharma, The Laws of Manu which is part of the Dharmasastras [Hindu legal treatises on moral, ethical and social laws. To get a further understanding on the Dharma Sastra texts in comparison to the Kamasutra, see Rocher (1985)].

The Kamasutra was first translated into English by Sir Richard Francis Burton in 1893 and the majority of the English world is familiar with the text through this translation. Many other translations have been composed over the past century by such people as Indra Sinha in 1980, and most recently by Wendy Doniger in 2002. People of today have a misconception of what the Kamasutra truly delivers in terms of its contents. Many consider it a text that is about sexual positions, or a guide to make one skilful with love making. The Kamasutra does help in this area of romance, but that is only a portion of what it has to offer to those who read it. This Hindu text covers all areas in the art of loving, from finding a partner, maintaining a marriage, committing adultery, living with courtesans, the use of drugs, and of course, positions of sexual intercourse (Doniger 2002:126). Other authors after Vatsyayana composed similar texts to that of his Kamasutra. During the 11th century a man named Koka Pandit composed the Rati Rahasya [Koka Pandit physically engaged in the arts of love, and therefore was able to give a more extensive study with his personal endeavours in the Rati Rahasya] based on Vatsyayana’s Kamasutra. Then a few centuries after, another man named Kalyanmalla in the 15th century composed the Ananga Ranga [Kalyanmalla had written the Ananga Ranga originally for the benefit of his own master, Lad Khan, who was a Muslim nobleman] which is based off the other two texts (Thomas 75). All three of these texts are highly regarded for its contents on love and its pursuit in life.

Within Hindu society and tradition, the Kamasutra is generally read by males who are a part of the twice-born (dvija) class in their second stage of life, that of the householder (grhasta), which is initiated with marriage (vivaha). Within this stage of life, the male must pursue and fulfill the goals that are prescribed for the householder. These goals are dharma (religious duties, morality, social obligation—the spiritual), artha (skill, attainment of wealth—political and economic welfare), and kama (desire/attachment—love and pleasure). These are what are known as the trivarga, and Vatsyayana generates a form of hierarchy with these three aspects of the trivarga (Rocher 521-522). Unlike kama, the texts that are associated with artha and dharma to fully understand and obtain the meanings of each, are laid out in the Dharmasastra and the Arthasastra [This text was written by Kautilya with its focus upon pursuing the attainment of material success for householders. Traditionally it was intended to help aid a king in his role and guidance of ruling a kingdom. To get a further understanding on the Artha Sastra in comparison to the Dharma Sastra and Kamasutra, see Rocher (1985)]. Notice the difference between the three goals and the texts that are generally associated with it. The Kamasutra is not a sastra because Vatsyayana asserts that the actions of kama comes naturally, where dharma and artha must be developed and learned (Rocher 522). According to Sir Richard Burton’s translation of the Kamasutra, “[h]e should acquire learning in his childhood; in his youth and middle age he should attend to artha and kama; and in his old age he should perform dharma…” (5).

Throughout the householder’s stage of life, it is the goal of kama and artha that are the primary concerns and in order to prosper in society one must pursue these goals relentlessly. As a result, this stage is the most crucial aspect of the life of a householder; to be able to cultivate the art of love to have children and to obtain wealth and power to leave for the children after the completion of this stage (Ostor 110).

Originally, according to traditional lore, the Kamasutra contained thousands of chapters, and over time it was reduced down to what it is considered to be “thirty-six chapters, in sixty-four sections, in seven books, consisting of 1,250 sutras” (Kakar 1.1.4-23). The written work of the Kamasutra is not composed in such a way that it resembles a rule book, where each rule is numbered and one must follow from one step to the next. The text is written along the lines of a work of dramatic fiction and underneath all the sexual content and details of married life it appears to take on the characteristics of classical Indian drama (Doniger 2003: 20). The Kamasutra therefore consists of characters whose sex lives are used to demonstrate the appropriate behaviours to be undertaken by the householders. The man and woman whose lives are illustrated throughout the text are called the hero (nayaka), the heroine (nayika), and the men who assist the hero are termed the libertine (pitamarda), pander (vita) and clown (vidushaka) (Doniger 2001:88 and Doniger 2003:20). Like most classical Indian dramas as noted above, the Kamasutra is composed of seven acts. Each act depicts the different phases of the hero’s life. Act one is an introduction into the text giving a general idea of love and its involvement in the lives of men and women. Act two is an in-depth discussion on the beginnings of sexual techniques. Act three describes the process of acquiring a potential wife and engaging in marriage. Act four is the section in which the text describes the proper conduct of a wife and her roles in a marriage. Act five depicts how a male goes about seducing other women and other men’s wives. Act six is the exploration of various women, more specifically those who are courtesans. Finally, act seven is the exposition of the male exploring different aphrodisiacs and magic spells as a means of attracting others to himself.

