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Sex in Ancient India

Posted by: webmaster on Saturday, May 15, 2004 - 08:15 _PRINTPrinter friendly page  _EMAILFRIENDSend this story to a friend
Europeans have chosen to forget not o­nly that their language originates in India, but that it was there that the most modern view of sexual pleasures was conceived.

Estimates of ancient populations are notoriously unreliable. India has been put at about 25 millions in 400 BC, which would be roughly a quarter of the whole population at the time.

India is an old civilization of immense inheritance, in which almost limitless toleration of belief existed side by side with the world’s most long-lived intolerance of free social contact, the caste system. Castes means keeping away from people who might pollute o­ne, not eating with them, not marrying them o­nly among themselves, interested o­nly in themselves.

By roughly AD 450 the techniques of sexual pleasure had been comprehensively described in the Kama Sutra, a summary of numerous much longer works, compiled by the ascetic celibate Vatsyayana.This comprehensive volume summarized many earlier writings o­n sexual topics dating as far back as 3000 years. The version by Vatsyayana is o­ne of the well-known survivors and was first translated into English.

The most public known sexual literature of India was written for and kept by the upper castes and nobility, their servants and concubines, and those in certain religious orders. Those were literate people who had instruction and education.

In ancient Indian thought is recognized as the stimulus of action and personified as the god of erotic love. Ancient Indian mythology is replete with stories of both male and female sex change, dual goddesses who mate, and gods and goddesses who take o­n attributes perceived to be both male and female. These women were seen as essentially different.

There is much scholarly dispute over whether it refers entirely to women taking an active role in sex with men, or to sex between two women. Royal women are recorded in this passage as having sex with their servants, whom they dressed as men, using fruits, vegetables, and dildos. But there are also better and less accidental justifications for such an emphasis.

The state of archeological and historical scholarship also reflects and further explains the concentration of attention o­n ancient Indian sexuality.

One of the great popular cult figures of the Hindu pantheon today is Shiva, in whose worship many early fertility cults have been brought together.

A figure who looks like an early Shiva, and stones like the lingam found in modern temples, the phallic cult-object which is his emblem, have been found in ancient Indian shrines.

There is some presumptive evidence therefore for the view that worship of Shiva may be the oldest surviving religious cult in the world.

The importance of India’s early sexuality nevertheless lies in the way it lay down patterns still shaping the lives of even larger numbers today, rather than its impact o­n big populations in antiquity.

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