Category Archives: T. Assorted Themes in Hinduism

The God of Small Things (Arundhati Roy): Review

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy is a fictional novel that focuses on the different aspects of love in Hindu culture. “The laws that lay down who should be loved, and how. And how much.” (Roy 33, 168, 311). This line is present in the book in multiple places, in slightly different words, and is the most prevalent and recurring motif: that love is not something to be given freely, but is a highly monitored and structural system with rules of engagement that must be followed. Marriage, love, and sex are tied closely with the caste system in Indian culture, an article in The Economist quoting 90-95% of marriages are within the same caste (The Economist, 2015). Reena Kukreja also writes that “inter-caste marriages are taboo” as marriages are a way to maintain the social order of the caste system, which would be degraded if people were allowed to marry outside their caste (Kukreja, 2018). Ammu, the mother of the main characters Rahel and Estha, is a higher caste than her lover Velutha who is born into the untouchable class, a ‘paravan’. “The term “Untouchable” was eventually used to designate these people, who were “outside” the varṇa [caste] system” (Rodrigues 87). Their secret love affair ultimately ends in Velutha’s brutal murder at the hands of the police, as he is accused of the rape of Ammu and kidnapping of her children, by Ammu’s family. Her family does this to protect themselves from the shame of Ammu having a relationship with someone from a lower caste. “She had defiled generations of breeding…For generations to come, forever now, people would point at them…They’d nudge and whisper” (Roy 244). Though the children, Rahel and Estha, also care for Velutha deeply, it is culturally forbidden to engage with a member of the untouchable caste in this way. This caste system is so important, and rigid, that Vellya Paapen offers to kill his own son, Velutha: “He asked God’s forgiveness for having spawned a monster. He offered to kill his son with his own bare hands” (Roy 75).

Ammu and Velutha are forbidden to be together due to the Laws of Manu. “The Laws of Manu firmly promotes marriage within one’s own varna, suggestive of efforts to prevent racial mixture” (Rodrigues 79). This is a part of the Dharma Sastra literature that explains the duties and behaviours that are appropriate for each caste. There is no acceptance of class mobility, “for it is better to follow one’s own dharma (svadharma) inadequately, than to do the dharma of another varna thoroughly” (Rodrigues 79). Should one want to change their caste, there is no way to do so, and acting in a way that would signify or imply you were born into a higher caste is worse than not following your birth caste, even poorly. One issue that is not overly explored in the novel is the idea that the caste system is also inherently sexist. Shruti Chaudhry writes of “The gendered character of caste membership” and the implications “that endogamy could be breached by dominant/upper caste men but not by Jat women” (Chaudhry 2018: 5). The research here suggests that if men are without a wife, they may go find one from far away, so that her caste is not known and essentially adopt her into their own caste. For women this would be unthinkable, as there is evidence to suggest women were killed by their fathers for breaching the caste marriage tradition (Chaudhry 2018: 4). Kukreja agrees: “Dalit women suffer more due to the intersection of caste with gender and patriarchy” (Kukreja 2018: 511).

What is interesting in the book is that, though the family of Ammu is Christian, they still adhere to the Dharmic principles of the caste system. Even though there is no caste system in Christianity, and Christ’s message is largely supportive of the poor, downtrodden, and despised.  “…such activities as having sexual relations, eating the same foods together, or participating in particular religious rites with persons outside of one’s jati are not just undesirable, but actually go against the natural order” (Rodrigues 84). Despite the Christian influence the importance of marrying and associating only with those of your own caste persists. Ammu and Velutha’s love is against the natural order and is therefore unacceptable. “The ritual pollution associated with these groups [lower castes, untouchables] is believed to transfer temporarily to the higher castes through contact” (Rodrigues 87). Through the importance placed on the higher castes of maintaining their “purity,” one can understand the reaction of Ammu’s family. Not only was their daughter touched by a paravan, but she had a sexual relationship with a paravan. This sort of pollution and shame would extend not simply to Ammu, but to her entire family, where maintenance of cleanliness, and purity was of utmost importance. The shame that would be extended to include the family by way of Ammu’s relationship with an untouchable was seen as something to cover up and deny at all costs. “…the stigmatization of the Dalit [paravan] is deeply rooted in Hindu culture, supported by scriptural injunctions and religious practices that have endured for millennia” (Rodrigues 88).

A second theme that the book explores is the controversial state of a divorced woman. “She subscribed wholeheartedly to the commonly held view that a married daughter had no position in her parents’ home. As for a divorced daughter – according to Baby Kochamma (Ammu’s aunt), she had no position anywhere at all. And as for a divorced daughter from a love marriage, well, words could not describe Baby Kochamma’s outrage.” (Roy 45). A long quote, but one that does well to highlight the negative opinions that are held about women of divorce. Rodrigues (Rodrigues 106) explains that a love marriage is seen as something inferior to the traditional arranged marriage. Ammu violated not only the arranged marriage customs, but, in the eyes of her family, added to her shame (and theirs) by marrying for “love”. The children also suffer from this stereotype, they hold less, or maybe no value at all, due to the unfortunate circumstances of being children of divorce. “Mammachi said that what her grandchildren suffered from was far worse than inbreeding. She meant having parents who were divorced” (Roy 59). “In crucial ways, marriage forms the cornerstone of Hindu religious life” (Rodrigues 104). Especially for women, who have no earlier rite of passage into Hindu society, marriage is the rite of passage. This is obviously the case with Ammu and her family as she is stigmatized for being a divorced woman, even in the household of Christians.

The caste system is divided into small and smaller units called jatis. “Jati refers to the group into which a Hindu is born, and from which he or she should traditionally choose a marriage partner” (Rodrigues 83). As we can see here, the stigmatization of divorcees is tied closely to the caste system, which defines who may marry whom, and discourages divorce. Ammu originally married outside of the caste system entirely, then divorced, and finally engaged in a relationship with a paravan. Each step pushed the boundaries of socially accepted practises further and further until the inevitable ending of Velutha’s death. According to Rodrigues most Hindu marriages, to this day, are arranged marriages with caste, and skin color being important factors when choosing a partner (Rodrigues 104). Each of the important features of marriage that Rodrigues touches on here were violated by Ammu, and Velutha, during their relationship. The denial by the family in order to salvage some of their reputation led to the misguided beating, and death, of Velutha by the police.

Finally, shame seems to be an integral part of the book as well. Velutha, a paravan, was born into a shameful caste, and Ammu was also shamed for divorcing her first husband, and even the children are not shielded from shame. At one point Rahel talks back to her mother, Ammu, who responds by telling her young daughter: “…do you realize what you have just done?… When you hurt people, they begin to love you less. That’s what careless words do. They make people love you a little less” (Roy 107). “The moth on Rahel’s heart lifted a downy leg. Then put it back. Its little leg was cold. A little less her mother loved her” (Roy 131). There is also inherent racism that is felt by the children, for being treated so differently from their white cousin: “Littleangels were beach-colored…Littledemons were mudbrown…” (Roy 170). The racism is also mirrored in the Laws of Manu that seperation of the classes, or castes, is also implying a seperation of races (Rodrigues 79). Ever present throughout the book is this comparison of the children of Ammu, Indian children, to that of Sophie, their white cousin. The repetition of the laws of love which are directed at Velutha and Ammu’s secret affair are echoed in the love Sophie receives, that Rahel and Estha do not.

The God of Small Things creates an understanding of the issues of divorce, marriage, the caste system, untouchables, and the disparity between people in a way that is easily understood on an emotional level. It is leans towards highlighting the damages of the caste system, but it does get its message across in a unique and poetic way that allows one to feel as though they are experiencing the segregation of classes for themselves. Although it highlights the negative aspects of the caste system, it is enlightening to become attached to the characters and understand the struggle that they face in their culture. The stereotyping and degrading of unwanted peoples untouchables, divorcees, those of different religions, and races, the story allows one to connect on a deeper level to the issues that face those born into a lower caste with no chance of improving their life in a way that scholarly factual writing cannot.


Chaudhry, Shruti (2018) “‘Flexible’ Caste Boundaries: Cross-regional Marriage as Mixed Marriage in Rural North India.” Contemporary South Asia 1-15. Accessed November 27, 2018. DOI: 10.1080/09584935.2018.1536694.

Kukreja, Reena (2018) “Caste and Cross-region Marriages in Haryana, India: Experience of Dalit Cross-Region Brides in Jat Households.” Modern Asian Studies 52(2), 492-531. Accessed November 27, 2018. DOI:10.1017/S0026749X000391.

Rodrigues, Hillary (2016) Hinduism – The ebook.  Journal of Buddhist Ethics Online Books.

Roy, Arundhati (1997) The God of Small Things. Toronto: Vintage Canada.

“Love (and Money) Conquer Caste; Marriage in India.” The Economist September 5, 2015, p. 44. Canadian Periodicals Index Quarterly. Accessed November 27, 2018.

This article was written by: Skye Helgeson (Fall, 2018), who is entirely responsible for its content.

Homosexuality in Hinduism

A wide spectrum of ideas and thoughts about homosexuality have been expressed, viewed, and experienced by Hindus. Hinduism acknowledges that there are three sexes; male, also known as Pumsa-Prakriti, female, also known as Stri-prakriti and a third sex called Tritiya-prakriti (Wilhelm 4). These categorizations are not only based on physical characteristics but are determined by the entire being. That is, Hindus looked at the physical body, the subtle psychological body and the individual’s social interactions or procreative status (Wilhelm 4).  A person who falls under the category of Tritiya-prakriti is either homosexual, transgender or intersexed.

