Jaipur Literature Festival 2013: Kamasutra too sexist?

Updated: Jan 28, 2013, 13:32 PM IST

Resham Sengar

Jaipur: The Kamasutra is that sea of carnal wisdom that everyone wants to dive into to explore gems of sexual pleasure. Keeping that in mind, the fourth day of the DSC Jaipur Literature festival saw a thoughtful debate on the subject titled ‘Reimagining the Kamasutra’.

Moderator Urvashi Butalia introduced authors Pavan Varma and K.R. Indira who have written their own versions of the legendary sexual text. Pavan Varma began by speaking how his version of the Kamasutra titled ‘Kama Sutra: The Art of Making Love to a Woman,’ is about “how a man can give sexual pleasure to a woman.”

He explained that Kamasutra is not about impossible postures but has a lot of significance in the Hindu culture because it happens to be a part and parcel of the four purusharthas or goals of human life namely Dharma, Arth, Kama and Moksha. “The pursuit of each in proportion and none in its exclusion leads automatically to the fourth pursuit which is Moksha,” he said.

He justified Vatsyayana’s Kamasutra by saying that it is not solely concerned about the satisfaction of male desire. “It is not male-centric. Kamasutra is tremendously dedicated to the fulfilment of a woman’s needs. In the text, pleasure is defined in such a way that the needs of both the man and the woman are fulfilled.” He stated that Kamasutra is not just about the poses that we see in the text but about setting the mood for love making.

K.R Indira, whose book is quite the opposite of what Vatsyayana’s work is about, begged to differ. Indira said that she had read the Kamasutra in its Malayalam translation and observed how the book is the elaboration of one chapter dealing with ‘coitus’.

She thought that the book was against the taste of women and said that the other chapters dealt with the seduction of other men’s wives, using prostitutes and other patriarchal issues. She was fuelled when she read an article that spoke about the advantages of Kamasutra, and countered it with her book that talks about the patriarchal notions perpetrated by the book, citing the example of how a man could forcefully have sex with a woman and then marry her. Indira wrote her book because she thought that even the 2,000 year old sexual text is deeply rooted in patriarchy.

“Kamasutra is silent on how a woman should pursue Kama or enjoy sensual pleasure”, she said. Indira recalled how it was difficult for her to get her first book on Kamasutra titled ‘Sthraina Kamasutra’ (Women`s Kamasutra) published, in which she has re-imagined the legendary erotic text from a woman`s point of view. She also went on to add that the book is dedicated to women and urged them to read it.

Indira elaborated on how women will have to work hard to become equal because man will not do it for her’. Indira explained that the silence of the woman’s voice in Vatsyayana’s book is reflected in today’s society where women hardly have any say in big matters.
On the other hand, Varma said that desire is not a dirty thing within the rules of sensuality and there are many examples in history to support this. He said, “Krishna in Vrindavan was the validity of desire and outside it, in Gita it was Dharma.”

He added that one could not have constructed the Khajuraho or Konarak without the acceptance of desire in the society. The panel concluded that it was respect and not technical formula that would create a better national psychology, in reference to the recent Delhi gang rape case.