Sunday, November 30, 2014

The man who wrote the KamaSutra: Vatsyayana

The Kama Sutra is a famous Hindu treatise on the art of love. But not many would no much about the author of this treatise namely Vatsyayna. Richard Burton translated the Kama sutra which was originally written in Sanskrit. But even he could not unravel the life of this author of the Kama sutra.
Life of Vatsyayna Thus the writer of the Kamsutra remains a shadowy figure as hardly any authentic biography of this man is available. We can only make an attempt to glean something about his life from the book Kamasutra itself. However we know the complete name of the writer which was Malinaga Vatsyayana. In all probability he was Hindu and one can surmise that he would have to be a Brahmin. This is so as in those ancient times only a Brahmin was supposed to be the custodian of wisdom and education and had access to all the learned granths and books. The lower casts like the shudras had hardly any access to knowledge and education, hence we can conclude that Vatsyayna must have been from highest caste. Again we can glean that Vatsyayana was probably a man of influence and lived an opulent life. He must have had a lot of leisure time available which he could devote on his writings. In addition the writer must have been steeped in Hindu thought and thus was in a position to interpret this part of Hindu philosophy.i.e. Achievement of God and self realization.
Writings of Vatsyayna Vatsyana besides transcribing the Kama Sutra is also credited with having transcribed the Nyaya Sutras This is an ancient Indian text of philosophy that was composed by the Buddha Gautama inn the 2nd century B.C. There is a subtle difference in the two books as the Kama Sutra tackles Kama (or sensual pleasures) in contrast to the Nyaya Sutra which delineates the paths for achieving moksha( Salvation) in a mans life. Period of Vatsyayna The period of during which Vatsyayana lived cannot be pinpointed though we can make a general assessment. From the Book itself, we learn that he was a resident of Benares. This is very plausible as Benares has for centuries been a holy place and seat of learning of the Saints and Rishis( holy men) of the Hindu religion. There is also a real possibility that Vatsyayana just put into print what was ancient folklore from the Vedic age (2000BC).
Vatsyayans himself mentions that the ruler of Kuntal Satakarni Satavahana, killed his wife while making love to her in the heat of passion with a kartari (small dagger). Kuntal is supposed to be the Jat land (modern Western Utter Pradesh). This king is believed to have ruled during the first century A.D., and hence we can safely conclude that Vatsyayana must have lived during this period. However the Mathematician cum astrologer Daivajna Varahamihira, in his book 'Brihatsanhita' writes of Vivah Patal( marriage world). This appears to be taken from the Kama sutra. Now Varahamihira who was from South Bengal is said to have lived during the sixth century A.D. Therefore one can conclude that Vatsyasana must have lived before him. So we can roughly surmise that the period of Vatsyayana's existence as perhaps from the first to the 3rd century AD.
Vatsyana as an Immortal Another aspect that defies logic is the mention of Vatsyayna in the Bhagavad Gita ( the Song Divine ) of Lord Krishna. This mention has made Vatsyana immortal as the Bhagavad Gita, is one of civilization's seminal texts on philosophy and religion. But whatever the period during which Vatsyayana lived, we must thank him for his treatise that is both educative and informative.