The Rules of Love: Vătsyăyana, the advocacy of the perfect kiss

Perhaps the demonstrators protesting against the kiss by Richard Geer planted so passionately upon the cheeks of Shipla Shetty should go back into their heritage. May I suggest the remarkable translation of the Kăma Sŭtra by Alain Daniélou which is faithful to the original by Vătsyăyana. The protestors, who are easily provoked, are frightening; poverty, instability, caste and religious differences and the growing gap between the poor and the rich have added to their anger.

The draconian censorship laws in India are partly inherited by the British.  In actual fact, it was the British colonials who during the 1930’s created the censorship laws that were directed specifically at the Indian Film industry, their greatest achievement being the banning of the kiss on the screen, applying prudish Victorian values on a culture with an extraordinary heritage. Prior to that, the kiss was an everyday matter, Devika Rani in Karma.

What a pity that sensuality of the kiss is relegated to something crass and dirty and contemporary Indians lack the courage to embrace their true heritage. Will they destroy Khajurao or the magnificent temples dedicated to Shiva in the South, clearly showing Shiva’s masculinity? I visited the temple at Kanya Kumari, where Shiva is draped in dhotis!

In Alain Daniélou’s extraordinary translation of the Kăma Sŭtra of the entire works complied and written by Vătsyăyana, you finally understand its genius. The Kăma Sŭtra dates back to the eight century, and in Danielou’s translation he presents the complete Kăma Sŭtra – the first unabridged modern translation of the classic Indian text. In contrast, Richard Burton’s version pales into insignificance, highlighting the Victorian values he applied, censoring and butchering the work in his version of the 1800’s.

In The Complete Kăma Sŭtra, Daniélou begins with Vătsyăyana’s introduction:

“Invocation; Origin and development of erotic science, or Kăma Shăstra:

1-2 Praised by the three aims of life, virtue (dharma), prosperity (artha), and love (kama), which are the subject of this work.

Why does Vătsyăyana begin his work thus, without invoking other gods? It is in order to explain this that I have written this commentary. There are four social functions in this world, namely the priest’s, the warrior’s, the merchant’s, and the artisan’s , as well as four stages of life, that of the student, the married man, withdrawal into the forest, and the mendicant monk. For the Brahmans and others, so long as they are heads of a family, the search for spiritual realisation is not practicable, and the aims of life are limited to three. The advocates of eroticism consider that love, given its results, is the most important inasmuch as virtue and prosperity both depend on it and without it they would not exist. According to the most ancient scholars, the prophet of the Asuras, Mallanăga, created this science after studying its means of accomplishment. Treatises have been written on the ways to acquire virtue and wealth, but love, being practiced with another person, requires other methods, methods concerning mutual relations. Such methods are expounded in the Kăma Shăstra, and not in the works on Economy (Artha Shăstra) or ethics (Dharma Shăstra). Because it depends on relations with another, because it deals with men and women, love requires a know-how that is explained only in the Kăma Sŭtra.

The methods indicated by erotic science are easy to put into practice, but are difficult for those who act alone or who follow the opinions of someone who does not know the Kăma Sŭtra. Inventing procedures one knows nothing about is like trying to read a text from the channels traced in wood by worms; its accomplishment is absolutely impossible for the ignorant.”

The Complete Kăma Sŭtra – The First Unabridged Modern Translation of the Classic Indian Text translated by Alain Daniélou was published in 1994 by Park Street Press, One Park Street, Rochester, Vermont 05767. ISBN 0-89281-492-6

Devika Rani in Karma: Cinema Vision India – India’s first professional cinema quarterly. Vol 1 No: 2 April 1980. Article by Arun Khopkar “The Second Language Take – Regional authenticity and overall indianness in films from Western India.” Cinema Vision India, 65/1503, Adarsh Nagar, Prabhadevi, Bombay 400 025. Telephone: 457814.


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