Understanding Indian culture in the time of Kamasutra-500 BCE

Salutation to Dharma, Artha, and Kama(धर्मअर्थकामेभ्यो नमः )

In the beginning, the Prajapati created men and women, and in the form of commandments in one hundred thousand chapters laid down rules for regulating their existence with regard to Dharma, Artha, and Kama(प्रजापतिर् हि प्रजाः सृष्ट्वा ताषां स्थितिनिबन्धनं त्रिवर्गस्य साधनम् अध्यायानां शतसहस्रेणअग्रे प्रोवाच). Some of these commandments, namely those which treated of Dharma, were separately written by Swayambhu Manu; those that related to Artha were compiled by Brihaspati; and those that referred to Kama were expounded by Nandi, the follower of Mahadeva, in one thousand chapters. [तस्यएकदेशिकं मनुः स्वायंभुवो धर्मअधिकारिकं पृथक् चकार- बृहस्पतिर् अर्थअधिकारिकम्- महादेवअनुचरश् च नन्दी सहस्रेणअध्यायानां पृथक् कामसूत्रं प्रोवाच]

Now these “Kama Sutra, written by Nundi in one thousand chapters, were reproduced by Shvetaketu, the son of Uddvalika, in an abbreviated form in five hundred chapters, and this work was again similarly reproduced in an abridged form, in one hundred and fifty chapters, by Babhravya, an inheritant of the Punchala (South of Delhi) country. These one hundred and fifty chapters were then put together under seven heads or parts named severally—

1st. Sadharana (general topics).

2nd. Samprayogika (embraces, etc.).

3rd. Kanya Samprayuktaka (union of males and females).

4th. Bharyadhikarika (on one’s own wife).

5th. Paradarika (on the wives of other people).

6th. Vaisika (on courtezans).

7th. Aupamishadika (on the arts of seduction, tonic medicines, etc.).

The sixth part of this last work was separately expounded by Dattaka at the request of the public women(Nagar badhus) of Pataliputra (Patna), and in the same way Charayana explained the first part of it. The remaining parts, viz., the second, third, fourth, fifth, and seventh were each separately expounded by:—

Suvarnanabha (second part).

Ghotakamukha (third part).

Gonatdiya (fourth part).

Gonikaputra (fifth part).

Kuchumara (seventh part), respectively.

Thus the work being written in part by different authors was almost unobtainable(at the time of Vatsyayana), and as the parts which were expounded by Dattaka and the others treated only of the particular branches of the subject to which each part related, and moreover as the original work of Babhravya was difficult to be mastered on account of its length, Vatsyayana, therefore, composed this work in a small volume as an abstract of the whole of the works of the above-named authors[तत्र दत्तकआदिभिः प्रणीतानां शास्त्रअवयवानाम् एकदेशत्वात्, महद् इति च बाभ्रवीयस्य दुरध्येयत्वात्, संक्षिप्य सर्वम् अर्थम् अल्पेन ग्रन्थेन कामसूत्रम् इदं प्रणीतम्]

About the merit of Dharma, Artha and Kama-त्रिवर्गप्रतिपत्तिः

Man lives one hundred years,  he should practice DharmaArtha, and Kama at different times and in such a manner that they may harmonize together and not clash in any way[शतआयुर् वै पुरुषो विभज्य कालम् अन्योन्यअनुबद्धं परस्परस्यअनुपघातकं त्रिवर्गं सेवेत]. He should acquire learning in his childhood, in his youth and middle age he should attend to Artha and Kama, and in his old age he should perform Dharma, and thus seek to gain Moksha[ स्थाविरे धर्मं मोक्षं च] Due to short span of life he may practice them at times when they are enjoined to be practiced. He should lead the life of Brahmycharya until he finishes his education[ब्रह्मचर्यम् एव त्व् आ विद्याग्रहणात्]

