The Kamasutra, composed in the third century CE, is the world's most famous textbook of erotic love. There is nothing remotely like it even today, and for its time it was astonishingly sophisticated. Yet, it is all but ignored as a serious work in its country of origin-sometimes taken as a matter of national shame rather than pride-and in the rest of the world it is a source of amused amazement, and inspires magazine articles that offer "mattress-quaking
sex styles" such as "the backstairs boogie" and "the spider web".
In this scholarly and superbly readable book, one of the world's foremost authorities on ancient Indian texts seeks to restore the Kamasutra to its proper place in the Sanskrit canon, as a landmark of India's secular literature. She reveals fascinating aspects of the Kamasutra as a guide to the art of living for the cosmopolitan beau monde of ancient India: its emphasis on grooming and etiquette (including post-coital conversation), the study and practice of the arts
(ranging from cooking and composing poetry to coloring one's teeth and mixing perfumes), and discretion and patience in conducting affairs (especially adulterous affairs). In its encyclopedic social and psychological narratives, it also displays surprisingly modern ideas about gender and role-playing, female sexuality, and
Even as she draws our attention to the many ways in which the Kamasutra challenges the conventions of its time (and often ours)-in dismissing fertility as the aim of sex, for instance-Doniger also shows us how it perpetuates attitudes that have continued to darken human intercourse: passages that twin passion with violence, for example, and those that explain away women's protests and exclamations of pain as ploys to excite their male partners. In these attitudes, as in its more
enlightened observations on sexual love, we see the nearly two- thousand-year-old Kamasutra mirror twenty-first-century realities.
In investigating and helping us understand a much celebrated but under-appreciated text, Wendy Doniger has produced a rich and compelling text of her own that will interest, delight, and surprise scholars and lay readers alike.
Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
Number of pages: 184
Weight: 378 g
Dimensions: 236 x 159 x 19 mm
Doniger writes in a humane and distinctive voice, with humour and irreverence. * Christopher Minkowski, London Review of Books *
Wendy Doniger has finally done justice to the Kamasutra, first of all by giving it a proper translation, without Sir Richard Burton's nineteenth-century misreadings and stilted style, and now in Redeeming the Kamasutra by placing it in an eminent position in the body of Indian treatises. Her work is a useful antidote to that pervasive and often violent moral policing that has seized a part of both India and the Indian diaspora in recent years. * The New York Review of Books *
frank, brief, clear-eyed essays. * Nicola Barker, Spectator *
Ever since the third century, the Kamasutra has been labelled in the West as the ultimate lexicon of love, but the praise of the "ooh, ah" brigade has led to its denigration in India. Westerners leaf through the pages which they believe pigeon-hole women as passive play things of men, while the Kamasutra actually is a much more complete guide to all aspects of life such as grooming, etiquette, hygiene and the arts. Women are treated as equal individuals, not men's
objects of desire. It actually promotes equal rights, and at last someone has stood up and said so. * Steve Craggs, Northern Echo *