Kamasutra by Vatsyayana


Note: The following is not a comprehensive appreciation of the book but just a collection of points that I found interesting. I listened to an audio version of the English translation by Richard Burton. (Contrary to popular belief, the original had no pictures!)



This concluding remark by Vatsyana summarizes the essence of the book: “This work is not to be used merely as an instrument for satisfying our desires. A person acquainted with the true principles of this science, who preserves his Dharma, his Artha and his Kama, and who has regard to the customs of the people, is sure to obtain the mastery over his senses. In short, an intelligent and knowing person, attending to Dharma and Artha and also to Kama, without becoming the slave of his passions, will obtain success in everything that he may do.”


Basic premise:

1.     Sexual desire is a blessing for human beings.

2.     Men and women are both naturally endowed with this blessing.

3.     Men and women are equally entitled to pursue satisfaction of their sexual desire.

4.     This pursuit should be balanced with Dharma (virtue or religious merit) and Artha (material wealth).



Bulk of the book focuses on:

·       Types of men/women from a sexual perspective (physical qualities as well as social, mental, artistic, etc.)

·       Types of persons one should consider and avoid for sexual relationships. In addition to social propriety and potential for gains (of pleasure and other things), the factors include personal safety and future implications.

·       Means of attracting a person of desire (of opposite sex), subjugating him/her in a sexual relationship, and also getting rid of him/her when so desired.

·       Details of engaging in pleasurable sexual activity: arousal, embracing, kissing, scratching, biting, and intercourse. (also includes environmental preparation)

·       Means of increasing pleasure - physical, medicinal, etc.

·       Types of gains and losses resulting from sexual relationships.

·       Lifestyle for remaining sexually active and desirable.


Historical insights:

(Timeline: ~200 AD or earlier)

·       Courtesans were an essential section of the society. They were legally accepted, treated with dignity and protected by the society. They were expected to be learned women with artistic skills.

·       The book has entire chapters on how courtesans could live a life of pleasure and prosperity.


Other observations:

·       The book goes into considerable detail of the character and psychology of men and women.

·       Love is mentioned only infrequently, probably because the author considers it as a side-effect or result of a sexual relationship. He does mention it as one of the reasons why sexual attraction develops between two people.

·       There is no discussion of morality or any prescription of loyalty/fidelity in such context.




Last updated25 June 2022

Written by: Abhay B. Joshi (abjoshi@yahoo.com)