The third sex has mainly been excluded from modern day Hinduism due to Great Britain’s negative views seeping into the cracks of society (Wilhelm 4).  When Great Britain was the major power and dominated India, homosexuality was viewed as sinful, horrific, and not to be mentioned. India and many other societies were influenced by this view and negative connotations were associated with same-sex relationships.  These associations became the norm. Although the third sex is not widely acknowledged by society today, many texts share ideals and beliefs regarding marriage, lifestyle, and overall rules, not only for heterosexual peoples, but also for people that fall under the category of third sex. In this article, I will also describe and explore the discussed view on homosexuality, same sex marriage and same sex intercourse that is elaborated through multiple Hindu texts. I will shed light on modern day Hinduism versus historical Hindu society and discuss whether or not the Hindu religion is relatively more tolerant to same sex behavior.

Homosexuality was essentially an underground form of behavior that was brought to light within many Hindu texts (Carpenter and Isterwood 5). The Bhavisya Purana states that scriptures dealing in religious law and behavior were transmitted from Lord Brahma to Manu and later created into four smaller texts sages; Manusmrti, Narada-smrti, Brhaspati and Angiras and others (Wilhelm 70). In the Dharma Sastra, the third sex is considered to be natural or something that is involuntarily embedded into an individual (Wilhelm 72). Therefore, no verses punish the third-gender citizens for their natural instincts, but some digressions towards homosexual behavior are discussed; found in the Manusmrti.

The stance taken by Dharma literature regarding homosexuality is not opposing nor is it entirely supportive (Yarhouse and Nowacki 40). The Dharma Sastras value heterosexual marriage and acknowledge the existence of other forms of sexuality. Although homosexuals are included in the text, Hindus still attempt to restrain them with fines, regarding sexual activity, without overly condemning them in religious or moral terms. An individual’s caste also plays a huge role. High caste men who have intercourse with other men are punished more than lower class individuals that do the same; for woman, the opposite order applies (Sands 9). Individuals might avoid homosexual relations all together in some instances to protect their family’s name, caste, etc. The Manusmrti declares that homosexual intercourse involving a Brahmana or twice born male results in the loss of caste unless atoned for by a ritual bath (Wilhelm 72). As for women, the only concern that is discussed by the Manusmrti is the violation of a young, unmarried girl. The violator would be punished to the same degree as a heterosexual male that forced himself on a young girl (Wilhelm 73). Other texts, such as the Arthasastra, are devoted to the basis or secular law and material success which, forbid intercourse. In this text, male homosexuals are to be prescribed punishment more so than females, but neither female nor male homosexuality is as strictly sought after  in the Arthasastra as they are in the Dharma texts. The Laws of Manu or Manusmrti is a central text that prescribes a harsher punishment for female homosexuals than male homosexuals (Sands 9).

The Dharma Shastra text clearly forbids the marrying of impotent or a third-gender man to a woman (Wilhelm 76). There are eight types of marriages or Vivaha stated in the Manusmriti: Brahma, Daiva, Arsha, Prajapatya, Asura, Gandharva, Raksasa and Pisacha. Homosexual individuals would often engage in casual love, but were sometimes known to have a gandharva marriage to one another. The Kama Sutra states, “there are also third-sex citizens, sometimes greatly attached to each other and with complete faith in one another, who get married (parigraha) together” (Kama Sutra 2.9.36). The Baudhayana Dharmasutra also states that the first four are lawful for a Brahmana but the Gandharva form of marriage is for all since it flows from love (1.20.16). Gandharva was a union of cohabitation and love recognized by common law, but no parental consent or religious ceremony was needed to achieve this label. The sacrament of marriage in Hinduism was the joining of two families not two individuals. Conservative Hindu’s believe that only romantic love can be shared between a man and a woman, thus when two people of the same sex participate in sexual activities, it is only a result of lust (Yarhouse and Nowacki 40). Therefore, Gandharva is not regarded as a marriage but more of a friendship, in which lust is involved.

The Brhapati on the other hand was compressed into one of the four smaller texts to encompass politics, economy, and prosperity; they were called the Arthasastra. The Arthasastra regards it as a crime to vilify men and women of the third sex, and if a person of the third sex is mocked in public by an individual or group, they were fined (Wilhelm 80). It also states that an impotent man of the third gender will not receive any of the family’s inheritance, but if he has a progeny that is not impotent, they may receive some of the family’s inheritance. However, the family must supply their third gender relatives with food and clothing (Wilhelm 81). Therefore, the impotent man would still be somewhat looked after by his family, but may refrain from making it known that they are not attracted to the opposite sex for want of an inheritance. As for certain homosexual behaviors, the Arthasastra states that relatively small fines are to be given if certain behaviors are exhibited. For example, if a young unmarried girl is deflowered by a woman, the girl must pay a fine of 12 panas, if she was a willing participant and of the same varna, but the woman would pay double that. If the girl was unwilling, the violator must pay 100 panas plus the girl’s dowry (Wilhelm 81). These rules were put into place to resolve the issues in Hindu society, whereas in other religious societies, homosexuality was not discussed and individuals would not know what to do.  Overall, the third sex was viewed as a part of historical Hindu society, and was integrated into these texts as a result.

Verses regarding the understanding of sexuality, behavior, and practice were set aside by Nandi and forming the text called the Kama Sastra. In this text, the term Tritiya-prakriti is used to describe homosexual and transgender behavior within Hinduism along with the various Sanskrit words such as, Svairini and Kliba, which put individuals into certain homosexual categories. Lesbian, or Svairini, refers to an independent and liberated woman who has refused a husband and earns her own livelihood. She may live either alone or with another woman and the texts describes the various types of homosexual behavior.  The act of purushayita is when a couple switches roles and the woman goes on top, penetrating the male using her finger or a dildo (Wilhelm 9). These same acts occur between Svairini. There are, eight different types of penetration known as, purushopariptani, that are described so that similar acts can occur between two females.  Therefore, the Kama Sastra acknowledges that the Svairini, although in some cases looked down upon in society, should be able to participate in sexual acts (Wilhelm 90). Lesbians were readily accommodated into the third gender society and ordinary society. They were allowed to engage in all means of livelihood, such as trade, government, and entertainment (Wilhelm 9). Gay men, or Kliba, can refer to any type of impotent man, but, in this case, it is used to describe men who are completely un-attracted to woman (Wilhelm 10). Kliba’s are described in the Kama Sutra regarding oral sex. Heterosexual males are not recommended to have oral sex and it is forbidden to Brahmanas. However, it is acknowledged as a natural practice among third sex individuals who are not engaged in celibacy.

Gay men, who take a passive role in oral sex, are specifically known as mukhebhaga or asekya (Wilhelm 51).  There are two different types of gay males described by the Kama Sutra, the first being the feminine male. These individuals usually keep a womanly fashion with long hair but are not to be confused with males who dress up as females ( i.e. transvestites) (Wilhelm 10). Gay males who fall under the feminine category were often hired by aristocratic women and usually very good at entertainment, most notably dancing. Their presence was also considered to be auspicious and their blessings were welcomed at religious ceremonies. The masculine gay male is not as recognizable as the feminine homosexual male (Wilhelm 11). They would keep a masculine body type, grow out moustaches or small beards and would often wear shiny earrings. They were also talented in a different way and would often serve as house attendants to wealthy vaisyas (merchants) or as ministers to the government officials. Gay males who were practicing celibacy were also allowed to become temple priests despite their sexual preferences.

In modern day society, homosexual terms that are used to describe gay or lesbian citizens have been inaccurately translated by individuals to impose puritan ethics upon Hindu literature, where they did not otherwise exist (Wilhelm 7). When Great Britain colonized India, the term homosexuality was first coined and writers labelled it as a “sin” or “horrific” and it became an orientation that was not to be spoken of (Wilhelm 9). This idea has crossed over into modern day Hinduism. The third-sex is unspoken of in modern day Hindu society and many individuals are forced into arranged marriages, where parents force their children to be straight (Sands 9). Same sex marriages also continue to be illegal in India (Sands 13).

Despite these negative views, acceptance of gay pride marches and events are evident in urban areas such as Mumbai, which holds the largest gay pride march in the country. However, the majority of the population does not approve (Sands 6). Given all the information, it appears that even though the Hindu religion has acknowledged same sex behavior in their texts, historically Hindus have been more tolerant than other religions towards homosexuality. That being said, restrictions and rules were upheld and continue to be/are continually upheld so that the religion can have the structure, so third sex individuals are not necessarily viewed as equals in society, especially not in modern day society. The question remains: will Hinduism go back to the way it once was and include third sex individuals into their society, or will they form a new idea and ideals about homosexuality on their own?


Sources Consulted

Jeffrey S. Siker (2007) Homosexuality and religion: An encyclopedia. Westport, Connecticut, London: Geenwood press.

Takhar, S (2018) Hidden desires: Hinduism and Sexuality. London South Bank University.

Stephanie Kaye Nowacki., Mark A. Yarhouse (2007) The Many Meanings of Marriage: Divergent Perspectives Seeking Common Ground. Virgina beach: Regent University.

