The Natyashastra

by Bharata-muni | 1951 | 240,273 words | ISBN-13: 9789385005831

The English translation of the Natyashastra, a Sanskrit work on drama, performing arts, theater, dance, music and various other topics. The word natyashastra also refers to a global category of literature encompassing this ancient Indian tradition of dramatic performance. The authorship of this work dates back to as far as at least the 1st millenn...

Chapter XXV - Dealings with Courtezans (veśyā)

The definition of an Expert Gallant

1. One excelling (viśeṣayet)[1] in all the arts (kalā)[2] is called a Vaiśeṣika (specialist) or one is also called Vaiśika because of his dealings with the courtezans (veśyopacāra)[3].

2. A man who has learnt all the arts (kalā)[4] and is an adept in all the crafts (śilpa)[5] and can [besides] captivate the heart of women, is called a Vaiśika (Expert Gallant)[6].

Qualjties of an Expert Gallant

3. His thirty-three [characteristic] qualities are briefly of three classes: physical, extraneous (āhārya) and psychological (sahaja, lit. natural).

4-7.[7] One who is well-versed in the Śāstras, skilled in arts, crafts, well-formed, pleasant-looking, powerful, possessing self-command, desirable age, dress and pedigree, is friendly (surabhi), sweet-tempered munificent, patient, free from bragging, fearless, accustomed to use sweet words, clever, elegant, clean [in his habits], expert in the practice of love, honest, able to act suitably to time and place, speaker of no pityful words, accustomed to speak smilingly eloquent careful, sweet-tongued, greedless as a partner, full of faith, firm in resolve, not rash, making confidence to accessible (gamyā) women and has a sense of self-respect, is called an Expert Gallant.

8. [According to another authority] his six [special] qualities are: that he should be devoted [in his love affairs], clean [in his habits], self-possessed, honest, dignified, have a [suitable] age and able to talk on varied topics (citrābhidhāyī).

A female Messenger

9-10. A wise woman, female story-teller, a female ascetic or a woman of the stage[8], an intelligent woman, a female neighbour, a female friend, a maid-servant, an unmarried girl, a crafts-woman[9], a foster-mother, a nun[10] or a female fortune-teller [can be employed as female] a Messenger[11].

Qualities of the Messenger

11. A wise person should never engage as a Messenger any person (lit. male or female) who is foolish, beautiful, wealthy or diseased[12].

12. Any woman should be engaged as a Messenger when she knows the art of encouraging [the beloved], is sweet in her words, honest, able to act suitably to the occasion, charming in her behaviour and is able to keep secrets[13].

13. She should encourage [the beloved one] by mentioning the various causes and should communicate the exact words [of the latter] and describe his condition[14].

14. Besides female Messenger should make an exaggerated statement about his birth, wealth and [capacity for], intercourse and speak freely about the purpose [of her visit][15].

15. The Messenger should in various ways bring about for the man an Union with a woman who is in love for the first time or a beloved woman who has been angry with him[16].

16-17. The first meeting of men [with women] may be made during a festive night, in her house, in a park, in the house of a kinsman, a foster-mother or a female friend or in a dinner-party or on the pretext of seeing a sick person, or in an empty house[17].

18. After meeting a woman in one of these various ways one should carefully observe from different marks whether she is attached or the opposite.

A woman excessively overcome with love

19. The woman who from her natural feelings is smitten with love and does not conceal her amorous behaviour [at the sight of the beloved] is said to be “overcome with love” (madanāturā).

