In every game there are rules to follow and love making in Ancient Hindu cultures had a set of rules all its own. Vatsyayana’s Kama Sutra illuminates these special provisions for us so that we might gain a deeper understanding of the principles and ideas that governed the culture of his time. Ancient Indian culture divided people into a caste system with several thousand divisions but four main groupings.. These individual castes had their own ranks and peculiarities.
It is commonly believed that caste’s were decided by a persons birth because it was believed that Karma, or what you did in life, affected the cycle of reincarnation and rebirth but it has been show that the caste system was non-hereditary in its original form. While you could interact with people of a different caste, there were special rules of conduct and the practice was generally frowned upon.
To understand how the caste system affected lovers in the ancient Hindu culture of Vatsyayana’s time, let us examine the words of the Kama Sutra itself: “When Kama is practiced by men of the four castes according to the rules of the Holy Writ with virgins of their own caste, it then becomes a means of acquiring lawful progeny and good fame, and it is not also opposed to the customs of the world.
On the contrary the practice of Kama with women of the higher castes, and with those previously enjoyed by others, even though they be of the same caste, is prohibited. But the practice of Kama with women of the lower castes, with women excommunicated from their own caste, with public women, and with women twice married, is neither enjoined nor prohibited. The object of practicing Kama with such women is pleasure only.”
How Did The Caste System Work?
According to other ancient manuscripts of the time, these castes were divided into four main parts called Varnas. The Varna designations were the Brahmins (teachers, scholars and priests), the Kshatriyas (kings and warriors), the Vaishyas (traders), and Shudras (agriculturists, service providers, and some artisan groups). There was also a fifth classification deemed to be outside the caste system called the Parjanya, Antyaja or Dalits.
These were considered the “Untouchables” as they were considered as being beneath society and this was usually reserved for those with communicable diseases or held occupations that carried communal health risks or severe uncleanness. This grouping would not have even figured into the Kama Sutra because the very presence of such an individual was considered to defile a person of a higher caste. The defiled individual was then required to bathe thoroughly and purge themselves of any impurities.
When applied to the Kama Sutra, the caste system was shown as a way of determining who safe options were for partners. It provided a measure of safety from various communicable diseases between castes as people were less likely to engage in relations with a person who was below them in the caste system.
For those seeking a lifetime partner through marriages, it also provided a way of reducing contention amongst the spouses by ensuring that both families were of the same background and thus had common ground. This also served to keep lower classes from becoming wealthy by profiting from marriages to higher classes as this was most generally avoided.