Amara Das Wilhelm (2008) Tritya-Prakriti: People Of The Third Sex.  Understanding homosexuality, transgender identity and intersex conditions through Hinduism. Bloomington, Indiana: Xlibris Corporation.

Anthony Copley (2006) Apiritual Bloomsbury. Hinduism and Homosexuality in the lives and writings of Edward Carpenter, E. M. Forster, and Christopher Isherwood.  Langam: Lexington books.


References and further recommend readings

Kalra, Gurvinder (2016) “Hijras: the unique transgender culture of India” International Journal of Culture and Mental Health 5:121-26. DOI:10.1080/17542863.2011.570915

Mehta, J.M (2009) Four Spans of Human Life: Ashram Vyavastha. Daryaganj: Hindoology Books.

Penrose, Walter (2001) “Hidden in History: Female Homoeroticism and Women of a ‘Third Nature’ in the South Asian Past.” Journal of the History of Sexuality 10:3-39. Accessed February 7, 2016.

Doniger, W., Sudhir Kakar, and Vatsyayana (2002) Kamasutra: Oxford world’s classics. New York: Oxford University Press Inc.

Olivelle, Patrick (2008) “Celibacy in Classical Hinduism.” In Celibacy and Religious Traditions, edited by Carl Olson, 151-164. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Related topics for further investigation

1) The Hijra

2) The Aravani or Ali

3) The Jogappa

4) Marriage equality

5) Homosexuals rights in india

This article was written by: Maria Fanning (November 2018), who is entirely responsible for its content.


Intoxication in Hinduism

The use of intoxicants in the Hindu tradition varies depending on the substance. Specific substances are mentioned in sacred writings, such as the alcohol in the Ayurveda and cannabis in the Atharva Veda (Frawley 1 and Shivaharidas 2). Highly regarded substances are used sacredly during rituals, as offerings to gods and goddesses. Furthermore, there are over one hundred Vedic hymns praising Soma, one of the most highly regarded intoxicants in the Hindu tradition. Certain substances are associated with particular deities and incorporated into precise myths. These important substances are understood widely in the Hindu tradition and considered very holy (Godlaski 1067). Other substances are recognized as harmful and individuals are advised to use caution when consuming them. There is no specific set of rules for Hindus to follow regarding intoxicating substances (Frawley 1). However, many Vedic scriptures discuss the use of intoxicants and can be referenced as a guideline. Based on the understanding of Dharma, individuals must recognize how intoxicants will affect them in relation to cosmic order. It is challenging to comprehend how mind-altering substances, can fit in with the natural laws behind the universe. The many ancient writings of the Hindus serve as a guideline when becoming involved with intoxicating substances, and should be referenced in order to obey a virtuous Hindu lifestyle.

The core beliefs and practices surrounding alcohol in the Hindu tradition are based on caste-related permissive uses. For example, alcohol restrictions were placed on the high-caste brahmins (Sharma 9), furthermore the Rg Veda states that ksatriyas (the warrior class) were allowed to use alcohol on occasion in coherence with their military culture. The lower castes such as the vaisyas and sudras had few restrictions on alcohol use, based on their social status. These lower classes do not have societal obligations to attend to therefore alcohol usage is permitted. The Brahmins (priestly class) refrain from alcohol because within the caste system they are of a closer ranking to the gods, which means that intoxicating substances are offered to deities instead of ingested. The Brahmin class must remain pure and mentally clear in order to worship the gods and have them remain unpolluted. Alcohol is an important aspect within religious events and festivals (Frawley 1), but the Brahmin class does not consume.

The Vedic scriptures can be referenced in order to understand when alcohol is appropriate to use in the Hindu tradition. Alcohol is an important aspect during religious ritual and becomes a traditional feature of social gatherings, however it can be sinful and dangerous when used incorrectly. Within the post-Vedic period (700 BCE-110 CE), strong alcoholic beverages were served to guests on certain occasions, such as marriage. Occasions like this are seen as appropriate times to take part in alcohol consumption, but following the guidelines of Vedic scripture it is only used in seldom (see Sharma 9). Furthermore, the use of alcohol is mentioned in two of the greatest Indian epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, two great Hindu stories that are widely acknowledged, which provide reference to alcohol usage that the public can respect and incorporate into their personal lives. Within the Ramayana the royal individuals are drinking wine, and many people of Ayodhya are also consuming large amounts of alcohol (Sharma 10). Alcohol is mentioned frequently within the Mahabharta, the demise of the Yadavs (a warrior dynasty) was due to fighting while inebriated (Sharma 10). This epic also mentions that drinking alcohol can be sinful, and alludes to the demise of a warrior dynasty to describe its potential side effects. This piece of the epic is important to understand intoxication within the Hindu culture. A great warrior class failing due to inebriation is an important lesson to guide an individual to understanding how intoxicants can negatively affect the state of mind. Hinduism acknowledges that alcohol is a powerful affluence, and that its influence should not be taken casually (Frawley 1).

The Ayurveda literature also contains views on the use of alcohol. Within this medical section of the Hindu Dharma, alcohol is used as an important solvent for extracting herbs; it is used as an essential tool within this text (Frawley 1). The Ayurveda also mentions two important herbal wines, asavas and aristas, which are used for weak digestion and relaxants for stress. The Ayurveda recognizes that herbal wines can have health benefits, but only when taken in moderation. This text expands on the dangers associated with alcohol use. Stating that frequent consumption can cause both psychological and physical disease. The dangers of alcohol use become relevant when it comes to an individuals’ state of mind: not only can frequent use of alcohol damage the liver, contribute to blood toxicity and also damage the brain, but it is also important to recognize that for studying students and religious individuals, it can impair mental judgment (Frawley 1). Mental clarity is an essential component in achieving moksa, and by purposely impairing an individuals mind; they are further away from attaining this ultimate goal. This kind of intoxication is predominantly viewed as negative within the Hindu tradition because of the health risks and addiction associated with this particular substance.

The use of cannabis in the Hindu tradition is widely explored within the Atharva Veda in which “cannabis is named one of the five most sacred plants on Earth” (Ramadurai 1). Vedic and Hindu literature mention cannabis for its medicinal, cultural, and religious usages. Cannabis has been used for thousands of years in the worship of the god Siva (Godlaski 1067). It is orally administered through bhang in the form of pills, or a drink made of milk and spices. It is commonly consumed at celebrations such as weddings and festivals to honor Siva and dispel evil influences caused by demons, which focus on the suffering of mankind. At festivals like Shivratri, the night of Siva and Holi, the festival of colors, bhang plays an important role. The holiness of bhang reverts back to its virtue of clearing the head and stimulating the brain (Shivahardias 11). It is used in order to clear the human brain and bring individuals closer to the gods. Cannabis is believed to have a guardian spirit whose most important duty is to counteract the attempts of evil demons. Worshippers of Siva consume bhang on festival days, and ascetic holy men smoke the flower buds in devotion to him. These holy men (sadhus) follow Lord Siva and consume regular quantities of cannabis. Most often, they smoke buds of the flower in clay pipes, called chillums, which are used in rituals of meditation, worship and yogic practices (Godlaski 1069). The ashes of the buds are believed to have powerful medicinal properties.

These specific practices are codified in the Vedas, which describe an association between Siva and cannabis. It states that a drop of amrta (sacred nectar), fell out of the sky, landed on a mountain and sprouted a cannabis plant. Siva then brought the plant down for the benefit of mankind (Godlaski 1068). This story recounts how the use of cannabis is associated with the god Siva. The same story continues to describe how demons attempted to use the cannabis plant for their own evil usage; Siva prevented this and so cannabis has also been given the name, vijaya (victory).

Cannabis in the Vedas is referred to as a source of happiness, and given to human beings to assist us in feeling happiness and to revert feelings of distress and anxiety (Godlaski 1068). The Atharva Veda continues to mention the benefits of cannabis and how it is able to “release us from anxiety” (Atharva Veda 11.6.15). It is described as a protector, and is used to protect all animals and properties (Shivaharidas 2).  Cannabis is therefore sacred, significant and respected in the Hindu tradition and is highly beneficial to Hindu society as both a medicine, and religious property.

In Vedic literature, the use of Soma can be identified as a plant, a drink and a god (deva). It is highly glorified within the Vedas, most importantly within the ninth mandala of the Rg Veda (McGeough 1). This mandala compares Soma to the sun, fire and immortality. Soma is directly correlated with the Rg Veda, because it has over 100 hymns dedicated to the plant, and plays a crucial role in understanding its effects. Soma is also mentioned within the Satapatha Brahmana, “Soma is a God, since Soma (the moon) is in the sky” and “now Soma is a god, for Soma was in the heaven” (Shivaharidas 1). The various descriptions and metaphors for Soma provide emphasis to the importance of this Vedic god within the Hindu tradition. It is physically referred to as a god, and put on the same pedestal as the heavens. It is glorified within sacred writings, and its power is clearly influential.

Similar to cannabis, it is described within the Rg Veda as the healer of disease, which renounces feelings of anxiety and stress and named the king of plants (McGeough 1). Vedic descriptions of Soma vary: it has been speculated to be cannabis, the ephedra plant, wine or a mushroom. However, it is unlikely that Soma is a type of alcohol since alcohol has other names within the Vedas and alcoholic intoxication is not seen as a positive influence within Vedic literature. It is most likely that Soma is a type of hallucinogenic mushroom, because of its appearance and intoxicating effects, however this theory cannot be proven with certainty (McGeough 1).

