Kama Sutra

Definition - What does Kama Sutra mean?

The "Kama Sutra" is an ancient Sanskrit text popularly known as a book on eroticism. It is actually much more than that. Scholars see the "Kama Sutra" as a guide on the art of living, from finding a partner to personal grooming and etiquette in both marriage and worldly affairs.

Written in the 3rd century by Vatsyayana Mallanaga, the title of this text is derived from the Sanskrit, kama, which denotes longing and desire, often with a sexual connotation (and referring to the Hindu god of love, Kamadeva); and sutra, which refers to a concise verse or scripture. The title may also be translated as “A Treatise on Pleasure.”

Like Hatha yoga, the "Kama Sutra" employs asanas and is sometimes considered to be the definitive link between sex and yoga. A few modern types of yoga make use of the "Kama Sutra's" asanas and philosophy, such as Kamasutra yoga and Sexy yoga.

Yogapedia explains Kama Sutra

According to Hindu scriptures, kama (pleasure) is one of the four goals of life. The other three are dharma (duty or morality), artha (prosperity, wealth and power) and moksha (freedom from cyclical rebirth). The "Kama Sutra" was written as a guide to achieving kama, in particular, physical pleasure.

The best-known English translation was published by Sir Richard Burton in the 19th century; however, that translation is strongly biased by Victorian modesty and downplaying the role of women. A 21st century translation by University of Chicago professor, Wendy Doniger, and Sudhir Kakar, a senior fellow at the Center for the Study of World Religions at Harvard, claim to correct these errors and more accurately reflect the intended meaning.

Although erotic sexual positions comprise a large portion of the text, other topics covered by the "Kama Sutra" include:

  • Proper grooming and self-care
  • Etiquette, including appropriate post-coital conversation
  • Practice of the arts, ranging from poetry to cooking to mixing perfumes
  • Discretion in conducting affairs, particularly adulterous ones
  • Homosexual desire
  • Female sexuality

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