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Interview with Sudhir Kakar

Sudhir Kakar

Sudhir Kakar

Fans of the Kamasutra have often noted the contradiction between the explicit nature of the text and the reality of sexual repression in contemporary Indian society. Do you think this contradiction also typified Vatsyayana's time?

I think from all the available evidence we have (and the Kamasutra provides the bulk of it), there was little or no sexual repression at the time, at least among the upper classes. The demands of sexuality had to be reconciled with those of religion, yes, but it was a reconciliation rather than suppression when the two were in conflict.

Why was it important for you to include excerpts from other commentaries in your translation? What do they add to the text?

We have excerpted two commentaries: the earliest Sanskrit one and a modern Hindi commentary. These elucidate difficult parts of the text, but also introduce their own points of view. By comparing and contrasting them, it is possible to see the differences in the attitudes, social mores and moral responses that were prevalent centuries ago from those of today.

If Vatsyayana were alive today, what would he be doing?

Today, Vatsyayana would have been the publisher of Playboy, not Penthouse.

Interview conducted by Michelle Caswell of Asia Society.