When it comes to the art of love, we’ve all heard the term Kama Sutra tossed around. In fact, most of us think that Kama Sutra is simply a manual of sex positions or that it’s full of moves only super-flexible strippers can pull off. But, as with all ancient texts, there is a lot more to the Kama Sutra than you think!
The Kama Sutra is an ancient Indian Hindu text and is often considered a bible in Sanskrit literature in the culture of sex practices, sexual behaviour and emotional and sensual fulfilment. However, because it is such an ancient text, the specific roots and dates of the Kata Sutra writings are hard to pin down.
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Although no one knows exactly, the Kama Sutra was born out of the beliefs of ancient Hinduism, which has its origins in the Vedic era.
Hinduism focuses on the beliefs and philosophies of everyday morality and is believed to have been developed by the ancient Vedas, from about 3500 BC to 3000 BC. To attain fulfilment in human life, the Hindus established four goals of human existence and developed different practices for achieving these goals:
1. Dharma – meaning righteousness in spirit and ritual
2. Artha – meaning material wealth
3. Kama – meaning erotic or sensual pleasure
4. Moshka – meaning freedom or release from the cycle of death/rebirth
Of course, the Kama Sutra focuses on the idea of ‘Kama’ or pleasure, aligning itself with Hindu beliefs and allowing us to trace back its origins to the development of the Hindu religion.
The Kama Sutra is believed to have developed in the 8th Century BC as part of a larger body of works known as the Kama Shastra.
In a mythological sense, the Kama Sutra itself was said to be the work of Nandi, the famous bull belonging to the God Shiva in ancient Hindu mythology. Nandi supposedly ‘overheard’ Shiva and his wife, Pavarti, making love one night, and decided to transcribe his observations (in Sanskrit) for the benefit of all humans.
The ‘words’ of Nandi were later ‘summarised’ in the Kama Shastra by Shvetaketu sometime in the 8th Century BC and then his writings were again summarised by another group of scholars between the 5th and 1st Centuries BC. As part of these re-writings, the Kama Sutra was again rewritten by the Hindu philosopher, Vātsyāyana, who claims his work is an edited summary of many earlier works, though it is impossible to find the exact date of his writings (scholars believe it’s anywhere between the 1st and 6th Centuries BC).
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The Kama Sutra as we often know and see it today was translated into English and subsequently edited and published (to much controversy) by the British orientalist Sir Richard Burton in 1883. Burton cites Vātsyāyana as the Kama Sutra’s original author and called his publication ‘The Kama Sutra of Vātsyāyana.’
With the advent of the Internet, the practices described in the Kama Sutra have reached many audiences, with many people practising these ancient sexual rituals with their partners or even just with their vibrators!