Throughout the text, there are a total of sixty-four chapters [The Kamasutra is not entirely composed of prose but also includes several loka verses which are cited at the end of each chapter. These loka verses comprise about a tenth of the total text, see Kakar (2002)]. Within the Indian culture, sixty-four is considered to be a sacred number, somewhat of a natural number. Hence the sixty-four various sexual positions or arts, depicted in the text (Kakar xxiii). Vatsyayana believed that there are eight different ways of making love, and within those eight there are eight different positions totalling sixty-four forms of the art on love. The Kamasutra does not only prescribe how the male should act throughout the householder stage in search of kama, but it also prescribes duties and actions of how a female should act as well. These sixty-four forms of art in which the female is encouraged to perform include, singing, dancing, cutting leaves into shapes, arranging flowers, playing water sports, making costumes, the science of strategy (Kakar 1.3.15) and many more. Therefore, Vatsyayana suggested that women should at one point be encouraged to read the Kamasutra, “[a] woman should do this before she reaches the prime of her youth, and she should continue when she has been given away, if her husband wishes it” (Kakar 1.3.2).

In total, about one-fifth of the text is committed to the art of love making and sexual pleasure, while the rest is guidance for males and females in their relationships and relationships of that with others. It has helped those who are in the householder stage of life on their pursuit to fulfill the goal of kama. Vatsyayana gave a positive definition of kama in which,

“[p]leasure, in general, consists in engaging the ear, skin, eye, tongue, and nose each in its own approptriate sensation, all under the control of the mind and heart driven by the conscious self. Pleasure in its primary form, however, is a direct experience by the sensual pleasure of erotic arousal that results from the particular sensation of touch. A man learns about pleasure from the Kamasutra and from associating with the circle of men-about town” (Kakar 1.2.11-13).

Although today in Western society, people still consider the Kamasutra to be solely based on depictions of sexual endeavours; those who follow tradition will find that the Kamasutra is a text of useful insight and guidance on their pursuit of love and pleasure. In summation, the fundamental effect one might feel while reading and following the Kamasutra is an overall experience of sukha (happiness).


Burton, Sir Richard and F.F. Arbuthonot (1997) Kamasutra of Vatsyayana. Mumbai; Jaico Publishing House.

Doniger, Wendy (2001) “On Translating the Kamasutra: A Gurudakshina for Daniel H.H. Ingalls.” Journal of Indian Philosophy. 29 no. 1-2 April, p 81-94.

______ (2002) “On the Kamasutra.” Daedalus. Spring, vol. 131 Issue 2, p126-129.

______ (2003) “The Kamasutra: It Isn’t All About Sex.” Kenyon Review. Winter, vol. 25 Issue 1, p 18-36.

Kakar, Sudhir (2002) Kamasutra. New York: Oxford University Press.

Ostor, Akos (1992) Concepts of Person: Kinship, Caste, and Marriage in India. Delhi: Oxford University Press.

Peterson, Valerie (2002) “Text as Cultural Antagonist: The ‘Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana’.” Journal of Communication Inquiry. April vol. 26, Issue2, p 133-154.

Rocher, Ludo (1985) “The Kamasutra: Vatsyayana’s Attitude towards Dharma and Dharmasastra.” Journal of the American Oriental Society; Jul.-Sept., vol. 105, no. 3, p 521- 529.

Thomas, P. (1956) Kama Kalpa: The Hindu Ritual of Love. Bombay; D. B. Taraporevala Sons & Co. Private Ltd.

Related Topics for Further Investigation

Kama Sastra

Dharma Sastra

The Laws of Manu


Artha Sastra




Rati Rahasya

Koka Pandit

Ananga Ranga






Courtesans (Act Six)

Aphrodisiacs and drugs (Act Seven)

64 arts

Women in the Kamasutra

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

Article written by Alicia Penny (March 2006) who is solely responsible for its content.