There are no other types of intoxicants in the Hindu tradition that produce the same effect as Soma. Primarily, Brahmin priests used Soma to be connected with the gods during Vedic rituals. Soma clearly plays a very significant role within rituals, and the Hindu tradition as a whole. Vedic deities also consume large amounts of Soma, such as Agni (god of fire) and Indra (lord of the thunderbolt) (Rg Veda 108. 1-13). It is the favorite drink of these gods, and is supplied to mortal human beings so they may find happiness. Soma is able to provide humans with mystical experiences and contributes to the connection between human and deities within the Hindu tradition.

The connection between the use of cannabis and the use of Soma within the Hindu tradition is evident. Hindu history even suggests that these two intoxicants might be the same substance (Shivahardias 1). Both substances are used for relaxation, mental clarity and used within religious rituals. These two substances are highly regarded within society, and mentioned frequently within ancient writings. Users of these intoxicants practice usage frequently, and it is normalized within their society. On the contrary, the use of alcohol is recognized as a more harmful intoxicant and its users are advised to proceed with caution when consuming. The Hindu tradition recognizes the possible harmful consequences that occur with intoxicants (predominantly the use of alcohol), such as the harmful effects of over consumption. Particularly within the Ayurveda, these harmful consequences are explored and explained.

In order to follow a Dharmic lifestyle and understand the concepts of Karma, one should not participate in over consumption of any intoxicant due to their hallucinogenic and mind-altering properties. Referring back to the ancient Hindu texts and epics can guide the individual toward understanding when and where intoxication is appropriate and how to use mind-altering substances appropriately. These writings not only serve as a guideline when it comes to intoxication in Hinduism, but also how to live a virtuous Hindu lifestyle. The negative consequences associated particularly with alcohol usage within Hinduism should be understood and acknowledged before individuals decide to partake in consuming intoxicants.



Alfred, J. Andrea (2011) World History Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.

Frawley, David (2014) “A Hindu view on the use of alcohol.” The Hindu Perspective. Hindu Voice UK. Accessed October 8, 2018.

 Godlaski, Theodore M (2012) “Shiva, Lord of Bhang, Substance Use & Misuse.” Substance Use & Misuse. Vol. 47, Issue 10. P1067-1072. DOI: 10.3109/10826084.2012.684308

Ramadurai, Charukesi (2017) “The intoxicating drug of an Indian god.” BBC Travel. BBC. Accessed November 27th, 2018.

Shivaharidas (2012) “Vedic use of Cannabis “ Scribd, BY-NC. P1-12.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica (1998) “Soma” Encyclopaedia Britannica: Britannica Academic. Encyclopaedia Britannica inc.


Related Topics for Further Investigation




Rg Veda
















Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

Article written by: Leah Paul (November 2018) who is solely responsible for its content.

The Ramayana: A New Retelling of Valmiki’s Ancient Epic (Linda Egenes and Kumuda Reddy): Review

The Ramayana is an ancient story believed to have been transmitted orally, in Sanskrit, for thousands of years until the great sage Valmiki wrote the story down in the form of a poem (Egenes & Reddy 2). It is believed to be enjoyed by over one billion people around the world and widely considered to be a one of the “great classics of world literature” (Egenes & Reddy 2).

Egenes & Reddy’s version of The Ramayana is broken down into sections, with the first one being the Prologue – The Qualities of Rama, wherein the great sage Valmiki is told of a man named Rama who has all the heroic qualities to make him the perfect person. Later that day, Brahma, the Creator, comes to Valmiki and tells him that he must tell the story of Rama to the world.

The next section in Egenes & Reddy’s version of The Ramayana is called the Bala Kanda, translated as ‘Childhood Book’, which describes King Dasaratha, his wives, and his sons. King Dasaratha’s firstborn son is named Rama and is the protagonist of the story. Rama has celestial origins and his upbringing has allowed him to flourish as a Dharmic warrior, having been educated in the four Vedas under the direction of the family guru. Rama wins his wife Sita by lifting Siva’s bow, which he is able to do because of his Dharmic nature, proving that he is worthy to be Sita’s husband. Rama and Sita live happily married, in the city of Ayodhya, for 10 years.

The next section in Egenes & Reddy’s version of The Ramayana is the Ayodhya Kanda, translated as ‘City of Ayodhya Book’, which is the story of King Dasaratha beginning to make arrangements for Rama to become king of Ayodhya due to the king’s old age. King Dasaratha announces his plans to his ministers, spiritual advisors, rulers from nearby kingdoms, and all the people of Ayodhya, who are all thrilled at the idea of Rama ruling the kingdom. After being manipulated by her servant, Queen Kaikeyi, King Dasaratha’s third wife, redeems a boon that had been granted to her by the king. Queen Kaikeyi requests that her son, King Dasaratha’s second-born, Bharata, become king and that Rama be exiled to the Dandaka Forest for 14 years. After much grief, and with Rama’s persistence, King Dasaratha follows through with Kaikeyi’s requests. Rama, ever the righteous son, prepares to retreat into the forest, along with his most favoured brother Laksmana, and his beautiful wife Sita. Rama leaving Ayodhya prompts the death of King Dasaratha, and Bharata becomes very upset with his mother for her malicious actions. He goes to the forest to find Rama to beg him to come and reign as king, however Rama does not want to dishonour his father’s request, and therefore declines Bharata’s appeal. Rama, Sita, and Laksmana continue through the forests toward Dandaka, stopping to visit sages along the way.

The next section in Egenes & Reddy’s version of The Ramayana is the Aranya Kanda, translated as ‘The Forest Book’, which describes the many raksasas, or demons, that Rama, Sita, and Laksmana encounter, and the subsequent battles that ensue. Rama and Laksmana being the great warriors that they are, easily win each fight. The forest dwellers, Rama, Sita, and Laksmana, make several stops at different asramas to visit with, and receive guidance from, the various sages and rsis that they meet. Rama and Laksmana receive celestial weapons from some rsis in exchange for making their forest safe from raksasas. One day, a raksasi named Surpanakha, who is described as being the opposite of Rama in every way, happens upon Rama and takes a liking to him. Rama being disgusted by her, turns her down. Surpanakha, embarrassed and angry, goes to attack Sita and Laksmana cuts of the raksasi’s nose and ears. Surpanakha tells her brother Khara what has been done to her and begs him to kill Rama, Sita and Laksmana. Khara sends his 14 strongest warriors to attack the forest-dwellers, however Rama defeats them with ease. Khara then leads fourteen thousand warriors to battle, and after a fierce war, Rama defeats them all using his skill and celestial weapons granted to him from the rsis and the gods. Ravana, the king of the raksasas, and brother to Khara and Surpanakha, hears of Sita’s beauty and Rama’s strength and victory against the other raksasas. Ravana comes up with a plan to make Sita his bride and enlists Marica, a fellow raksasa, to help him. Having lured Rama and Laksmana away from Sita by having Marica disguise himself as a beautiful golden deer, Ravana tricks Sita into believing he is a holy man. He then reveals his true self and attempts to convince her to become his bride and return to Lanka with him. Sita vehemently denies his requests to be his bride and repeatedly professes her love for Rama, which angers Ravana, so he kidnaps her and takes her to his kingdom of Lanka. Upon discovering that Sita is gone, Rama is distraught but determined to find her and rescue her. Sita is adamant that she will remain true to Rama by not giving into Ravana, but she is heartbroken and misses her husband desperately. Finding clues along the way in their search for Sita, the two warriors, Rama and Laksmana make several friends with fellow Dharmic individuals who are able to help them in their quest for revenge against Ravana.

The next section in Egenes & Reddy’s version of The Ramayana is entitled Kiskindha Kanda, translated as ‘Kingdom of the Monkeys Book’. One friend that Rama and Laksmana are guided to meet is Sugriva, the king of the monkeys, who vows to help Rama get Sita back in exchange for Rama’s help in recovering his kingdom. Rama helps Sugriva get his kingdom back and then waits several months for Sugriva’s help. Finally, troops from the monkey army are sent to all corners of the earth in search of Sita. Hanuman, Sugriva’s most trusted advisor, is the one who finds out that Sita is in Lanka, and where to find this kingdom. He makes himself very large and jumps across the ocean to Lanka to find Sita.

The next section in Egenes & Reddy’s version of The Ramayana is the Sundara Kanda which translates to ‘The Beautiful City Book’. Hanuman arrives in Lanka where he finds and approaches Sita cautiously. After earning her trust, he tells her of his mission and assures her that Rama is on his way to rescue her. Her resolve is strengthened once again knowing that her beloved husband has not abandoned her. Before Hanuman leaves Lanka to let Rama know of Sita’s whereabouts, he decides that he must pay Ravana back for taking Sita against her will. First, he destroys the pleasure gardens inside the palace, then he draws out Ravana’s army. He destroys many ministers and generals before being captured and his tail set on fire. Hanuman escapes capture by shifting sizes and sets Lanka ablaze before leaving to return to Rama. Once he returns, Rama has many questions about Sita’s wellbeing and whereabouts, feeling much stronger knowing that she is okay. They begin to devise a plan to get her back.

