Vatsyayana Mallanaga was an ancient Indian philosopher and scholar who lived around the third century AD. Once he had a conversation about sexual desires and lust with his student. That dialog prompted him to write the Kama Sutra as a guide to the topics of love and carnal pleasures for those who were as ignorant as his disciple. As a naisthika-brahmacari, Vatsyayana renounced worldly goods and relationships with women. He rejected the sexual aspect of existence at the level of action, speech, and mind. It was customary for the Vedic scriptures to offer rules, advice, or guidelines based on knowledge of the laws of the universe, rather than on personal experience. Being a Sage and a man who achieved self-knowledge, Vatsyayana developed a deep understanding of all the aspects of human life, even without taking part in some of them.
Introduction to Kamasutra
The Kama Sutra is an ancient Indian treatise dedicated to sensual and emotional life, lust, and love. In its seven books, it explains the principles of Dharma, Artha, and Kama. Dharma refers to one’s duties and how to fulfill them. Artha represents the acquisition of wealth. Kama describes the five senses and the way they help us know and experience the world. The Kama Sutra’s goal is to walk the reader through the adventure of learning bodily pleasures and finding love.
It teaches that both men and women should study Kama. Along with that, the Kama Sutra suggests a list of arts and sciences that are beneficial to females, and it includes intellectual pastimes, exercises, magic, and knowledge of aphrodisiacs.
In addition, the Kama Sutra gives recommendations for men on where to reside, how to perform their duties, and how to maintain personal hygiene, as well as specifies a man’s responsibilities as a head of the household.
Dharma and Artha can only be learned from experts who are well versed in these concepts, but one can comprehend Kama only through first-hand experience and the Kama Sutra. Although sex is a significant part of every “brute creation” and hence it may seem like it doesn’t require instructions, Vatsyayana emphasizes that sexual experiences involve a man and woman, and both need to implement certain means to succeed in it.
The author also explains that pleasure is a vital and indispensable element of our lives. No one can refuse or shy away from seeking sex. Without sensual experiences, we lose our vital energy. That being said, bodily pleasures should be pursued with caution and in moderation.
As you probably know, India has a caste (class) system. According to Vatsayayana, a man can cause conception of children in a ‘lawful’ manner only if he is married to a woman from his class. Women from higher castes and those shared by others are taboo. Along with that, the author specified eight reasons to have sex with a previously married woman. Finally, there are certain categories of females that can’t be deemed as suitable partners for sharing a bed. They include mentally challenged, gossiping, outcast, ugly or unclean ladies who lost their “glow,” relatives, female friends, as well as women who have masculine features.
StoryShot #2: Division of Men and Women into Classes
This division has nothing to do with social classes. Instead, it uses the sizes of genitalia as a fundamental criterion. Men are divided into three categories: hare, bull, or horse. In a similar vein, there are deer, mare, or elephant women. To make sure a union is equal and fruitful, the size of men’s genitalia should match those of a woman.
The author also classified partners in sexual pleasures according to their stamina. Every individual belongs to the following three categories: short-timed, moderate-timed, and long-timed. A true union can be achieved only when a man satisfies a woman’s desire, lust, and passion. A perfect union is when a man and woman reach the climax together. Since it takes longer for females to climb to the peak of pleasure, it is a man’s duty to sexually stimulate her prior to sex.
StoryShot #3: Four Kinds of Love
According to the Kama Sutra, love is a multi-faceted and complex concept. Every manifestation of love can be attributed to one of the following categories:
1) Love that continues as we are involved in a relationship with a partner. Simply put, this love develops out of habit.
2) Love induced by our imagination. It stems from a certain idea and refers to hugging, kissing, caressing, and rubbing;
3) A mutual love that has been time-tested; or
4) Love that occurs from our experience. This love we give to others. It is the superior manifestation of love.