Performance of sacrifices, and such as eating meat, are directed by Sastras and Sastras direct both visible and invisible, Dharma is the correct resolution of sastras [अलौकिकत्वाद् अदृष्टअर्थत्वाद् अप्रवृत्तानां यज्ञाआदीनां शास्त्रात् प्रवर्तनम्, लौकिकत्वाद्अन्यत्र : लौकित्वाद्- दृष्टअर्थत्वाच् च प्रवृत्तेभ्यश् च मांसभक्षणआदिभ्यः शास्त्राद् एव निवारणं धर्मः]

Dharma (knowledge of things) should be understand from the Shruti , and learned people [तं श्रुतेर् धर्मज्ञसमवायाच् च प्रतिपद्येत]

Artha is the acquisition of arts, land, gold, cattle, wealth, equipages, and friends. It is, further, the protection of what is acquired, and the increase of what is protected.

Artha (means of value) should be learnt from the king’s officers, and from merchants who may be versed in the ways of commerce.

Kama(consumption) is the enjoyment of appropriate objects by the five senses of hearing, feeling, seeing, tasting, and smelling, assisted by the mind together with the soul. [स्रोत्रत्वक्चक्षुर्जिह्वाघ्राणानाम् आत्मसंयुक्तेन मनसाअधिष्ठितानां स्वेषु स्वेषु विषयेष्व् आनुकूल्यतः प्रवृत्तिः कामः]

Kama is to be learnt from the Kama Sutra and from the practice of citizens.

When all the three, viz., DharmaArtha, and Kama come together, the former is better than the one which follows it, i.e., Dharma is better than Artha, and Artha is better than Kama. By Artha a  king, dispense livelihood and also collect well dressed women and enjoy the merit of three faculties [अर्थश् च राज्ञः, तन्मूलत्वात लोकयात्रायाः, वेश्यायाश् चैति त्रिवर्गप्रतिपत्तिः]


Some learned men say that as Dharma is connected with things not belonging to this world, it is appropriately treated of in a book; and so also is Artha, because it is practiced only by the application of proper means, and a knowledge of those means can only be obtained by study and from books. But Kama being a thing which is practiced even by the brute creation, and which is to be found everywhere, does not want any work on the subject.


This is not so. Sexual intercourse being a thing dependent on man and woman requires the application of proper means by them, and those means are to be learnt from the Kama Shastra. The non-application of proper means, which we see in the brute creation, is caused by their being unrestrained, and by the females among them only being fit for sexual intercourse at certain seasons and no more, and by their intercourse not being preceded by thought of any kind.

Objection 2.

The Lokayatikas[1] say:—Religious ordinances should not be observed, for they bear a future fruit, and at the same time it is also doubtful whether they will bear any fruit at all. What foolish person will give away that which is in his own hands into the hands of another? Moreover, it is better to have a pigeon today than a peacock tomorrow; and a copper coin which we have the certainty of obtaining, is better than a gold coin, the possession of which is doubtful.


It is not so. 1st. Holy Writ, which ordains the practice of Dharma, does not admit of a doubt.

2nd. Sacrifices such as those made for the destruction of enemies, or for the fall of rain, are seen to bear fruit.

3rd. The sun, moon, stars, planets and other heavenly bodies appear to work intentionally for the good of the world.

4th. The existence of this world is effected by the observance of the rules respecting the four classes[2] of men and their four stages of life.

5th. We see that seed is thrown into the ground with the hope of future crops.

Vatsyayana is therefore of opinion that the ordinances of religion must be obeyed.

Objection 3.

Those who believe that destiny is the prime mover of all things say:—We should not exert ourselves to acquire wealth, for sometimes it is not acquired although we strive to get it, while at other times it comes to us of itself without any exertion on our part. Everything is therefore in the power of destiny, who is the lord of gain and loss, of success and defeat, of pleasure and pain. Thus we see that Bali[3] was raised to the throne of Indra by destiny, and was also put down by the same power, and it is destiny only that can reinstate him.


It is not right to say so. As the acquisition of every object presupposes at all events some exertion on the part of man, the application of proper means may be said to be the cause of gaining all our ends, and this application of proper means being thus necessary (even where a thing is destined to happen) , it follows that a person who does nothing will enjoy no happiness.

Objection 4.