The next section in Egenes & Reddy’s version of The Ramayana is called Yuddha Kanda which translates to ‘The War Book’. Rama has made his way to the ocean, which Hanuman leapt over, but is unsure how he will cross. The monkey army builds a bridge over the ocean so Rama and Laksmana can head to Lanka along with millions of monkeys and other great warriors. Finally, they arrive in Lanka and after some time the war begins. All of Ravana’s troops – his ministers, generals, warriors, raksasas, brothers, and sons – end up killed in the midst of war. Rama’s troops all die as well but they have gathered special herbs that instantly heal any injuries and revive their troops from death. After lasting for many days, the battle is finished when Rama destroys Ravana. When Sita is finally rescued, Rama greets her with harshness and indicates that he cannot believe that Sita has remained virtuous during the entire time that she was with Ravana. Heartbroken, Sita sets herself on fire to prove that she has been devoted to only Rama, and she asks that Agni, the God of Fire, protect her from the flames. Of course, Sita has remained pure and so she is not burned by the flames at all, and Rama discovers that he is actually Visnu incarnate and Sita is Laksmi. Having proven that Sita has been faithful to her husband, they are finally reunited and return to Ayodhya to rule over the kingdom. Everyone is thrilled to see Rama, Laksmana, and Sita, especially Bharata, who had been ruling the kingdom on Rama’s behalf. After being crowned king, Rama and Sita live in happiness in Ayodhya for many years.

In the final section of Egenes & Reddy’s version of The Ramayana, the Uttara Kanda, translated as the ‘Epilogue Book’, it is revealed to Rama that the people of Ayodhya question Sita’s purity and faithfulness. Rama must now make a decision between being a Dharmic king or a Dharmic husband. He chooses his kingdom over his wife, and knowing Sita is pregnant, sends her off to the forest to dwell with Valmiki, the great sage, and to never return. Several months later Sita gives birth to twin sons, Lava and Kusa, who are taught the poem of Rama by Valmiki, which he called The Journey of Rama or Ramayana. One day, when the twins are grown, they are in Ayodhya with Valmiki and have the opportunity to perform some of their beautiful poem for Rama. Recognizing the story as his own, he asks them to tell him the whole story, and after several days of them reciting, Rama realizes that these are his sons. Sita is brought back to Ayodhya to prove her purity once more. Sita asks for Mother Earth to swallow her up if she has been faithful to Rama, and with that, the earth opens up and Sita is gone forever. Rama is devastated but after many years he returns to Brahma Loka, or the heavens. His sons, Lava and Kusa remain in Ayodhya where they rule their kingdoms.

The Ramayana is made up of many relatable events and experiences, which appear to fall in line with many stories of old that aim to teach people the basic differences between right and wrong, as well as to teach people how to treat others. The Ramayana has been so popular over so many years because it is a fantastic story containing great battles, super-human powers, struggles, victories, love, and loss. Egenes & Reddy’s version of The Ramayana has been written using beautiful descriptions of the characters’ thoughts and emotions which can allow the reader to really feel involved in the story and feel like they are making decisions along with the character. It can also make the reader feel like they are experiencing the emotions first-hand, which allows the reader to feel more immersed in the story. Rama and Sita, being depicted as such virtuous characters, encourages the reader to want to emulate them and act with more virtue.

With The Ramayana being part of Hindu culture for thousands of years, it makes sense that it has provided women with an image of what they should aspire to in marriage. Sita, who served as an example of the ideal wife, followed her husband Rama into exile, gave up all her belongings for him, and waited in chaste for him to rescue her. This allows women to emulate Sita in their devotion to their husbands. Likewise, with Rama being so dharmic, men also have a role model to look up to when manoeuvring through difficult situations. Rama proves that one can be dharmic even when faced with tough decisions in which many people would struggle to make the dharmic choice, such as when Rama chooses his kingdom over his wife. In this way, Rama provides a roadmap for men to follow and for women to support.

Additionally, The Ramayana provides brothers and friends a character to emulate in Laksmana as he honors and follows Rama into exile, leaving behind his wife in order to do so. Laksmana fights and struggles alongside Rama to the very end, while ensuring that Rama’s needs are taken care of before his own. Laksmana has different dharmic responsibilities than Rama does, allowing a more diverse range of men the opportunity to look up to someone and to help act as a guide in their day-to-day lives.

In many ways, The Ramayana acts as a guidebook showing people how to act in a variety of situations. It illustrates that no matter whether you are a king, a wife, a monkey, or a brother, you should always act in the most dharmic ways possible. It demonstrates that sometimes acting in a dharmic fashion is harder than it may seem because you need to take into account the hierarchy of one’s own responsibilities – but it is always doable. It portrays the idea that true love and honoring your spouse is possible, even when faced with adversity.


Egenes, Linda and Reddy, Kumuda (2016) The Ramayana: A New Retelling of Valmiki’s Ancient Epic – Complete and Comprehensive. New York: TarcherPerigee.

Related Topics for Further Investigation

The Mahabharata









Dandaka Forest







Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic


Article written by: Jill Easton (Fall 2018) who is solely responsible for its content.

Autobiography of a Yogi (Paramahansa Yogananda): Review

Paramahansa Yogananda is said to be one of the most influential spiritual figures reaching people in both eastern and western societies (Goldberg 4). Yogananda wrote many books, but arguably the most powerful and well-known was his personal memoir: Autobiography of a Yogi, written in 1946. Although many have written about Yogananda as a yoga guru, less has been said about his unique approach to spiritual guidance or the influential life events that directed him on his path of enlightenment. I plan to focus on these two distinct aspects of Yogananda throughout the following literature review. In addition, I will provide an overview of his life and spiritual journey that took him from his coastal hometown of Gorakhpur, in the north-eastern area of Uttar-Pradesh (India), to America, and back again to visit a few prominent spiritual leaders including his Hindu guru, Yukteswar Giri. Of particular interest is the degree of influence Hinduism itself had in shaping Yogananda’s life and consequently the lives of his supporters.

Paramahansa Yogananda was born on January 5th, 1893 in Gorakhpur, India to a well-off Hindu Bengali family. The book begins with a recitation of Yogananda’s childhood and specific spiritual events which sparked his interest in spirituality. He describes his memories of being a fetus in the womb of his mother, Gyana Prabha Ghosh, where he knew all the languages of the world but selected the one in which he heard spoken to be his mother tongue. From the beginning, Yogananda described having an acute awareness of the spiritual world far beyond the average child. The many mystical phenomena that he experienced in his youth set Yogananda on an early path of spiritual devotion in search of self-realization. In his younger years, he sought out many Indian yogis in hopes of finding a virtuous guru that could guide him on his religious pursuit of enlightenment. Finally, at age 17, he found his guru: the esteemed, Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri in the city of Varanasi. Not long after, Yogananda became his disciple and went on to spend the next decade living in his Serampore ashram alongside other devotees under the guidance of his master. Yukteswar was a strict guru who showed great spiritual discipline, something he expected from all of his disciples as well. Despite Yogananda’s opposition, Yukteswar insisted it was necessary for him to finish school to prepare him for his foreseen future journey to America to be a spiritual leader for thousands of people. Following his graduation in 1915 from Calcutta University, he took his formal vows to become an official monk of India’s monastic Swami Order.

In 1917, Yogananda founded Yogoda Satsanga, a school for boys which merged modern education with spiritual teachings and yoga training. Three years later, Yogananda left India to fulfil his master’s envisioned prophesy: to travel to America and teach west society the sacred Kriya Yoga practice. As predicted by Yukteswar, Yogananda went on to lecture to thousands of people on the Hindu lifestyle and further established the Self-Realization Fellowship—a spiritual organization for the conservation and dissemination of his knowledge and philosophies. During his time in America, Yogananda became fast friends with a renowned botanist named Luther Burbank. Yogananda admired Burbank’s humble, generous, and loving character so much that he actually dedicated Autobiography of a Yogi to him.

In 1935, Yogananda returned to India for a year-long quest, giving Kriya Yoga classes all around the country. Along the way, he met many well-known individuals including the internationally famous social reformer, Mahatma Gandhi; the Nobel Laureate physicist, Sir C. V. Raman; the Indian guru who encouraged the practice of atma-vicara, Ramana Maharshi; the great female Hindu saint, Ananda moyi Ma; and Giri Bala, a yogi woman who was known not to eat anything, , among other notable figures (Yogananda 1946: 737). This visit was also the last time Yogananda saw his beloved guru, Yukteswar. After saying his final goodbyes, Yogananda departed back to America where he continued to practice, teach, and share his spiritual wisdom with all. In 1946, he wrote the famous book, Autobiography of a Yogi which acknowledged the influential people and events that fuelled and shaped his relationship with spirituality.

Yogananda was known for being completely devoted to his God and his guru, Yukteswar. Indeed, throughout the book, he attempts to share with the reader just how genuinely faithful and God-loving all the Hindu saints that he encountered were. The many ways in which individuals showed their love for God were tremendously diverse. Devotion was demonstrated throughout the book through prayer, meditation, and the dedication of one’s life to helping others (Yogananda 1946). Among all these methods the underlying feature was the loving of God above all else, including themselves. Yogananda’s aim with his training and literary work was to illustrate to those who desired enlightenment (regardless of their faith) that anyone could grow their love for God.

