The Kama Sutra was probably collected into its current form sometime in the 2nd century AD. It is attributed to the sage Mallanaga Vatsyayana, and is the oldest of a group of Sanskrit texts devoted to the arts of love.
"Kama" is sensual or sexual pleasure, and "sutra" means a thread or line that holds things together, or, metaphorically, a set of teachings. So, Kama Sutra means "Teachings on Sexual Pleasure" or "Erotic Teachings."
The Kama Sutra was first translated under the direction of the British explorer Richard Burton. He published it privately in 1883 and helped to popularize it in the West.
The book has sections on sexual union, the selection of a wife, relationships with other wives and courtesans, and how to attract others to oneself.
The Kama Sutra celebrates sexuality as an integral part of life, and describes the practices, rituals, and lore of the erotic in human relations.
The books selected and described below offer modern translations of the original Sanskrit text, accompanied by striking illustrations from Eastern art or erotic photography.
Recommended Books on the Kama Sutra
The Kama Sutra, composed by Vatsyayana in the fourth century B.C., explores sexuality as an integral part of human existence. Arguing that happiness and moral duty (dharma) depend on elaborate social ritual to satisfy the essential needs of life, the Kama Sutra describes the practices, rituals, and lore of the erotic (kama) in human relations, both heterosexual and homosexual. Noted Indiologist Danielou provides a fluent and literal translation of the entire Sanskrit original with interpolated extracts from the 12th-century commentary by Yashodara and the modern Hindi commentary by Devadatta Shastri. 1994, Park Street Press
Sexuality and spirituality are inextricably linked in the mythology and texts of ancient India. At the heart of this culture's teachings are sensuous stories of the gods making love that demonstrate the power and purpose of human passion. In Erotic Spirituality and the Kamasutra, Wendy Doniger guides us through India's seductive tales and hidden insights into the art of living and lovemaking. Drawing on amorous myths as well as the world's oldest text of erotic love--the Kamasutra--this scholar of Sanskrit and Hindu mythology reveals rituals to prepare yourself and your bedroom for the delights of erotic love; the language of attraction--recognizing the unspoken signals from a suitor; how the tension of "sexual battle" enhances pleasure; and much more. Here for the first time on audio, a full-length course on spirituality's embrace of sexual pleasure. 2003, Sounds True
"Sex is a good way to begin understanding another culture, just as it is a good way to begin understanding another individual," writes Charles Fowkes in his introduction to Sir Richard Burton's classic translation of the Eastern love texts. As many of the devotees of this popular book can attest, reading about the ancient sexual traditions of India is also a good way for contemporary readers to understand sex. Sir Burton condensed the three ancient love manuals of India (Kama Sutra, Ananga-Ranga, and Perfumed Garden) into one book. What makes this a favorite of all the Kama Sutra titles are the unabashedly erotic texts and color illustrations from India, which offer specific suggestions, such as how to "Milita" kiss (the after-fight reconciliation kiss) as well as how to link a former life into current lovemaking. 1991, Park Street Press
The Illustrated Koka Shastra explores all matters sexual, from setting the mood to explicit instruction on technique. In this edition, Comfort's translation is supplemented with explanatory notes and commentary. Explicit images drawn from a collection of ancient Indian paintings and sculptures - many never before published - complement and augment the classic text. This celebration of sex and sexuality is an invitation to explore a state of mind that accepts physical intimacy as a positive good and its elaboration as a natural part of life. 1997, Simon & Schuster
The Kama Sutra, a 3rd-century Sanskrit text by the Hindu sage Vatsyayana, set forth the principles of sensual pleasure with poetry, wisdom, and humor, celebrating love as an ecstatic expression of life's beauty. The most famous text on sex ever written, it has inspired artists over the centuries to create images depicting its explicit instructions for correct and incorrect sexual behavior during courtship and marriage. There are many Kama Sutras in print, but this lavishly produced, oversized volume is the first illustrated version that presents great works of art inspired by this classic text. Long treasured as an uninhibited exaltation of erotic and mystical bliss, the Kama Sutra, as illuminated here, is a sublime gift for lovers-and lovers of beautiful art. 2002, Harry N. Abrams
Rich in evocative stories, commentaries on proper sexual etiquette, and breathtaking erotic illustrations from the Mughal period in India, this modern-day interpretation of a classic 16th century Persian text is a stimulating guide to the pleasures and techniques of lovemaking. Inside, lovers will find illuminating discussions of erotic principles, explicit instructions, and a plenitude of suggestions for increasing their enjoyment. 2004, Hamlyn
While the original Kama Sutra is synonymous with the idea of erotic skills and exotic passion, some of its ideas just don't apply to modern-day morals, practices, and culture. Here, however, is the essence of that classic work, with the most important knowledge enhanced and beautifully presented with exquisite photography: the 24 major positions, plus an additional 40 taken from such famed erotic guides as the Ananga Ranga and the Perfumed Garden. That's 64 detailed paths to pleasure, along with a few appetite-whetting extras. Details from modern science and body/mind philosophy combine with passages from the Kama Sutra's text to combine the best of the ancient and the new. 2008, Sterling/Ravenous