The other day as I was helping my friend to find a new perfume, she remarked that the rules of dating have become very complicated, especially with the advent of new communication technologies. How long do you wait before you reply to his email, how fast should he text you back, etc? Thinking about this gives me a headache far faster than any of the latest celebrity fragrances. As I left my friend to select between Stella McCartney and Hermès Kelly Calèche, I went home to browse through the most famous manual on love for some dating guidance.
In the West, the Kamasutra is seen predominantly as an X-rated guide to all things seductive. In Hindu scriptures, however, kama encompasses all pleasures, from aesthetic to erotic. As a result, Kamasutra is actually a compilation of advice on all matters pertaining to social relationships, romantic encounters and business dealings. Written between 400 BCE and 200 CE, the manual explains how to acquire money, how to behave with friends and how to lead an honorable and fulfilled life.
Chapter 10 on Preludes and Conclusions to the Game of Love made me smile. Please take a look at the excerpts below and tell me if the rules of the game have changed so drastically after all.
“Accompanied by his friends and servants, having taken a bath and being elegantly dressed, the citizen enters the chamber of love [special room for entertainment] of his dwelling, which is carefully decorated, ornamented with flowers, and perfumed with scented smoke. [the man then proceeds to invite his lady and] he amuses her with funny stories, making her laugh… Then comes vocal and instrumental music, whether or not accompanied by dancing. After which they talk about art, then once more, he encourages her to drink….having scented her with flower essences and offered her betel [aromatic nut chewed in India for its mildly stimulating effect], he sends away the others present…[curtain closes on our love birds]”
“Then, conversing sweetly and gently, they take a pleasant meal, a clear soup tasting of mulberries, appetizing grilled meats, drinks of ripe fruit juice, dried meat, lemons and tamarind fruits, according to the customs of the country. Then, at their ease, they drink sweet liquors, while chewing from time to time sweet or tart things. Climbing to the terrace on top of the house to take advantage of the moonlight, they give themselves over to pleasant conversation. She lays her head on his knees to look at the moon. He explains the figures of the constellations to her. Thus, their games of love come to an end.”
At the close, the Kamasutra offers more advice, “A solid attachment is established through friendly conversation. Mutual affect is expressed by changes of mood, sometimes by disputes, sometimes by tender looks. He speaks to her of the wonder of love, born at their first meeting, and of the pain felt in separating, just as the poets have described… United by their experience, their passion grows.” From The Complete Kama Sutra: The First Unabridged Modern Translation of the Classic Indian Text by Alain Daniélou, Inner Traditions International, Rochester, 1994.
Photography of Indian art of henna by Vera, all rights reserved.