Unlike Christianity, Hinduism has been described to be a religion that is all-encompassing, woven throughout the everyday life of every Hindus (Lipner 3). In this general regard, Yogananda’s legacy is a powerful example of the pervading Hindu spirituality incorporated into his existence. To appeal to the West, Yogananda explained the unification of Hinduism, and he advocated for a spiritual synchronicity between the East and the West. The rhetorical methodology used by Yogananda included the emphasis of harmony between the teachings of Jesus Christ and Yoga taught by Bhagavan Krishna (Yogananda 2004: 1566). Indeed, Yogananda believed the core values of Hinduism were, in fact, true for all religions. Every religious belief system has the foundational element of devotion. He emphasised that there was a single unifying trait amongst all religious groups: the worship of the same almighty God. Yogananda also wanted to appeal to the science-minded individuals by emphasizing the similarities between science and religion in their fundamental principles.

Correlating with the sacred Vedas and Upanishads, Yogananda stressed the importance of disconnecting one’s self from their physical body, ego, material possessions, in exchange for self-realization. Echoing traditional Hindu scripture, he explained the cosmos as God’s project, where humans are simply actors who have the ability to change their role via reincarnation (Yogananda 1946: 453). This is akin to Rta in Vedic scripture, which is the cosmic order of things that must be preserved and maintained through having compassion for all creation, simple living, and higher thinking. Also, in accordance with sacred Vedic scripture is the principle of Ahimsa. In the book, Yogananda recounted a time when he was about to slap a mosquito that had landed on his leg when Yukteswar reminded him that all life forms have an equal right to the air of Maya, which, prevented him from killing the mosquito (Yogananda 1946: 190-191).

Ultimately, Yogananda’s teachings accurately reflected many traditional Hindu beliefs using methods that would particularly appeal to western society. For example, he evaded mention of the controversially sexist Hindu traditions associated with the caste system and Vedic culture as a whole, which would likely deter many westerners. One prominent example of a positive method for disseminating Hindu beliefs that Yogananda utilized was through Kriya Yoga—a meditative technique that inspires spiritual growth (Miller 178). Kriya Yoga was passed down through Yogananda’s guru line—Mahavatar Babaji taught Kriya Yoga to Lahiri Mahasaya who taught it to his disciple, Yukteswar Giri, Yogananda’s guru (Yogananda 1946: 232). Kriya Yoga, as Yogananda described it, is unification with the infinite through action or rite (Yogananda 1946: 393-394). Yoga is very popular in western society now, with Yogananda’s teachings being a founding influence of the initial appeal of Hinduism to the west. Autobiography of a Yogi taught people all over the world the core Hindu values, while the reader fell in love with Yogananda’s humbly devoted character.


 Goldberg, Philip (2018) The Life of Yogananda: The Story of the Yogi Who Became the First Modern Guru. Carlsbad: Hay House.

Lipner, Julius (1994) Hindus: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices. New York: Routledge.

Miller, Timothy (1995) America’s Alternative Religions. Albany: SUNY Press.

Yogananda, Paramhansa (1946) Autobiography of a Yogi. New York: Sterling Publishers Pvt. Ltd.

Yogananda, Paramhansa (2004) The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ      Within You. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship.

Related Topics for Further Investigation


Swami Order

Yogoda Satsanga

Kriya Yoga






Caste system



Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic


This article was written by: Hilary Williams (Fall 2018), who is entirely responsible for its content.

Untouchable (Mulk Raj Anand): Review

India’s caste system has been around for centuries and is a very important part of the Hindu culture (Vallabhaneni 361). No other country can compare to the complexity of this system (Vallabhaneni 362). This caste or jati system determines where someone stands in society. People are placed into these castes when they are born because of the lineage of their family members, if one’s parent is born a Brahmin then they shall be a Brahmin as well. There are four different classes or varnas involved in the system; the highest ranking members are called Brahmins (Sultana and Subedi 19). The Brahmins are considered the purest of all people and are the priests or educators who have the sacred knowledge of the Hindu culture. They are expected to spread their dharmic knowledge to others to help them achieve steps in one’s spiritual life. The second highest rank is known as the Ksatriyas, the kings or warriors (Sultana and Subedi 19). Their job is to protect society and keep the order inline. The third group are the Vaisyas; these are the merchants or farmers who work in trade and agriculture (Sultana and Subedi 19).

These three groups, which are the three highest varnas, are considered to be ‘twice-born’ meaning they undergo spiritual rebirth and induction during adolescence. The fourth and final class is known as the Sudras (Sultana and Subedi 19). Considered to be at the bottom of the system, Sudras are the working class such as servants. The Sudras are known to serve the upper three varnas. There is one more group that does not belong in the caste system, known as Untouchables, who is considered so polluted that they do not have a place in the caste system (Sultana and Subedi 19). In the book Untouchable, it explains how people in the caste system treat each other. Bakha, the main character in the book, is part of the Untouchable group (Anand 3). Throughout the book, he explains his experiences of being an Untouchable and how it affects him and his family. Untouchable is able to portray to the reader what it is like to be an Untouchable in the Hindu caste system.

In Untouchable, Bakha is an eighteen-year-old boy in a family of five. His father, Lakha, is the head of their job of sweepers, in Bulashah, where they live (Anand 3). He has a sister, Sohini and brother, Rakha. He also had a mother but she had died when he was younger. Leaving Bakha to now look after the family since he was the oldest (Anand 6). Bakha is the one who has to get up early each morning and work as his brother tends to be distracted and occupied playing in the streets (Anand 14). His father, Lakha, is ageing and tends to stay home while the boys work. Lakha is known to be a ‘bully’ to Bakha, abusing him with verbal insults if Bakha is not doing what Lakha wants him to be doing (Anand 6-8). Other parts in the book, Lakha is able to support Bakha through his experiences of horrific attacks for being an Untouchable (Anand 67).

Throughout Bakha’s daily life, he is involved in many disputes about him being an Untouchable. In one incident that occurred, Bakha, being an Untouchable, is forbidden to enter temples because of how impure he is and if he was to enter, he would pollute it. Bahka was a curious boy and decided to observe a ritual happening in the temple without realizing that he was too close. Someone caught him and notified everyone (Anand 50). After going through many incidents of him being terrorized and threatened for being an Untouchable, Bakha has to start announcing his presence around other people to let them know a polluted being was around     (Anand 41). He is called a scavenger, a pig, a dog and many other vicious insults (Anand 51). Bakha hates that he is an Untouchable and how the other castes treat people like him (Anand 42). At times, Bakha forgets he is an Untouchable, he does not remember that if he comes into contact with people they can become impure (Anand 119). He wishes that he could leave the world because of how unlucky he is and what he has to go through while being so impure to society (Anand 105). He wants a better life where he can be treated like an actual human being with respect.

Later on in the book, Bakha, has an encounter with the ‘Great Soul’, Gandhi. Bakha was very intrigued with Mahatma Gandhi as he had never seen or heard him speak before (Anand 125). Gandhi did not agree with the name and loss of rights to the Untouchables, so he renamed them Harijans, he did this because he wanted to remove the label of ‘untouchability’ (Anand 124). This opened up Bakha’s eyes as he realized that he wanted something to change about the way he was being treated; he wanted to follow Gandhi’s vision (Anand 138). Bakha believed that with Gandhi’s teachings that his life for him and other Untouchables could turn out differently (Anand 121).

The caste system is a way of life for Hindus. They believe this system guides Hindu society as a whole as it benefits how they all interact in their daily lives (Raheja 497). This jati system of varnas is considered to be a social institution that people are born into without being able to switch groups (Sultana and Subedi 21). Each one of these groups has its own customs, rules, etc that they need to follow and live by (Raheja 502). There is this obsession of purity that Hindus want to acquire in their life. This division of groups among the Hindus not only shows the different customs or rules but also shows the differences between wealth, status and knowledge. Brahmins, who are the highest varna, separate themselves from the second group, Ksatriyas, by having this essential spiritual knowledge such as dharma that aids society (Raheja 501). They have to have this ability for them to be able to perform rituals to the Gods and Goddesses properly. The Brahmins are dominant in the caste system. Ksatriyas, do not have this spiritual essence but they do have the power to control the social order and protect it as they are the kings and warriors of this caste system (Raheja 501). This power over the social order is what separates them from the Vaisyas; the merchants and landowners. Vaisyas are the people that help bring the money to the society (Carlsson, Gupta and Johansson-Stenman 52). The Sudras, the bottom rank of the class system, are distinguished from the other varnas as the servants and working class who do not bring a lot to society. Their job is to help benefit the upper three classes. With the Untouchables, it is a whole other story because they are not considered to belong to the caste system at all because they are so polluting in the Hindu culture.

Untouchable: the word itself means “should not be touched.” This group is considered the outcaste of society. They do not belong anywhere and are segregated for their status. These people are known to be in poverty (Deliège 535) and they also work jobs that are considered extremely impure to the Hindu society. “They think we are dirt because we clean their dirt” stated Bakha in the book because he is a sweeper and toilet cleaner, two of the most polluting jobs someone can have (Anand 67). One other polluting job to have is the cremation of bodies during the Antyesti (last sacrifice or death ritual) because death is considered to be an impurity in Hinduism. This is why they are known to be Untouchables, as it is impure to be in contact with them since they are involved in these fields of work. The Untouchables is a very complex group that is divided into different jatis (Deliège 535). In India the terms that are now used to describe the Untouchables are either ‘Harijans’, meaning the people of God, ‘Scheduled Castes’ or Dalits, meaning oppressed (Deliège 535). These groups of people are so greatly discriminated that they are unable to be in the same places as their superior higher caste members. They are forbidden to wear jewellery or exquisite clothing, cannot enter the streets and houses of the higher castes and cannot access their own town’s water supply as they will pollute it (Deliège 535). The higher castes loathe the Untouchables and treat them like they are filth. In India today, there is a rise of a demand for rights for the Untouchables as they are fed up with being treated like dirt (Deliège 535).

