Kamashastra Discourse (Life in Ancient India)

by Nidheesh Kannan B. | 2018 | 52,434 words

This page relates ‘Summary of Kama-sutra Book 3: Kanya-samprayuktaka’ of the study on Kamashastra representing the discipline of Kama (i.e., ‘sensual pleasure’). The Kamasutra of Vatsyayana from the 4th century is one of the most authoratitive Sanskrit texts belonging this genre. This study focusses on the vision of life of ancient India reflected in Kamashastra.

4.1. Summary of Kāma-sūtra Book 3: Kanyā-samprayuktaka

[Full title: Kāma-sūtra Adhikaraṇa III—Kanyā-samprayuktakam (kanyāsamprayuktakam)]

Kanyā-samprayuktaka [kanyāsamprayuktakam] otherwise called acquisition of wife, is subjected for treatment in the third book of Kāmasūtra. This book includes five chapters and nine prakaraṇas on different ways, requirements and characteristics of a woman for taking as wife.

The first chapter in two prakaraṇas deals with courting the girl and winning her trust. While courting a girl, one must seek a woman born of a noble family with parents alive, she must be younger than the groom by at least three years, with good character, physical fitness, health etc. The friends sent by the groom question her parents. His parents and other relatives must strive to get information about the bride’s qualities. The investigators sent by the groom should chat like describing the favorable signs of his birth and the position of planets in his horoscope etc. Furthermore, they must gratify the bride’s mother by evoking the misfortune that would be hers if she were to marry someone else[1]. A girl who is asleep, crying, gone out of the house when sought in marriage, having a bad reputation, is secretive, breaks her words, is bald, has marks on her skin like a cow, has breasts that are too big, yellowish hair, round shouldered, very thin, hairy, disobedient, immoral, has uterine hemorrhages, is agitated, she has childhood friends or a very younger brother, having hands which are always damp, are to be rejected. A girl who is called by the name of one of the twenty-seven stars, or by the name of a tree, or of a river and whose name ends in “l” or “r” is not be married. But, some scholars opine that a man will do well with a woman who attracts and binds his mind and heart and also his eyes. He should not consider any other woman[2]. When the girl becomes marriageable, her relatives should smartly dress her and bring her out. Every afternoon amuses herself with her girlfriends and display her at crowded events like marriages, sacrificial ceremonies etc. for attracting people. Vātsyāyana says that she is just like any other piece of merchandise[3]. Some characteristics and conduct of the suitor also are explained at the end of this prakaraṇa. When the groom departs for marriage, he must look fine, surrounded by his friends and welcomed by respectful words. But up to the moment of the handing-over, he must not see her. After engagement, either according to the custom of the region or according to own desire, the man should marry her in accordance with the percepts of the law texts, according to one of the four types of marriages (Brāhma, Prājāpatya, Ārṣa and Daiva)[4]. The second prakaraṇa of this chapter deals with making alliances. Here it is said that a man should engage in amusement in society, such as completing verses begun by others, marriages and alliances only with equals, not with people above or below him. There are three kinds of marriage alliances namely upward alliance, downward alliance and equal alliance. When a man marries a rich girl and lives with her like a servant it is called the upward alliance in which his own in laws differ to him and he behaves as a master is called the downward alliance. The wise people avoid both of these worthless alliances. So, the only acceptable one is when both the man and the woman afford mutual pleasure to each other, and where the relatives on both sides pay respect to one another. Such is called a connection in the proper sense of the world[5].

Chapter two is disclosing about winning a virgin’s trust or on creating confidence in her. It is described here that, after marriage, usually woman will be fearful. So, the man must relax her from fear. He should engage in sexual relationship only after relaxing and winning her trust. Some ways for relaxing women are as follows: For the first three nights after marriage, the couple should sleep on the floor, remain sexually continent and have food without salt or spices. For the next seven days, should bath amidst the sounds of auspicious musical instruments, dress well, dine together, attend performances and pay their respects to relatives. After ten days, the man should begin in a lonely atmosphere with soft words for creating confidence in her. Bābhravīyas argue that, if the man does not speak with his wife for the first three days, she may be discouraged by seeing him spiritless like a pillar and becoming dejected, she may begin to despise him as a eunuch. However, Vātsyāyana give solution for this problem as he opines, the man begins to entice her and win her trust, but remaining sexually continent[6]. After that the man should start the initial stages from embrace, kissing, giving betel leaves, casual conversations etc. and then, this will develop to foreplay. Gradually in time, the feelings of the hostile girl begin to awaken[7]. By concluding the chapter, the subject is summarized in some verses. “A man acting according to the inclinations of a girl should try to gain her over, so that she may love him and place her confidence in him. Either a man does not succeed by implicitly following the inclination of a girl or by wholly opposing her, or he should therefore adopt a midway in between. He who knows how to make himself beloved by her, as well as to increase of their honor and create confidence in them, becomes an object of their love. But if he neglects a woman, thinking she is too bashful, she despises him as a beast: moreover, a woman forcibly enjoyed by one who does not understand the female mind become nervous, uneasy and dejected, and suddenly begins to hate him who has taken advantage of her; and then, when her love is not understood or returned. She sinks into despondency and becomes either a hater of mankind altogether or, hating her own man, she has recourse to other man”[8].