StoryShot #4: Chatus-Shasti or Sixty-Four Ways to Love
The most sought-after chapter of the Kama Sutra, Chatus-Shasti (Sixty-Four), goes into detail about 64 types of unions between sexual partners. Besides different kinds of intercourse, it provides an explanation for a variety of techniques of kissing, biting, and scratching. On top of that, it gives recommendations regarding their intensity.
According to Vatsyayana, sex is like combat due to the amount of passion it involves. The partners literally ‘jump’ at each other as if attacking. The areas of their interest include the head, shoulders, back, belly, the space between the breasts, as well as the sides. Sounds that go hand in hand with these attacks are cooing, hissing, pouting, gasping, and whimpering.
A woman noticing that her partner is getting tired due to continuous coitus ought to lay him down on his back and switch roles with him. When she is on top, she sets the rhythm and duration of sex and thus reveals her true nature. Role reversal also helps to satisfy her curiosity and quest for novelty. The author also suggests practical recommendations to make copulation successful.
The Kama Sutra states that oral sex is acceptable only for masseurs and homosexuals. In ‘normal’ relationships between a man and a woman, their mouths should be used exclusively for licking, kissing, biting, or sucking other body parts during foreplay.
Apart from all that, Chatus-Shasti suggests ways to begin and end intercourse. After the act of love, for instance, it is not recommended that partners look at each other. They should head to a washing room separately, and then have a light meal together while having an engaging conversation.
StoryShot #5: Marriage and Sexual Pleasure
The third book of the Kama Sutra treatise is dedicated to marriage. For a successful marriage, a man should look for a virgin bride, and families on both sides ought to take an active part in pre-marriage rituals. Plus, they should engage an astrologist to make sure the future union is auspicious.
The Kama Sutra offers a number of criteria for a bride-to-be:
- She must be at least three years younger than her prospective husband;
- She must come from the same caste;
- She must have a good family with her parents still alive;
- She must have good teeth, skin, breasts, and hair. Kama Sutra notes that girls with white spots on their bodies, physical deformities, balding heads, as well as those with ill-sounding names are not suitable for marriage.
Only when a girl has all of this in place, she and her future husband are able to gain dharma and Artha, produce offspring, multiply their mutual friends, and achieve affinity.
When a man finds a suitable bride, the first three days of their marriage should be deprived of sex altogether. A man needs to spend this time to gain her trust and help her build confidence. The next seven days should be bustling with listening to music, dining, conversing, and bonding with relatives. On the tenth day, a man can start gently caressing his wife and encourage her with words. He can teach her the sixty-four ways of love only when she is ready.
StoryShot #6: The Role of a Wife
A woman in a marriage should carry a lot of duties on her shoulders. These include:
- Cook meals and ensure she knows what her husband likes and dislikes;
- Keep the house clean and tidy;
- Adjust expenditures in accordance with the family income;
- Plant and take care of an herb garden;
- Maintain family relations;
- Look after the flock, domestic animals, and crops.
At the same time, the book lists things a woman can’t do without a permit from her husband, such as going to a temple alone or visiting friends. She must be forgiving of his misbehaviors and never use bad language. Overall, the Kama Sutra teaches a woman to treat her man as if he were a god.
If a woman doesn’t meet her husband’s expectations (for instance, she can’t bear children, she gives birth only to girls, or she has a bad temper), a man can take a second wife. The younger wife must have a role superior to that of the first wife. Between themselves, women should have a mother-daughter relationship. Neither the first nor the second wife has the right to show their displeasure with the husband’s choice.
A woman can remarry if her husband is impotent, he can’t give her offspring, if he has ill temper, or dislikes her. Despite how a man treats her, she should never reproach or scold him. Widowed women can’t remarry unless they are in poor circumstances.