Those who are inclined to think that Artha is the chief object to be obtained argue thus. Pleasures should not be sought for, because they are obstacles to the practice of Dharma and Artha, which are both superior to them, and are also disliked by meritorious persons. Pleasures also bring a man into distress, and into contact with low persons; they cause him to commit unrighteous deeds, and produce impurity in him; they make him regardless of the future, and encourage carelessness and levity. And lastly, they cause him to be disbelieved by all, received by none, and despised by everybody, including himself. It is notorious, moreover, that many men who have given themselves up to pleasure alone, have been ruined along with their families and relations. Thus, King Dandakya,[4] of the Bhoja dynasty, carried off a Brahman’s daughter with evil intent, and was eventually ruined and lost his kingdom. Indra, too, having violated the chastity of Ahalya[5] was made to suffer for it. In a like manner the mighty Kichaka,[6] who tried to seduce Draupadi, and Ravana,[7] who attempted to gain over Sita, were punished for their crimes. These and many others fell by reason of their pleasures.

Answer 4.

This objection cannot be sustained, for pleasures, being as necessary for the existence and well being of the body as food, are consequently equally required. They are, moreover, the results of Dharma and Artha. Pleasures are therefore, to be followed with moderation and caution. No one refrains from cooking food because there are beggars to ask for it, or from sowing seed because there are deer to destroy the corn when it is grown up.

Thus a man practicing DharmaArtha, and Kama enjoys happiness both in this world and in the world to come. The good perform those actions in which there is no fear as to what is to result from them in the next world, and in which there is no danger to their welfare. Any action which conduces to the practice of DharmaArtha, and Kama together, or of any two, or even one of them, should be performed, but an action which conduces to the practice of one of them at the expense of the remaining two should not be performed.

On the Arts and Sciences to be Studied.–विद्यासमुद्देशः

Man should study the Kama Sutra and the arts and sciences subordinate thereto, in addition to the study of the arts and sciences contained in Dharma and Artha.[धर्मअर्थअङ्गविद्याकालान् अनुपरोधयन् कामसूत्रं तदङ्गविद्याश् च पुरुषो अधीयीत] Even young maids should study this Kama Sutra along with its arts and sciences before marriage, and after it they should continue to do so with the consent of their husbands.

Here some learned men object, and say that females, not being allowed to study any science, should not study the Kama Sutra.

But Vatsyayana is of opinion that this objection does not hold good, for women already know the practice of Kama Sutra, and that practice is derived from the Kama Shastra, or the science of Kama itself. Moreover, it is not only in this but in many other cases that though the practice of a science is known to all, only a few persons are acquainted with the rules and laws on which the science is based. Thus the Yadnikas or sacrificers, though ignorant of grammar, make use of appropriate words when addressing the different Deities, and do not know how these words are framed. Again, persons do the duties required of them on auspicious days, which are fixed by astrology, though they are not acquainted with the science of astrology. In a like manner riders of horses and elephants train these animals without knowing the science of training animals, but from practice only. And similarly the people of the most distant provinces obey the laws of the kingdom from practice and because there is a king over them, and without further reason. And from experience we find that some women, such as the daughters of princes and their ministers, and public women, are actually versed in the Kama Shastra.

A female, therefore, should learn the Kama Shastra, or at least a part of it, by studying its practice from some confidential friend. She should study alone in private the sixty-four practices that form a part of the Kama Shastra. Her teacher should be one of the following persons, viz., the daughter of a nurse brought up with her and already married, or a female friend who can be trusted in everything, or the sister of her mother (i.e., her aunt), or an old female servant, or a female beggar who may have formerly lived in the family, or her own sister, who can always be trusted.

The following are the arts to be studied, together with the Kama Sutra:—

1 Singing.

2 Playing on musical instruments.

3 Dancing.

4 Union of dancing, singing, and playing instrumental music.

5 Writing and drawing.

6 Tattooing.

7 Arraying and adorning an idol with rice and flowers.

8 Spreading and arranging beds or couches of flowers, or flowers upon the ground.

9 Coloring the teeth, garments, hair, nails and bodies, i.e., staining, dyeing, coloring and painting the same.

10 Fixing stained glass into a floor.

11 The art of making beds, and spreading out carpets and cushions for reclining.

12 Playing on musical glasses filled with water.

1 3 Storing and accumulating water in aqueducts, cisterns, and reservoirs.

