Sexy writingOho. Aha. Now where to begin? From the most well-known of them all of course.Vatsyayana’s Kama SutraLong before Masters and Johnson, the Hite Report and Cosmopolitan, there was the Kama Sutra. Written in Sanskrit by Vatsyayana, who is thought to have lived in the 3rd century CE, it isn’t just a list of sex positions. That’s just one part of what it takes to lead a good, sensual life and the Kama Sutra is a large, sophisticated work that stresses on sexual pleasure for women as much as for men, talks about love, romance, relationships, desire, and family life, among many other things.Here’s how Vatsyayana begins his chapter on kissing:“It is said by some that there is no fixed time or order between the embrace, the kiss, and the pressing or scratching with the nails or fingers, but that all these things should be done generally before sexual union takes place, while striking and making the various sounds generally takes place at the time of the union. Vatsyayana, however, thinks that anything may take place at any time, for love does not care for time or order.”The Kama Sutra isn’t the only book of its kind - matlab pracheen advanced sex-manual. The 19th century British explorer Richard Burton, who translated the book into English, writes that Vatsyayana refers in his work to ten other authors on sex, and Burton points out six other works on sex that followed the Kama Sutra, including the Ratirahasya (thought to be from the 11th or 12th century) and the Ananga Ranga, written in the 15th century.
Image Courtsey: Colour Crafts on engrave.inThe poetry of AndalAndal was a 9th century mystic poet in Tamil Nadu, and the only woman among the 12 medieval Vaishnava saints known as the Alvars. In their book Andal: The Autobiography of a Goddess, Priya Sarukkai Chabria and Ravi Shankar point out that Andal’s poetry is unique in demanding that Vishnu take her as a bride “not as a spirit but as a living maiden” and that she “sings of her individual need for spiritual and sexual congress with her chosen god and of an abundant female desire explicitly sited in the body which too is holy.”Here is a verse translated by Chabria from “Tai Oru Tinkal”:With fingers dipped in lampblack I draw Your nameOn the wall, Ancient One. I draw prancing horsesFor Your chariot that flies Your piscine banner and Your bow of ripest sugarcane and exquisite women to fan You.From childhood I longed for him alone, to himI offer my growing breasts supple and full. MayDvarka’s Lord cup my breasts. This is my prayerKamadeva: make my offering bear fruit.
Image Courtesy: Devdutt PattanaikJayadeva’s Gita GovindaThe Gita Govinda, composed in Sanskrit by the 12th century Jayadeva in what might be considered Odisha today, is a richly erotic poem cycle, full of shringhar rasa, about the relationship between Krishna and Radha. Written in grouped couplets known as the Ashtapadis, each chapter deals with a different aspect of Krishna’s personality – “Joyful Krishna”, “Desiring, Lotus-Eyed Krishna”, “Apologetic Krishna” – but often, the narrative is centred on Radha’s experience:She sings while Krishna plays, her heart drawn into ecstasy‘On my breast your hand KrishnaCool as sandalwood. Draw a leaf wet with deer musk here,It is Love’s sacramental jar. ‘Drape my loins with jeweled belts, fabric and gemstones.My mons venus is brimming with nectar,A cave mouth of thrusts of Desire.’Reckless, inflamed, she presses forthTo the urgent campaign Of sexual loveFlips over and mounts him,Savours the way he gives in…
Image Courtesy: Christie’sMirabai’s bhajansMirabai was a 16th century bhakti poet and devotee of Krishna believed to have been born in Rajasthan. She’s captured people’s imaginations over centuries as a symbol of devotion despite suffering and persecution, though there exist multiple (sometimes contradictory) accounts of her life. When she speaks of Krishna, it is as of a divine husband that she longs to join:Sister, the dark one won’t speak to meWhy does this useless body keep breathing?Another night has goneAnd no one has lifted my gown
Image Courtesy: Prabhakar Wagh from imagekind.comTamil Sangam poetryAs Chenthil Nathan writes elsewhere on Agents of Ishq, “Sangam poetry draws its metaphors from nature, infusing the cycles of the external world with the poets’ inner thoughts. One of the most translated works of Sangam poetry (including by AK Ramanujan) is Kurunthokai, one of the eight anthologies of Sangam literature. It has 400 love poems by various poets.”Here’s one juicy example from Kurunthokai: She says: If I fear slander, my passion will weaken; if I give it up to avoid censure, what’s left is mere modesty; You see, my friend! Like a fibrous branch an elephant broke, Hanging precariously but not falling down, is my virtue that he partook.
Image: Somdutt Sarkar for Agents Of IshqMuddupalani’s Radhika SantvanamMuddupalani lived in the 18th-century, and was a poet and Devadasi in the court of the ruler of Thanjavur. Apart from writing about Krishna and Radha, she appears to have also engaged with the work of Jayadeva and Andal. Women Writing in India: 600 B. C. to the Present, edited by Susie Tharu and Lalita K, sheds some light on the Telugu-speaking author: “Unlike a family woman in her time, as a courtesan Muddupalani would have had access to learning and the leisure to write and practise the arts. She would have owned property and expected and enjoyed functional equality with men. Obviously, the esteem in which Muddupalani was held and the acclaim her work received can be attributed as much to the contexts, literary and social, she drew upon as to her own talent.” In Radhika Santavanam, (Appeasing Radha) Muddupalani writes:Dear maiden, your thighs thunderedYour sari slipped, your breasts heaved,and your anklets trembled,as your foot struck my head. But my body trembled with ecstasy, how can I describe this euphoria? Gaha SattasaiThis collection of love poems, considered one of the oldest existing poetry anthologies, is written in the gatha form in Prakrit, a language once spoken in Maharashtra. In a 2008 edition translated into English, the publisher’s description reads, “The speakers are mostly women and, whether young or old, married or single, they touch on the subject of sexuality with frankness, sensitivity and, every once in a while, humour, which never ceases to surprise.” Here’s a taste from the English translation by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra:Bookish lovemakingIs soon reptitiveIt’s the improvised styleWins my heart Or:He groped meFor the underwearThat wasn’tThere:I saw the boy’s FlusterAnd embraced him More tightlyIf that doesn’t get you all hot and bothered today, centuries after some of these works were written, we don’t know what will!