The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana

Richard Francis Burton

The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana, by Richard Francis Burton - click to see full size image

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The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana by Richard Francis Burton is an edition of the ancient Indian text on sexuality and emotional needs. Vatsayana was an ancient Indian philosopher who lived during the second or third century. Although it is often thought of as a sex manual, it is much more, with guides on living well, the nature of love, and finding a partner. Indeed, Vatsyayana says himself: 'This work is not to be used merely as an instrument for satisfying our desires'. Burton did not in fact translate the Kama Sutra - it was translated by the Indian scholar Bhagwan Lal Indraji. It was edited by Burton to suit prevailing British attitudes to sex, but was still banned in England and the United States until 1962. Other criticisms levelled at Burton's translation is that instead of using English words for the sex organs, he uses the words 'lingam' and 'yoni', despite those words not appearing in the original work. This was seen as an attempt to distance them and make them 'other', rather than about English people's sexual organs. He also removes the agency of women, and where in the original, women's words are direct quotes, in the Burton translation, women's words are removed and put into the passive state (i.e., A woman saying 'Stop!' becomes 'She continually utters words expressive of prohibition'). Despite all this, it has been such an influential translation that even modern editions in the Hindi language are re-translations of the Burton version.

Part of Anne Haight's List of Banned Books.

This book has 57,133 words, 133 pages in the PDF version, and was originally published in 1883.

Production notes: This ebook of The Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana was published by Global Grey on the 17th March 2018, and updated on the 20th July 2021. The artwork used for the cover is 'A Rose' by Ignacio Pinazo Camarlench.

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