An attached woman

20-23. When a woman speaks of her lover’s [good] qualities to her friend, gives him her own money, honours his friends, hates his enemies, seeks to unite with him, becomes much pleased to see him, looks pleased after a talk about him, sleeps after he has slept, kisses after he has kissed her, rises [in the morning] before he gets up, puts up with suffering [for his sake], remains the same in happiness and in misery, and never becomes angry, she is said to be “attached” (anuraktā). These indicate her characteristics.[18]

A hostile woman

24-27. The characteristics of a hostile woman are as follows: when kissed she wipes off her mouth, speaks unpleasant words, becomes angry even when sweet words have been spoken to her, hates his friends, praises his enemies, lies down on the bed with her back turned against him, goes to bed first, is never pleased even after a great deal of honour [has been shown her], never puts up with suffering, becomes angry without any provocation, does not look at him or greet him. The woman who betrays these signs should be marked as “hostile” (viraktā).[19]

Winning back of woman’s heart

28-29. [The following measures may lead to] the winning (lit. taking) back of a woman’s heart: display of wealth, showing of good-will, proposal of giving money,[20] [actually] giving money, pretending to give her up and making gestures of attachment (bhāvopakṣepa)[21] from near.

Causes of hostility

30-31. A man or a woman becomes hostile to the lover due to poverty, disease, misery, harshness, want of learning, going abroad, offended self-esteem, excessive greed, transgression [of good conduct], coming back late [at day or at night] and resorting to undesirable acts.[22]

Acts winning woman’s hearts

32. In connexion with love, one’s acts should be capable of winning the heart (lit. attachment) of women. By these [acts] a woman may be pacified and won over.

33-35. A covetous woman should be won over by [making her] a gift of money, a learned woman by knowledge of arts, a clever woman by sportfulness, a sensitive woman by acting according her desire, and making her accept ornaments will induce her to an intercourse; a woman who hates man is to be propitiated by stories to her liking, a girl below sixteen (bālā) by a present of play-things, a terrified woman by cheering her up, a proud woman by servile attendance and a nobel lady by the practice of arts.

Three types of woman

36. Three are the natures of women, superior, middling and inferior. But the nature of courtezans are appropriate to their own class.

A superior woman

37-39. The woman who remains unperturbed when she has been offended, does not use harsh words to her beloved one, has a short-lived anger, possesses skill in arts, is desired by men for her high birth, wealth, capacity for giving enjoyment and the like, is an expert in the acts of love (kāmatantra), is honest, possesses physical charm, becomes angry only when there is a [proper] cause, speaks without malice and knows the proper occasion [for all acts] is fit for sexual union is (subhagā)[23] of the superior class.[24]

A middling woman

40-41. The woman who desires men and is desired by men, is skilled in the acts of love, jealous of her rivals, is overcome with malice, is not sincere and has short-lived anger, is proud, and can be pacified in a moment, is of the middling class[25].

An inferior woman

42. The woman who is angry without a suitable cause, ill-natured, very proud, fickle, harsh, and remains angry for a long time, is of the inferior class.[26]

Four stages of a woman’s youth

43. The youthful exploits of women when they have tasted love’s pleasures are manifested in four stages through dresses, limbs and their movements as well as [inner] qualities[27].

Primary youth

44. The primary youth which has an enthusiasm for sexual acts, is characterised by plump thighs, cheeks, hips, lips and breasts which are firm and conducive to (lit, charming in) love’s pleasures[28].

Secondary youth

45. The secondary youth which affords the best pleasure of love is characterised by full and round limbs, plump breasts and slender waist[29].

Tertiary youth

46. The tertiary youth is provided with all kinds of beauty, exciting sexual desire and is maddening and rich in various qualities[30], and in it sexual passion adds to a woman’s graces.

Quarternary youth

47-48. The quarternary youth which is the enemy of intercourse comes when the primary, the secondary and the tertiary youths have gone by[31]. It is characterized by reduced physical charm due to slightly pale cheeks, hips, lips breasts as well as an enthusiasm for sexual acts[32].

Behaviour in the primary youth

49. A woman in her first youth is to be known as one who cannot take much pains, is neither pleased nor displeased with her (female) rivals and is attached to persons of mild qualities[33].

Behaviour in the secondary youth

50. A woman in her secondary youth takes offence lightly, and her anger and malice are also not great, and in her anger she remains silent[34].