The third chapter has two prakaraṇas, of which the first is on making advances to a young girl. Here it is described about the ways of attracting a man in virgin and some bad qualities of man that is restricted for a normal marriage. Some of the foul qualities are: a man having qualities but poor, or having medium qualities belonging to a low family, or a man wealthy but living in the neighborhood of the girl, a man dependent under his parents or brothers, a man of childish disposition who is allowed to enter the house etc. Also, such a man if he comes from south and follows the custom of wedding a maternal uncle’s daughter, who is separated from his parents right from his childhood, who is destitute, should win over the daughter of his maternal uncle the same way, even if she is un attentive due to the wealth of her family, has already been given to some other or he may desire some other girl outside the family. Ghoṭamukha’s opinion for this is; “since making such a girl fall in love in this way achieves religious aims and it is to be praised”[9]. From childhood onwards, the boy should spend his time with girl and amuse her with various games and diversions fitted for their age and acquaintanceship. A detailed list of childhood games is given here[10]. Then, it is said about the amusing techniques done by a young man. First of all, he (the groom) wins the inalienable love of the girl whom he thinks she trusts, and learn all about her intimate girlfriends. He treats her foster-sister with the greatest care and consideration, because, they are the ways of man to reach his beloved. A list of toys and other handicrafts is to be gifted for the girl by the man as an expression of his love. It is for proving that he is able to fulfill all of her wishes[11]. After these steps, he should take initiative to meet together and start conversation. He must inform her that the reason for his secret gifts to her is his fear of her parents and because another people may want to have, one of those gifts. When her love begins to show signs of increasing, he should relate to her agreeable stories, if she expresses a wish to hear such narratives. If marvelous things can impress her, he should astonish her by performing magic tricks. If she is interested in fine arts, he may impress her by expressing his skill in them. It is directed that the man dresses richly and makes sure that she has an unobstructed view of him[12]. That is how a man makes advances to a young girl. The next prakaraṇa is on interpretations of the girl’s gestures and signals. A girl always shows her love by outward signs and actions. Some of them are; when the man faces her, she does not look at him, when he look at her she shows embarrassment, she lets him catch a glimpse or some parts of her pretty limbs and watches to see whether the boy is amorously attentive and is not looking elsewhere. If the man makes a proposal, she shows her agreement with a smile and by her expression and speaks in a shy manner. Whenever he looks in her direction, she laughs and winks at him. If her girlfriends annoy her, she repulses them. She kisses and embraces before him a child sitting in her lap, draws ornamental marks on the foreheads of her female servants. Surrounded by her relatives, she arranges her hair, moving her limbs to show them off. She lets her suitor’s friends see her feelings and talks a lot. She seeks to establish his character through what his servants have to say. Encouraged by her mind, the girl enters the man’s house. She offers to play dice with him or some other game or just to chat in the presence of the maid[13].

The chapter ends with two verses on this subject as a conclusion: “A man who has seen and perceived the feelings of the girl toward him, and who has noticed the outward signs and movements by which those feelings are expressed, should do everything in his power to effect a union with her. He should gain over a young girl by childlike sports; a damsel comes of age by his skill in the arts, and girl that loves him, by having recourse to persons in whom she confides”[14].