14 Picture making, trimming, and decorating.

15 Stringing of rosaries, necklaces, garlands, and wreaths.

16 Binding of turbans and chaplets, and making crests and top-knots of flowers.

17 Scenic representations. Stage playing.

18 Art of making ear ornaments.

19 Art of preparing perfumes and odors.

20 Proper disposition of jewels and decorations, and adornment in dress.

21 Magic or sorcery.

22 Quickness of hand or manual skill.

23 Culinary art, i.e., cooking and cookery.

24 Making lemonades, sherbets, acidulated drinks, and spirituous extracts with proper flavor and color.

25 Tailor’s work and sewing.

26 Making parrots, flowers, tufts, tassels, bunches, bosses, knobs, etc., out of yarn or thread.

27 Solution of riddles, enigmas, covert speeches, verbal puzzles, and enigmatical questions.

28 A game, which consisted in repeating verses, and as one person finished, another person had to commence at once, repeating another verse, beginning with the same letter with which the last speaker’s verse ended, whoever failed to repeat, was considered to have lost and to be subject to pay a forfeit or stake of some kind.

29 The art of mimicry or imitation.

30 Reading, including chanting and intoning.

31 Study of sentences difficult to pronounce. It is played as a game chiefly by women and children, and consists of a difficult sentence being given, and when repeated quickly, the words are often transposed or badly pronounced.

32 Practice with sword, single stick, quarter staff, and bow and arrow.

33 Drawing inferences, reasoning or infering.

34 Carpentry, or the work of a carpenter.

35 Architecture, or the art of building.

36 Knowledge about gold and silver coins, and jewels and gems.

37 Chemistry and mineralogy.

38 Coloring jewels, gems and beads.

39 Knowledge of mines and quarries.

40 Gardening; knowledge of treating the diseases of trees and plants, of nourishing them, and determining their ages.

41 Art of cock fighting, quail fighting, and ram fighting.

42 Art of teaching parrots and starlings to speak.

43 Art of applying perfumed ointments to the body, and of dressing the hair with unguents and perfumes and braiding it.

44 The art of understanding writing in cypher and the writing of words in a peculiar way.

45 The art of speaking by changing the forms of words. It is of various kinds. Some speak by changing the beginning and end of words, others by adding unnecessary letters between every syllable of a word, and so on.

46 Knowledge of languages and of the vernacular dialects.

47 Art of making flower carriages.

48 Art of framing mystical diagrams, of addressing spells and charms, and binding armlets.

49 Mental exercises, such as completing stanzas or verses on receiving a part of them; or supplying one, two or three lines when the remaining lines are given indiscriminately from different verses, so as to make the whole an entire verse with regard to its meaning; or arranging the words of a verse written irregularly by separating the vowels from the consonants, or leaving them out altogether; or putting into verse or prose sentences represented by signs or symbols. There are many other such exercises.

50 Composing poems.

51 Knowledge of dictionaries and vocabularies.

52 Knowledge of ways of changing and disguising the appearance of persons.

53 Knowledge of the art of changing the appearance of things, such as making cotton to appear as silk, coarse and common things to appear as fine and good.

