Tag Archives: Kama Sutra

The Hindu Art of Love

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Hindu Art of Love: The Classic Companion to the Kama Sutra [Amazon, Local Library] by Sir Richard F Burton, translation of Ananga Ranga by Kalyāṇamalla.

Burton The Hindu Art of Love

This treatise on sexual technique, properly titled Ananga Ranga, is more interesting than Vatsyayana, but still not as entertaining as Nafzawi’s Perfumed Garden. Although the introduction insists that “every Shloka (stanza) of this work has a double signification, after the fashion of the Vedanta, and may be interpreted in two ways, either mystical or amatory” (10), it is hard to imagine what mystical significance could reside in some of the long inventories of physical types and postures. A great deal of information is conveyed in tabular form, including auspicious hours for lovemaking, as well as ones suited to particular techniques, data for synastry, etc. I was intrigued by the emphasis on unguiculation in Chapter VIII, but I fail to see its esoteric dimension.

This particular edition is one of Sir Richard Francis Burton’s translations of the Eastern classics of erotic instruction. Some of the best contents in fact consist of Burton’s annotations. His explanation of the “various abominations” performed in order to ensure amatory attraction by secretly administering bodily fluids in the subject’s food is worthy of remark (55), as is his observation that “most English women” have never learned the real delight of carnal copulation but that Ananga Ranga provides effective remedies for the situation (75). Of purushayitabandha, the category of coital positions with the woman superior, Burton notes that it “is held in great horror by Muslims, who commonly say, ‘Cursed be he who makes himself earth and woman heaven!'” (106) (And thus it has come to be known in some quarters as the “Thelemic missionary position.”)

The original text is dedicated to the god Panduranga (i.e. Vithoba), an avatar of Vishnu. It assures the reader that its purpose is to ensure the durability of marriage, by providing the necessary information to promote variety in conjugal activities. So mote it be.