Untouchable displays the very accurate situations that the Indian Untouchable caste has to go through in their daily lives (Anand 38). These people are treated inhumanely because of the rank they were born into. The caste system is able to distinguish people from each other in many ways but it is a way of life and an ancient tradition for the Hindu people. This order of differential hierarchy has been around for over a thousand years and not only is it a religious necessity but it is also an aid to keep society in a social structural system (Arunoday 1). Certain occupations can and cannot be achieved in these classes, for example, an Untouchable is unable to work in the trade or agriculture as they can pollute the crops and water that can disrupt the trade system in the town or village by making impure. The caste system determines social status right at a person’s birth. In the caste system the social status of an individual at birth is permanent; if one’s father is a Sudra, the son would also be a Sudra (Carlsson, Gupta and Johansson-Stenman 55). They are unable to avoid this socially and religiously structured society (Vallabhaneni 361). With this system, Hindus are not even allowed to marry outside of their varna. They must marry someone who belongs in their class. The caste system is a key aspect that helps portray the identity of someone in Indian society. (Carlsson, Gupta and Johansson-Stenman 54). With this system, it shows the differences between certain activities each class has access to. For example, an Untouchable is allowed to be educated but since they are in such poverty, schools are unable to run. Also, with education, there is a great deal of discrimination and bullying an Untouchable can receive from other children. Every single Hindu belongs in one of the castes in this complex system: it does not matter if they want to or not, it is a way of life in Indian society.


Bibliography and Related Readings

Anand, Mulk (1935) Untouchable. City: Penguin Classics.

Arunoday Sana, (1993) The Caste System in India and its Consequences, International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 13 Issue: ¾: 1-76

Carlsson, Fredrik. Gupta, Gautam. Johansson-Stenman, Olof (2008) “Keeping up with the Vaishyas? Caste and relative standing in India.” Oxford Economic Papers, Vol. 61, No. 1: 52-73.

Deliège, Robert (1993) “The Myths and Origin of the Indian Untouchables.” Man, New Series, Vol. 28, No.3: 533-549.

Raheja, Gloria (1988) “India: Caste, Kingship, and Dominance Reconsidered.” Annu Rev Anthropology, 17: 497-522.

Vallabhaneni, Madhusudana (2015) “Indian Caste System: Historical and Psychoanalytic Views.” The American Journal of Psychoanalysis, Vol 75, No.4: 361-381.

Rodrigues, Hillary (2011) Studying Hinduism in Practice. London: Routledge.

Sultana, Habiba. Subedi, D.B (2016) “Caste System and Resistance: The Case of Untouchable Hindu Sweepers in Bangladesh.” International Journal of Politics, Culture and Society, Vol 29, No. 1: 19-32.


Related Research Topics








Caste system


Websites Related to the Topic

This article was written by Mollie Kennedy (Fall 2018), who is entirely responsible for its content.

The God of Small Things (Arundhati Roy): Review

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy tells a story about the twins Estha and Rahel. Their life is filled with many tragedies that are caused by their family. The novel continues to flash back between several events at different parts in their lives. Velutha is one of the most important characters and is an untouchable servant to Estha and Rahel’s family. Another significant character is Sophie Mol and she is the twins’ cousin. Her tragic death affects both of the twins for the rest of their lives. There are several events that contain the character Baby Kochamma, the twins’ aunt. She plays a large role in manipulating the children and altering their lives inevitably. Overall the novel twists through many years of Estha and Rahel’s lives and tells a tale of traumatic events that can lead to detrimental effects in the future. It is a novel that deals with a lot of issues in the Indian society, such as loss of close family members and discrimination due to class system. A constant issue that intertwines its way through the novel is the issue of abuse. From the beginning of the book straight through until the end there are constant instances of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. The novel not only deals with the corruption within the Indian society, but narrows it down to the corruption within a single family itself.

Estha and Rahel have dealt with a great deal of loss in their life. Sophie Mol, although she was only in their life for a short period of time, was one of the greatest losses that they had to experience. The reason behind this event being so traumatic is the fact that Baby Kochamma made them feel that they were the murderers of Sophie Mol. “She looked them in the eye. ‘You are murderers’ (Roy 300). In this quotation it is extremely evident that Baby is putting the blame directly on the twins for the accident that has happened. Baby is placing the blame on the twins to protect herself from the previous accusations she made towards Velutha. At the expense of two young, and innocent children, Baby chose to protect herself leaving traumatic scars on the young children. They were now weighed down with the death of another young girl, and for the rest of the rest of their lives were set to believe that they were murders.

Velutha was another important figure in the twins’ life, and he too was killed due to unreasonable circumstances. The caste system and the fact that Velutha was an untouchable were mostly to blame for this tragic event. Baby Kochamma sent the police after Velutha once she was made aware of his affair with Ammu. The twins were hiding inside the house when the police found Velutha and beat him within inches of his life. For two young children, listening to the sounds of this beating was unimaginably painful. Not only did they lose their dear friend Velutha but they had a front row seat to his torture. In the end they were forced to place false blame on him due to the fact that Baby made them believe that they were murderers. They now had to carry the weight of Sophie Mol’s death on their shoulders. On top of that they were also forced to blame Velutha for kidnapping them. Then finally in the end they had to take partial responsibility for Velutha’s untimely demise. That is a lot of blame placed on two young children. This incident is also a representation of the corruption within the police force: they were quick to act on Baby’s accusations, but when they realized that they had made a mistake they made someone else take the fall for their actions.

Another tragic death for the twins was the death of their mother Ammu. The most difficult part of this loss is the fact that Rahel went through it alone. Estha was away when Ammu passed and Rahel was unable to tell Estha: “There are things that you cannot do like writing letters to a part of yourself. To your feet or hair. Or heart” (Roy 156). This quotation not only shows the hardship that Rahel had to go through on her on but also how truly closely bonded the twins were. The fact that Rahel referred to him as another part of yourself really shows their connection. For Estha the loss of his mother was already heartbreaking enough but then on top of it all Rahel did not even write to him when it happened. This just adds to the number of things that happens to Estha that lead to his silence.

The class system in India deals a lot with the untouchables, people that are below the caste system and are said to ritually pollute those that come in contact with them (Rodrigues 87-88). There are many instances of Velutha particularly being treated in a very negative way due to his caste. “If only for he hadn’t been a Paravan, he might have become and engineer” (Roy 72). This quote shows that Velutha was a very intelligent man and if he had been born into a different family he would have been living a very different life.

The caste system in India is not only restricting people but is also harming their economy. There could be people that are capable of life changing things such as Velutha. He could have been a great engineer and could have contributed to society, but due to his caste he was unable to pursue anything other than being a carpenter. Now, even though the different castes are still treated differently, things have made a slight change. “Mammachi told Estha and Rahel that she could remember a time, in her girlhood, when Paravans were expected to crawl backwards with a broom, sweeping away their footprints” (Roy 71). Those days have now passed and the untouchables, although still treated poorly, have slowly become more and more accepted into society. Even though the caste system is not as rigid as it once was, it still plays a huge role in people’s lives. It controls who can work what jobs, and who is allowed to love who. This comes into play when Velutha and Ammu have their affair and eventually leads to Velutha’s death. Due to Baby Kochamma accusing Velutha of rape and sending the obviously corrupted police after him, Velutha is then beaten to death, all because of his caste. Baby was not happy that Ammu was sleeping with a Paravan and therefore made wrongful accusations towards him. Her discrimination towards another caste lead to the murder of an innocent man, and other traumatic events that trailed on afterwards. Throughout this novel you can see that the caste system is an issue and can lead to catastrophic events, like death in this case yet, it is still alive today in India and discrimination is still present towards those that occupy the lower levels of the caste system.

The last topic, and what appears to be the most frequent throughout the book, is abuse. The one instance of abuse that is most evident throughout the book is Estha’s encounter with the Orangedrink Lemondrink man. This event is one of the many reasons that Estha no longer speaks. It completely took away his childhood and also created a constant state of panic within Estha at all times. A study that took place in India in 2007 stated that 53.22% of 12,447 children were sexually abused and 21% of those children reported that it was a severe form of sexual abuse, (Kacker 74-75). This issue has been around for a long time and the numbers are astounding. For Estha this was a life altering moment, he was never the same again. He was constantly worried that his molester would one day come and find him again. This is happening to over fifty percent of the children in India and needs to be controlled.

Throughout the book it is shown that there is a lot of domestic violence between all members of the family, and the way that the book is written it makes it seem as though it is a normal thing to happen in the average household. When Pappachi retired and Mammachi was still in her prime he took a great offence to this. “Every night he beat her with a brass flower vase. The beatings weren’t new. What was new was only the frequency with which they took place” (Roy 47). This quotation leads us to believe that Pappachi was always an abusive man but the more that he felt insecure about himself or threatened he would take it out on his wife. Yet again, the wording of that quote made it out to seem as though abuse was a normal situation within this family, as if it was a societal norm.