54 Various ways of gambling.

55 Art of obtaining possession of the property of others by means of muntras or incantations.

56 Skill in youthful sports.

57 Knowledge of the rules of society, and of how to pay respects and compliments to others.

58 Knowledge of the art of war, of arms, armies, etc.

59 Knowledge of gymnastics.

60 Art of knowing the character of a man from his features.

61 Knowledge of scanning or constructing verses.

62 Arithmetical recreations.

63 Making artificial flowers.

64 Making figures and images in clay.

A public woman, endowed with a good disposition, beauty, and other winning qualities, and also versed in the above arts, obtains the name of a Ganika, or public woman of high quality, and receives a seat of honor in an assemblage of men. She is, moreover, always respected by the king, and praised by learned men, and her favor sought for by all, she becomes an object of universal regard. The daughter of a king, too, as well as the daughter of a minister, being learned in the above arts can make their husbands favorable to them, even though these may have thousands of other wives besides themselves. And in the same manner, if a wife becomes separated from her husband, and falls into distress, she can support herself easily, even in a foreign country, by means of her knowledge of these arts. Even the bare knowledge of them gives attractiveness to a woman, though the practice of them may be only possible or otherwise according to the circumstances of each case. A man who is versed in these arts, who is loquacious and acquainted with the arts of gallantry, gains very soon the hearts of women, even though he is only acquainted with them for a short time.

The Life of a Citizen-नागरकवृत्तम्

Having thus acquired learning, a man, with the wealth that he may have gained by gift, conquest, purchase, deposit, or inheritance from his ancestors, should become a householder, and pass the life of a citizen. He should take a house in a city, or large village, or in the vicinity of good men, or in a place which is the resort of many persons. This abode should be situated near some water, and divided into different compartments for different purposes. It should be surrounded by a garden, and also contain two rooms, an outer and an inner one. The inner room should be occupied by the females, while the outer room, balmy with rich perfumes, should contain a bed, soft, agreeable to the sight, covered with a clean white cloth, low in the middle part, having garlands and bunches of flowers upon it, and a canopy above it, and two pillows, one at the top, another at the bottom. There should be also a sort of couch besides, and at the head of this a sort of stool, on which should be placed the fragrant ointments for the night, as well as flowers, pots containing collyrium and other fragrant substances, things used for perfuming the mouth, and the bark of the common citron tree. Near the couch, on the ground, there should be a pot for spitting, a box containing ornaments, and also a lute hanging from a peg made of the tooth of an elephant, a board for drawing, a pot containing perfume, some books, and some garlands of the yellow amaranth flowers. Not far from the couch, and on the ground, there should be a round seat, a toy cart, and a board for playing with dice; outside the outer room there should be cages of birds, and a separate place for spinning, carving and such like diversons. In the garden there should be a whirling swing and a common swing, as also a bower of creepers covered with flowers, in which a raised parterre should be made for sitting.

Now the householder, having got up in the morning and performed his necessary duties, should wash his teeth, apply a limited quantity of ointments and perfumes to his body, put some ornaments on his person and collyrium on his eyelids and below his eyes, color his lips with alacktaka, and look at himself in the glass. Having then eaten betel leaves, with other things that give fragrance to the mouth, he should perform his usual business. He should bathe daily, anoint his body with oil every other day, apply a lathering substance to his body every three days, get his head (including face) shaved every four days, and the other parts of his body every five or ten days. All these things should be done without fail, and the sweat of the armpits should also be removed. Meals should be taken in the forenoon, in the afternoon, and again at night, according to Charayana. After breakfast, parrots and other birds should be taught to speak, and the fighting of cocks, quails, and rams should follow. A limited time should be devoted to diversion with PithamardasVitas, and Vidushakas, and then should be taken the midday sleep.[10] After this the householder, having put on his clothes and ornaments, should, during the afternoon, converse with his friends. In the evening there should be singing, and after that the householder, along with his friend, should await in his room, previously decorated and perfumed, the arrival of the woman that may be attached to him, or he may send a female messenger for her, or go to her himself. After her arrival at his house, he and his friend should welcome her, and entertain her with a loving and agreeable conversation. Thus end the duties of the day.

The following are the things to be done occasionally as diversions or amusements.

1 Holding festivals in honor of different Deities.

2 Social gatherings of both sexes.

3 Drinking parties.

4 Picnics.

5 Other social diversions.


On some particular auspicious day, an assembly of citizens should be convened in the temple of Saraswati. There the skill of singers, and of others who may have come recently to the town, should be tested, and on the following day they should always be given some rewards. After that they may either be retained or dismissed, according as their performances are liked or not by the assembly. The members of the assembly should act in concert both in times of distress as well as in times of posterity, and it is also the duty of these citizens to show hospitality to strangers who may have come to the assembly. What is said above should be understood to apply to all the other festivals which may be held in honor of the different Deities according to the present rules.

