A Sanskrit treatise setting forth rules for sensuous and sensual pleasure, love, and marriage in accordance with Hindu law.
The Kama Sutra is the oldest extant Hindu textbook of erotic love. Kama Sutra is about the art of living - about finding a partner, maintaining power in a marriage, committing adultery, living as or with a courtesan, and also
about the positions (well known as Kama Sutra Positions) in sexual intercourse. Kama Sutra was composed in Sanskrit, the literary language of ancient India, sometime in the 3rd century of the common era, probably in North India.
The Kama Sutra showcases the marriage of the spiritual and the sensual, which stems from the Indian belief that the body is as sacred as the spirit.
An important meaning of Kama (kaa-ma, from Sanskrit) is sensuous love, or an emotional feeling of attachment. In ancient Indian thought, it is recognized as the stimulus of action and personified as the god of erotic
love (Kama-deva). In the Gita, as in Buddhism, it is the source of attachment to the world and the great impediment to spiritual freedom. For lack of a better word in English, it is better to use term "erotica" to represent
Kama, although erotica may essentially connote arousal. Sutra (soo-tra, from Sanskrit) stands for 'formula'. So Kama Sutra is actully lessions or formulas of better love making.
Two thousand years ago, sage Vatsayana wrote his landmark manuscript, the Kama Sutra (erotic codes). One thousand years later, the Chandella kings (950-1050 A.D.) built one of the finest groups of temples in India, depicting
Kama Sutra's erotic positions, at their capital Khajuraho. About five centuries later, king Kallarasa of Karnataka wrote an important treatise on the subject, "Janavashya" (1450 A.D.) in Kannada language. In today's fast changing world,
the values and sanctity attached to erotica and eroticism have also changed. Therefore, it has become necessary to re-evaluate the Erotic Arts of India in their true perspective.
Numerous writers, both Indian and foreign, have published their works on eroticism, mostly to feed the curiosity of westerners.
To appreciate the erotic arts of India, one must understand the role of sex in the scheme of things according to Hinduism. Hinduism is a way of life according to prescribed codes. Every Hindu has to undergo sixteen dignitary
rituals (samskara) and four stages of life (ashramas). The final aim of life is salvation, which is the merging of the individual soul (atma) with the supreme soul (param-atma). One can attain salvation (Moksha) through Dharma,
Artha and Kama (Religion, wealth and sex). The ancient Indians took a healthy, integrated view of all aspects of life and gave sex its due importance in the overall picture. The pursuit of pleasure (kama) is one of the important
aims of life, on the path to deliverance.
Figures of loving couples (mithuna) in various art forms ( Kama Sutra Positions ) can be found in the very early periods of Indian civilization. This Kama Sutra theme has been depicted consistently for thousands of years throughout India. Such sculpture can be found
on the shrines of Buddhist, Jain, Vaishnava, Shaiva, Shakti, and also other cults, which proves its trans-religious nature. Mithuna (intercourse process) is like any other life process and hence no taboo or inhibitions are attached to it. The worship of
genitalia has been prevalent for centuries and it is considered a part and parcel of Hindu worship
Due to their delicate nature of Kama Sutra, only a few paintings survived the onslaught of time and climatic hazards. The Narasimha Swamy temple of Sibi has such rare wall paintings of Kama Sutra. In the last century, the kings of Mysore brought out some books
of great importance, which are profusely illustrated with erotic art of Kama Sutra. Ancient books such as "Sougandhikaparinaya" and "Shritatwanidhi" contain illustrations, which are indirect and suggestive, and yet very modest. Indian miniatures
such as Basholi, Kangra and Rajasthani styles have produced innumerable erotic paintings to cater to their rich clientele.
The sculptural wealth has remained intact for centuries in spite of vandalism and mutilation by religious fanatics. The erotic sculptures of Kahjuraho (in Madhya Pradesh) and Bhubaneshwar (Orissa) have been widely publicized, while
others are almost unknown. In Karnataka State alone, there are a large number of such temples and sculptures, which will be studied individually for Kama Sutra.