Reading the Kama Sutra – 5

Part Three carries the title “Acquiring a Wife”. You can ignore the individual chapter headings; they are misleading. For example, “How to Manage Alone” does NOT have to deal with masturbation (as I suppose you were thinking); rather, it’s about how to court a wife when neither of you has a family member, friend, or servant to help you out.

Anyway, this whole section is on what can best be described as courtship and marriage. Naturally, there’s a list of the types of marriage – from an arranged marriage with a dowry to the simple and crude kidnapping of a woman to make her your wife. The latter, along with any other use of force or deceit, is frowned upon and “only included for the sake of completeness”.

At first glance, this all seems like a guide to seduction. But given that all the steps are described as taking place over at least a few days, and that it’s all done in generalities and not a specific “how to” list, it’s really more a guide of how things are done in practice.

It should be noted that even with all the mentions of dowries and “purchasing” a wife, it’s made abundantly clear that good marriages are where the couple comes from similar social backgrounds and has the same tastes and interests:

21. A prudent man avoids marrying a woman of superior status, since he would lead the life of a servant.

22. The man who marries a woman poorer than himself behaves as a master, and the woman is like his slave. A circumspect man avoids this kind of marriage.

23. When the married couple have the same pleasures, tastes, and amusements, they enhance each other’s values. This kind of marriage is recommended.

There’s one term for a type of marriage – gāndharva – that is used often in this section. Apparently, it’s the type of marriage that doesn’t go through all the “proper” arrangements and rituals that a “respectable” marriage should. But of all the types listed, it’s the one where the couple really and truly is in love.

Love is the goal of the marriage union, and although the gāndharva marriage is not the most recommended, it remains the best.

Go figure.

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