StoryShot #7: The Inherent Nature of Men and Women
The fifth book of The Kama Sutra intends to explain the nature of men and women. It puts forward a theory that women love harder but have no specific reason for their feelings. However, it is a woman’s nature to try to evade a man’s attention. Therefore, he must be persistent until he gains her favor. Men, on the other hand, have a tendency to lose interest if they are being rejected. Hence, Kama Sutra teaches them to be persistent, because this persistence will help them find true love.
The book offers a variety of strategies to win over a woman. It suggests asking friends to help with courtship, using messengers, and publicly bragging about one’s best features. A man, for example, can urge a friend to start a conversation about the things he is well versed in to show how intelligent he is. Males and females alike should pay attention to each other’s behavior to develop and adopt the best strategy.
During the process of courtship, a man should identify the “fitness” of a woman’s mind. There are several ways to do so. For example, if a man met her once, and on the second time she came dressed up, it is a clue that she accepted his attention. If she shows no signs that his company is enjoyable, it makes sense to be persistent by using a different approach. He should give up only when she explicitly tells him to stop advancing. But even then, he needs to make sure it is not part of her flirting game.
StoryShot #8: Significance of Courtesans
The Kama Sutra views courtesans as an important element of society. A man can benefit from their services for companionship whenever he needs it, as well as to practice the art of love before he starts his search for a wife. The book emphasizes that there is nothing wrong with choosing the path of a courtesan, as long as a woman behaves decently and modestly. In the Hindu culture, these females are not prostitutes; rather, they escort a man, and for this, they are trained and educated.
Every courtesan should seek friendship with people able to protect her (such as the police) as well as patrons. The latter is needed to get monetary support. Money is a top priority for this walk of life. If the only way to increase a monetary reward is to manipulate and trick, a woman can’t ignore these methods. A courtesan should use flattery, game-playing, exaggeration, and lies to achieve her goal. She must constantly show her male clients that she is in love with them because this boosts their confidence.
When such a woman is with a man, she ought to be eager to show him all 64 ways in which he can enjoy her. She shouldn’t dominate though. Instead, she needs to let him lead, and she will be following his mood and granting his wishes.
A courtesan shouldn’t attach to her clients. If she notices that a man is losing interest (he gives her less money and avoids her company, for example), she should get hold of everything she can from him. Then, she can put an end to their relationship. It’s best that a courtesan has many lovers and doesn’t financially depend on a single partner. However, she can be loyal to a man if he possesses incredible wealth and is willing to give her enough money and gifts.
StoryShot #9: How to Enhance Your Charms
The seventh and final book of the Kama Sutra treatise provides some methods to make one’s body more beautiful and suitable for carnal pleasures. In particular, the author suggests pastes, ointments, oils, and powders to enhance a man’s and a woman’s sexual appeal. Some of these products are intended for genitalia. Along with that, he provides the recipes for home remedies able to cure sexual dysfunctions, such as impotence, the lack of virility, or weak stamina. For men who are unable to satisfy their women sexually, the Kama Sutra recommends using penis-shapes devices.
Final Summary of Kama Sutra
In conclusion, Vatsyayana states that a man who stays true to the principles of Dharma, Artha, and Kama is able to avoid turning into a slave of his own desires. Instead, he will be capable of achieving success in every endeavor.
Get the full infographic summary of Kamasutra on the StoryShots app.
Kama Sutra PDF, Free Audiobook, and Animated Book Summary
If you have feedback about this summary or would like to share what you have learned, comment below.
New to StoryShots? Get the PDF, audio, and animated versions of this summary of Kamasutra and hundreds of other bestselling nonfiction books in our free top-ranking app. It’s been featured by Apple, Google, The Guardian and the UN as one of the world’s best reading and learning apps.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was original published in October 2020. It was last updated in December 2021.
Related Book Summaries
Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari and Eric Klinenberg
The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman
How to Think More About Sex by Alain de Botton
Bonk by Mary Roach
Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel
The Way of the Superior Man by David Deida
Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan and Cacilda Jethá
The Truth by Neil Strauss
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman and Nan Silver