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Exploring 'Kama'

R. Mahalakshmi

By Sandhya Mulchandani
Lustre Press-Roli Books, New Delhi, 2006, pp. 192, price not stated.


This exotically produced hardback is the kind of book one would not wish to waste much papyrus on. Filled with large size colour pictures of erotic art, presumably done in the miniature art format of the Mughal and Rajasthani schools, the reader-spectator who wishes for more academic information is left clueless about the time of composition and the regions to which these belong (there is only a list of collections from which these have been taken on p. 189). I have personally counted these as there is no list available and there are about 125 proper paintings, other than the many figures such as that of Krishna that appear to have been lifted from larger canvases.There are also predictably a few sculptural reliefs, presumably from Khajuraho (ago, this is not specified!) that provide relief fromk the miniature overdose.   The 'Introduction' attempts a long-winded explanation that appears to read like an apology for the theme. The subtitle 'Sublimo Beatitudo' says it all. We are told about civilizations; quest for happiness, the views of the Greek philosophers, Aristotle and Epicurus on happiness, and about how Indians have always known that happiness was a prerequisite for happiness. The four-fold Greek understanding of bliss, with sublimo beatitudo or perfect happiness that is suffused with goodness, beauty, truth and love is the premise for the author's understanding of erotic literature. The Indian understanding of final beaitutde or mahasukha or ananda, is seen as corresponding to the Greek concepts (p. 10). Inevitably, the Samkhya tradition of invoking purusa and prakriti to explain creation is drawn upon, and this is seen as best exemplified in the myths revolving around Krishna and Radha, and Shiva and Shakti (pp. 12-18).   The next two chapters revolve around the concept of bhakti and the figure of Krishna respectively. Various examples are cited from motley sources--Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu and Persian--to locate love within the bhakti (and Sufi, which it is suggested drew from the former) tradition, and within that the expression of love through eroticism. The Krishna erotica is woven through texts such as the Bhagavata Purana (10th century), Brahmavaivarta Purana (14th - 16th century, wrongly attributed to the 10th century, p. 62)., Jayadeva's Gita Govindam (late 12th century), Vaishnava Padaval of Vidyapati (not specified, 16th century), Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami's Shri Chaitanya Charitamrta (early 16th century), Vishvanatha Chakravartin's Krishna Bhavanamrta and Prabodamamda Sarasvati's Radha Rasa Sudha Nidhi (pp. 57-100).   'The Kama texts' reflect on the ...

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