Social Gatherings

When men of the same age, disposition and talents, fond of the same diversions, and with the same degree of education, sit together in company with public women,[13] or in an assembly of citizens, or at the abode of one among themselves, and engage in agreeable discourse with each other, such is called a sitting in company or a social gathering. The subjects of discourse are to be the completion of verses half composed by others, and the testing the knowledge of one another in the various arts. The woman who may be the most beautiful, who may like the same things that the men like, and who may have power to attract the minds of others, are here done homage to.

Drinking Parties

Men and women should drink in one another’s houses. And here the men should cause the public women to drink, and should then drink themselves, liquors such as the MadhuAireyaSara, and Asawa, which are of bitter and sour taste; also drinks concocted from the barks of various trees, wild fruits, and leaves.

Going to Gardens or Picnics

In the forenoon, men, having dressed themselves, should go to gardens on horseback, accompanied by public women and followed by servants. And having done there all the duties of the day, and passed the time in various agreeable diversions, such as the fighting of quails, cocks, and rams, and other spectacles, they should return home in the afternoon in the same manner, bringing with them bunches of flowers, etc.

The same also applies to bathing in the summer in water from which wicked or dangerous animals have previously been taken out, and which has been built in on all sides.

Other Social Diversions

Spending nights playing with dice. Going out on moon-light nights. Keeping the festive day in honor of spring. Plucking the sprouts and fruits of the mangoe trees. Eating the fibres of lotuses. Eating the tender ears of corn. Picnicing in the forests when the trees get their new foliage. The Udakakshvedika or sporting in the water. Decorating each other with the flowers of some trees. Pelting each other with the flowers of the Kadamba tree, and many other sports which may either be known to the whole country, or may be peculiar to particular parts of it. These and similar other amusements should always be carried on by citizens.

The above amusements should be followed by a person who diverts himself alone in company with a courtezan, as well as by a courtezan who can do the same in company with her maid servants or with citizens.

Pithamarda is a man without wealth, alone in the world, whose only property consists of his Mallika,some lathering substance, and a red cloth, who comes from a good country, and who is skilled in all the arts; and by teaching these arts is received in the company of citizens, and in the abode of public women.

Vita[ is a man who has enjoyed the pleasures of fortune, who is a compatriot of the citizens with whom he associates, who is possessed of the qualities of a householder, who has his wife with him, and who is honored in the assembly of citizens and in the abodes of public women, and lives on their means and on them.

Vidushaka (also called a Vaihasaka, i.e., one who provokes laughter) is a person only acquainted with some of the arts, who is a jester, and who is trusted by all.

These persons are employed in matters of quarrels and reconciliations between citizens and public women.

This remark applies also to female beggars, to women with their heads shaved, to adulterous women, and to old public women skilled in all the various arts.

Thus a citizen living in his town or village, respected by all, should call on the persons of his own caste who may be worth knowing. He should converse in company and gratify his friends by his society, and obliging others by his assistance in various matters, he should cause them to assist one another in the same way.

There are some verses on this subject as follows:–

A citizen discoursing, not entirely in the Sanscrit age, nor wholly in the dialects of the country, on various topics in society, obtains great respect. The wise should not resort to a society disliked by the public, governed by no rules, and intent on the destruction of others. But a learned man living in a society which acts according to the wishes of the people, and which has pleasure for its only object is highly respected in this world.

नअत्यन्तं संस्कृतेनएव नअत्यन्तं देशभाषया-कथां गोष्ठीषु कथयंल् लोके बहुमतो भवेत्/
या गोष्ठी लोकविद्विष्टा या च स्वैरविसर्पिणी-परहिंसाआत्मिका या च न ताम् अवतरेद् बुधः/
लोकचित्तअनुवर्तिन्या क्रीडामात्रएककार्यया- गोष्ठ्या सहचरन् विद्वांल् लोके सिद्धिं नियच्छति//

Source: The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana by Vatsyayana

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Read Sanskrit text of Kama Sutra 

Source: The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana by Vatsyayana [ First four Chapters]

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