Behaviour in the tertiary youth

51. A woman in her tertiary youth is an expert in intercourse, full of malice for her rivals, has many qualities and is not secretive and shows pride in her acts[35].

Behaviour in the quarternary youth

52. A woman in her quarternary youth is capable of captivating a man, has no malice to her rivals even if she is an expert in love’s enjoyments, and she always desires to remain unseparated [from her beloved man][36].

Five types of men

53-54. These are the four stages of youth for the Heroine in a drama. I shall now describe the types (lit. qualities) of men with regard to the practice of amours. With reference to their dealings (lit. application) with women they are of five types, such as is “clever”, “superior’, “middling” “inferior” and “novice” (vṛttaka).[37]

A clever man

55. A man is to be known as “clever” when he is sympathetic, able to endure hardship, skilled in pacifying anger in connexion with love, expert in sexual acts, and is honest, suppliant and not self-willed.

A superior man

56-57. A man is to be known as “superior” when he does not do anything displeasing, when he comes to know of her slight aversion, or has found out her motive completely, and has a good memory and self-command, is dignified, and knows thoroughly the mysteries of [human] feelings (lit. heart). One who is sweet [in manners], munificent and feels love, but is not overcome by passion, and when insulted by a woman gets disgusted with her, is also [to be known as] a “superior” man.[38]

A middling man

58. A level-headed man who tries to understand by all means a woman’s feelings of and is disgusted with her on discovering any of her deceit, is to be known as “midding”.

59. A man who makes a gift in proper time, does not have much anger even when he is insulted, but on discovering her slight act of deceit, gets disgusted with a woman, is to be known as “midling”[39].

An inferior man

60-61. A man who shamelessly approaches a woman with a steadfast love even when she has insulted him, has passed to another and has withdrawn her love due to her attachment for another, and loves her openly and more strongly in spite of a friend’s advice to the contrary even when he has come to know directly of her deceit, is to be known as “inferior”.

A novice

62-63. A man who does not care for fear or anger, is foolish, has naturally excessive feeling, is obdurate, artless in acts of love, not rough in love-quarrels [and] in strikings connected therewith, and a plaything of women, is to be known as “novice”.

Psychological approach to women

64. Women ate of different nature and their hearts are mysterious. Hence a wise man should make to them approaches as befit their respective spirits.

65. A man should deal with a woman according to the Science of Erotics after he has measured through different means her love or its absence.

66. Such means are: Conciliation (sāma)[40], Gift (pradāna = dāna), Discord (bheda), Chastisement (daṇḍa) and Indifference (upekṣā) to women.


67. That which is effected through a projection of one’s own self by saying “I am yours”, “You are mine”, “I am dear to you”, “you are dear to me” is called Conciliation.

68. Giving wealth according to the measure of one’s property in season and out of season, and concealing the same under some pretext is called Gift[41].


69. Showing the faults of her dear one by some means, is Discord.


70. An indifferent woman is to be re-united by Conciliation, a covetous one by giving her wealth, and a woman attached to another person should be won over by Discord.

71.[42] When from a changed attitude a woman deteriorates into a wicked one, she should be chastised with slight beating,[43] and restraint of her movement.


72. If after an exhaustive adoption in due order, of means such as Conciliation and the like, a woman does not come under control then a clever man should be indifferent to her.

Reading a women’s heart from her behaviour

73. It is from the expression of her face or from her eyes or from the movement of her limbs that one is to know whether a woman hates a man or loves him or is indifferent to him.

A courtezan’s mercenary treatment of men

74. Courtezans except when they belongs to gods or the king are always available for money to a man whether he is dear to them or not,

75-76. [To them] a man [giving money] becomes dear even if they hated him before, becomes dearer than ever if she already was dear to them, is admitted as well-behaved even if he is wicked, and as possessed of good many qualities even if he has none.

