How Kama Sutra became a worldwide epic

posted under by NSmurthy
There's something almost magical about the words Kama Sutra. They conjure up images of hidden passion, of mystical eroticism, of countless lovemaking positions that are impossibly acrobatic. But the magic comes from mythology. The original Indian text was indeed a book of love but it was relatively tame, nowhere near as sex-charged as its reputation might suggest. So how did this guide to civilised behaviour become known as a vault of sexual knowledge? And how did it originate in such a sexually repressive culture?

These are the questions that drove James McConnachie to research and write The Book of Love: The Story of the Kama Sutra, a historical treatise that's certainly interesting but not quite as titillating as a reader might expect. Fleeting clues suggest the Kama Sutra was composed almost 2,000 years ago, when its author or authors hoped to salvage the content of similar works on the verge of extinction.

The Kama Sutra appears to have been less a sex manual than a guide to sexual culture for young hedonistic playboys. Its seven books advise on topics from grooming to flirtation, including instructions for producing aphrodisiacs, wooing virgins and seducing other men's wives. But the ancient Indian society that produced this text wasn't necessarily open about matters of physical love. Its author apparently had to make the text more palatable by fusing the concepts of earthly passions with those of spiritual bliss.

Over time, written copies of the Kama Sutra began to fade away. They became so rare that all traces would have vanished if not for Richard F Burton. In the latter half of the 19th century he and others set out to find fabled copies of the guide and translate them from Sanskrit into English. And over time, the ancient text morphed into what's generally available now an erotic guide that claims to hold the sexual secrets of an ancient and mystical society. It might seem disappointing to find the truth is so much tamer, but McConnachie keeps the tale interesting. He takes the mysticism out of the Kama Sutra, but he does so with respect for the ancient text's original messages