The fourth chapter comprises of three prakaraṇas, of which the first is on things to be done only by the man. From the gestures and signals of the women, one should use some methods to make advances to her. Here, explained some initiatives taken by men for touching the women, and by which make her intimate in him through different way. According to Ghoṭamukha, though a man loves a girl ever so much, he never succeeds in winning her without a great deal of talking. Then, when the man finds the girl completely won over, he may then begin to enjoy wither. It is commonly said: in the evening, at night, and in darkness, women’s fears are muted, they resolve to make love, they are full of passion, and they will not refuse a man. Therefore, it is the time to have them[15]. By concluding the topic, Vātsyāyana opines that; “women who have revealed their feelings and who are propositioned at the right time and place never turn away”[16]. The next prakaraṇa is on the advances that a women makes to the man she wants. As explained in the previous prakaraṇa, the ways are almost equal. “The women herself should try to get alone with her beloved in some quite place and at odd times should give him some gifts like perfumes, betel nuts etc., show her skills in arts and talk about the subjects he like best[17]. According to the old authorities on the subject; not even when she is very close to him should herself make advances to a man. For a young woman who makes advances to a man herself destroys her luck in love. But, when the man shows his wish to enjoy her, she should be favorable to him, and show no change in her demeanor when he embraces her; and should receive all the manifestations of his love as if she were ignorant of the state of his mind. Moreover, it is only when she is certain that she is truly loved and that her lover is indeed devoted to her, and will not change his mind, that should then give herself up to him and persuade him to marry her quickly[18]. The last prakaraṇa of this chapter is a concluding discourse for the entire chapter. So, it is provided in some verses. Here details on the selection of partner by considering his qualities and inferiorities are provided. At last it is confirmed that; of all, the lovers of a girl, he only is her true husband who possesses the qualities that are liked by her, and such a husband enjoys real superiority over her only because he is the husband of love[19].

Chapter five, the last chapter of the third book, is subjected about the devices for weddings. This is differing from the four kinds of marriage mentioned in the first chapter. Here, it is emphasized on the gāndharva type of marriage. For this, the man uses a maid of the women as mediator. Then, says about the forms of marriage; “when the girl is gained over, and acts openly with the man as his wife, he should marry her according to the perceptions of the religious laws. Then, he should inform the parents about the fact; because, the ancient authors opine that a marriage solemnly contracted in the presence of fire cannot be set aside afterward[20].

When the girl cannot make up her mind, or she will not express her willingness to marry, the man should obtain her in any one of the six ways of marriages. They are;

1. The man set up another woman of good family, who moves freely between both houses of man and woman, who is deep affectionate and was in the past intimate, get the girl brought unexpectedly to an accessible place on some pretext and do marry as per the religious laws explained previously[21].

2. If the marriage of the girl with someone else draws near, the man should disparage the future husband to the utmost in the mind of the girl’s mother, and then, having got the girl come with her mother’s permission to the neighboring house and then marries her[22].

3. The man should make friendship with the brother of the girl, he (brother) being of the same age as himself, addicted to courtesans and to intrigues with the wives or other people and should give him support and assistance in such matters. Then, according to circumstance, the man should tell him about the relationship with his sister. By considering the age, wavelength and mindset, the brother will bring the girl to some secure place and from where the marriage will be conducted in presence of her brother according to the religious vows[23].

4. On festival occasions, the girl’s foster-sister gives her an intoxicating drink and on the pretext of something that she herself has to do, brings her to the man in an accessible, place and engage in sexual intercourse with her before she get consciousness, then marry her as previously mentioned formalities[24].

5. When the girl is sleeping, the man should carry her with the help of foster-sister and do sex with her before she recovers from her sleep. After that, marry her according to the religious vows[25].

6. When the man finds out that the girl has gone to another village or garden, he comes there with a strong force of companions and frightens off or murders the guards and carries off her for marriage[26].

In order of importance, the best marriage is the one in accordance with ethics. Where the sacred fire is lacking, there is no hierarchy among the others. The gāndharva form of marriage is that it brings forth happiness, causes less trouble in its performance than the other forms of marriage, and is above all the result of previous love[27].

Footnotes and references:


Kāmasūtra, 3. 1. 2-7


Kāmasūtra, 3. 1. 10-13


Kāmasūtra, 3. 1. 14-15


Kāmasūtra, 3. 1. 15-19


Kāmasūtra, 3. 1. 20-24


Kāmasūtra, 3. 2. 1-5


Kāmasūtra, 3. 2. 8-29


Kāmasūtra, 3. 2. 30-35


Kāmasūtra, 3. 3. 1-5


Kāmasūtra, 3. 3. 6-8


Kāmasūtra, 3. 3. 9-17


Kāmasūtra, 3. 3. 18-23


Kāmasūtra, 3. 3. 25-30


Kāmasūtra, 3. 3. 31-32


Kāmasūtra, 3. 4. 2-31


Kāmasūtra, 3, 4. 35


Kāmasūtra, 3. 4. 40


Kāmasūtra, 3. 4. 41-46


Kāmasūtra, 3. 4. 48-55


Kāmasūtra, 3. 5. 1-18


Kāmasūtra, 3. 5. 19-20


Kāmasūtra, 3. 5. 21-22


Kāmasūtra, 3. 5. 23-24


Kāmasūtra, 3. 5. 25


Kāmasūtra, 3. 5. 26


Kāmasūtra, 3. 5. 27


Kāmasūtra, 3. 5. 28-30

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