On seeing him their eyeballs dance [in joy] and they smile as it were with eyes, and due to simulation of [proper] feeling their faces assume an agreeable colour.

77. Passion arises in them after they have been treated with proper means or have been separated [for some time], just as fire comes out of wood.

78. This is the traditional method of dealing with women so far as courtezans are concerned. This should be utilized in suitable manner in the Nāṭaka or the Prakaraṇa.

79. This is the method of dealing with courtezans to be followed by the experts. Now listen about the Varied Representation,

Here ends the Chapter XXV of Bharata’s Nāṭyaśāstra, which treats Dealings with Courtezans.

Footnotes and references:


See BhP. p. 106, 1-10.


These are generally considered to be sixty-four in number. See Vātsyāyana. KS. I. 3. 34. But the Jains have their number as seventy-two (See Amulya Chandra Sen, “Social Life in Jain Literature,” Calcutta, 1933. pp. 12-15).


This etymology is sensible. For veśa (residence of courtezans) is connected with veśyā (woman who is available for all the members of the tribe or the settlement).


This etymology is sensible. For veśa (residence of courtezans) is connected with veśyā (woman who is available for all the members of the tribe or the settlement).


The word kalā is usually synonymous with śilpa. For the most of the sixty-four items included by Vātsyāyana (l.c.) are nothing but crafts. But when the two words are used together in a sentence, śilpa may be taken in the sense of ‘craft’ only.


Another name for vaiśika (Expert Gallant) seems to be viṭa. See KS. 1.4. 16; SD. 80 and also XXXV. 74.


See BhP. p, 106, 1.2-9.


Ag. explains raṅgopajīv?tnī as rajakastrī.


Cf. DR. II. 29; SD. 157 separate the words kāru and śilpin.


A nun of the heretical sects like the Buddhists. See note 4 below.


Cf. KS. V. 4. 23.


Cf. BhP. p.94 (1.9-10).


Cf. KS. I. 5. 28; SD. 158.


Cf. KS. I. 5 28, BhP. p. 94, l. 4-13.


Cf. KS. I. 5. 28, BhP. p. 94, l. 11-13.


Cf. BhP. p. 94, l. 14-15.


See Ag.


See BhP. p. 115, l. 2-8.


BhP. p. 116, l. 4-5, 13, 6, also 7-12, 14-19.


See Ag.


See Ag.


Cf. BhP. p. 117, l. 8-11.


A woman who has proper age and health.


Cf. BhP. p. 102, l. 1-5.


Cf. BhP. p. 102, l. 6-9.


Cf. BhP. p. 102, l. 10-13.


Cf. BhP. p. 103, l. 10.


Cf. BhP. p. 103, l. 11-16.


Cf. BhP. p. 104, l. 2-11.


Cf. BhP. p. 104, l. 13-14.


Through over-indulgence in sexual acts is it may come even after the first or the second stage.


Cf. BhP. 105, l. 1-6.


Cf. BhP. p. 104, l. 2-6.


Cf. BhP. p. 104, l. 13-18.


Cf. BhP. p. 105, l. 1-4.


Cf. BhP. p. 105, l. 8-10.


Cf. BhP. 91, l. 20ff.


Cf. DR. II. 3-6a, BhP. p. 92. l, 2-3.


K, reads this as follows: “sarvārtha madhyastho bhāvagrahaṇaṃ karoti nāriṇām | kiñciddoṣaṃ dṛṣṭā virajyate madhyamo'yamiti ||”


Cf. BhP. p. 214. l. 7. These terms have been from the Arthaśāstra.


That is. in joy’s and sorrows (Ag.).


Ag. explains this as deśāntara [ pa ] lāyāyanaṃ puruṣāntara-gamanam.


The husband’s conjugal right of punishment such as blows with a chord or a rod is often referred to in the Smṛti lit. (Manu. 8, 299f; Saṅkha, 4. 16 etc.) See also Kauṭilya III. 3. and Jolly. Hindu Law and Customs. p. 145.

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