Overall this book talks about a lot of issues within Indian society, so much so that I was unable to touch on all of them. The few that I did touch on seemed to be the most evident to me and also seemed that they are still issues in today’s society. The loss the twins endured is something that everyone will have to go through once in their life, but the corruption within their family and the police system made this loss significantly worse. The blame was placed wrongly in several circumstances and the twins were then forced to carry immense weight on their shoulders for the rest of their lives. The second issue that is alive and well in Indian society today is the caste system. Although it has come a long way from where it once began it is still a major issue. People are mistreated and discriminated against due to only the caste they were born into. No matter how smart, or presentable a person may be they will still be looked down upon if they were to be a part a lower caste or an untouchable. This novel shows how negatively someone can be treated and how it can eventually be taken as far as death such as in Velutha’s situation. The caste system is not only harming people but is allowing for services such as the police force to act unjustly. Today there is a lot of violence towards the untouchables. In the year 2000, 25,445 crimes were committed against people of the untouchable caste (Mayelle, 2003). The article states shocking things including “every hour two Dalits are assaulted; every day three Dalit women are raped, two Dalits are murdered, and two Dalit homes are torched” (Mayelle 2003). These statistics are shocking. There is still discrimination against the untouchables today and it is extremely violent. This article also goes into depth about how the police force is not doing their job to protect this lower level class and this can also be seen in the novel many times. The police force and that caste system is allowing for corruption and is said to be “ok” because they are of a lower caste and therefore are worth less than those above them in the system. Accusations are made and quickly accepted due to the fact that someone is an untouchable. This system has changed over the years but still leads people to be discriminated against in a very negative and sometimes harmful way.

The last subject deals with abuse, which is an issue not only in Indian culture but throughout the world. This novel approaches it in a way that makes it seem normal, or even like it is the right thing to do. Although abuse is a very well know topic it is still something that should not be portrayed as a normal thing. The only time in the book where it seemed to be a traumatic event was when Estha was subject to sexual abuse. Aside from that incident abuse came across as simple as sitting down for dinner, as if it was routine, making it evident that it is a norm in the Indian society and is something that every family deals with.

In the end the novel takes the readers on a very twisted and corrupted journey of two innocent children who are faced with very challenging obstacles, that in the end, have negative effects on both of the children. From great loss, sexual abuse, physical abuse, and having to deal with the corruption in their family these two young children are left scarred for the rest of their lives. This book not only shows just how this one family is damaged but also mirrors what any family in an Indian society may go through in similar circumstances. It touches on real issues that real families, children, and individuals deal with on a daily basis. This book has a great amount of detail as to what people in these societies deal with day after day and the hardships that they must face. Overall this book is a true eye opener to the issues that are still intertwined in Indian culture today and shows that something needs to change.

References and Further Recommended Reading

Roy, Arundhati (1997) The God of Small things. Toronto: Penguin Random House.

Rodrigues, Hillary (2016) Hinduism-The E-Book: An Online Introduction. Journal of Buddhist  Ethics Online Books, Ltd.

Kacker, Dr. Loveleen., Varadan, Srinivas., and Kumar, Pravesh (2007). “Study on Child Abuse India 2007” Ministry of Child Development Government of India, Accessed October 30, 2018. Retrieved from:

Mayell, Hillary. (2003). India’s “Untouchables” Face Violence, Discrimination. Retrieved from


Further Topics to Research

  • Caste systems
  • Marxism
  • Untouchables
  • Politics within India
  • Corruption

Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic

This article was written by: Kassie Miller (Spring 2017), who is entirely responsible for its content.

Hinduism in Bollywood

Bollywood came about in the very early 20th century with Dhundiraj Govind Phalke being credited with being the “Father of Indian Cinema” (Dimitrova 2016: 2). The name “Bollywood” came from a combination of Bombay and Hollywood, which demonstrates the enormous size of Bollywood in comparison to Hollywood (Mazur 2011: 75). The sources of Bollywood film can be found in traditional Indian Dance, Sanskrit drama, and especially from the Mahabharata and Ramayana. Early on in its history, the films were made and seen by those in the elite classes and were rarely seen by ordinary people. Indian cinema has been seen as inferior to the west and has to censor to ‘protect’ the lower classes because it was originally reserved for the upper class (Dwyer 2006: 14). Though, the film industry has not changed greatly, there are some distinctions between old and new Bollywood film styles. Classical Bollywood film, [made in the late 20th century] was used to heighten emotional response and to appeal to a mass audience rather than just a narrow group (Dimitrova 2016: 4). Just like Hinduism, Bollywood films do not just employ storytelling, but also song and dance. Since Bollywood film has grown in popularity, the origins of the Bollywood industry still stay strong throughout.

Bollywood film in the 20th century was a useful tool in terms of creating a national and cultural identity. The films wanted to depict the immoral and materialist nature of Western culture and how India is a superior culture compared to them. Some films in this period showed the changing demographic in India. For example, in the 1960s and 1970s the presence of a Christian priest was common in Hindi film and those who sought shelter would often do so in Christian churches (Lal 2006). However, this was not widely represented in mainstream cinema. They also used the concept of ‘Orientalism’ in both the 20th and 21st centuries to push the stereotypes and the idealization of India itself. This concept gives them a uniqueness and gives them the ability to differentiate themselves from Western media. However, in 21st century Bollywood, the films are constantly being scrutinized for their views on contemporary politics, corruption, public perception of the state and its agencies, and the position of women in Indian society (Lal 2006). However, these films will sometime critique the treatment of women and other social issues. Furthermore, regarding the new Bollywood films some accuse the film- markers of being anti-Hindu or having Hinduphobia. This is where films will portray those who practice the religion as closeminded people, conservative, or will perceive the religion in a negative way. Though the roots of these movies will forever be from Hinduism.

Most, if not all Bollywood movies can be connected back to the two epics the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. It even has its own genre in Bollywood, often being referred to as the mythological genre. These epics guide many Hindus on how to lead a moral life by doing one’s duties, whether that be for family or society (Mazur 2011: 219). First, the Ramayana is a popular story that many know around the world. The one thing that pushed the popularity of this story was that it became a television series and the various movies were made based on the epic. For example, the movie Awaara (1951) parallels the events in the Ramayana, where Sita is kidnapped by an evil demon Ravana. Sita is found but her chastity is questioned since she was kidnapped by another man. In order to prove herself, she went through a fire ordeal, but even after she does so, Rama abandoned Sita because his kingdom was not fond of her.  In mainstream Bollywood film, this promotes a conservative model for women because she shows bhakti [devotion, service, and surrender] to Rama who is her husband (Dimitrova 2010: 72). This can be easily seen within social life of Hindus, as wives are supposed to practice loyalty and obedience with their husbands. Even Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana TV series has contributed to the vision of the perfect Pativrata using the example of the perfect dharmic wife like Sita or Draupadi and distorts Tulsidas’s version of Sita (Dimitrova 2010: 72).

The Mahabharata is considered to be the foundation of Hinduism in part because the Bhagavad Gita is derived from the text. The story is about the Pandavas rivalry with their cousins the Kauravas which ends in a fierce battle. The Pandavas demonstrate a perfect dharmic nature and Draupadi, who is wife to all five of the brothers, also demonstrates Pativrata too. The Maharashtra Film Company made the Sairandhri (1920) based on a story from the Mahabharata which shows depictions of Indian servitude (Dwyer 2006: 20). Furthermore, in the 1980s there was a TV show that B.R. Chopra made called the Mahabharata. During the time of its release the restrictions on religion in media were relaxed. This show was less controversial because it was more of a historical epic and there were not political connections. Another film that was a retelling of the Mahabharata was Shayam Benegal’s Kalyug (1980). This story instead of being set in ancient times, had a more modern tone to it. Two industrial families named the Puranchands and Khuchands go into a bitter feud similar to that of the Pandavas and the Kauravas (Lal 2006). Though, there are not as many renditions of the Mahabharata compared to the Ramayana its popularity shows that it is still is imbedded in the roots of Hindu culture and film.

An important film that illustrates the power of these mythological stories is Jai Santoshi Maa (1975). The goddess Santoshi Maa is a major goddess in the Hindu pantheon and is generally worshipped by women in northern India (Dwyer 2006: 46). The goddess was originally was local to the northern Indian, the movie was derived from the vratkathas, a story about a fast to gain the favour of a god. The movie was popular with working women and because of that, the movie turned into a household name. This movie shows the origins of the goddess and how she is a manifestation of sakti. It also shows Satyavati’s devotion leads her to economic and martial success by worshipping the goddess of satisfaction (Mazur 2011: 78). Satyavati is the mother of Vyasa, the author of the Mahabharata. “The film deliberately sets up an overt contrast between ‘High Hinduism’ and folk Hinduism:  Laksmi, Parvati, and Sarasati are well-fed and lead opulent lives, but Santoshi Ma is content with offerings ofgur-chana (cane sugar & chickpeas), food consumed by the poor” (Lal 2006). To many women who are in the lower classes, it gives them hope that a goddess can be an ordinary woman similar to how many men are considered gods (i.e. Sri Caitanya). The film has been considered a devotional and a historical film unlike the films based on the Ramayana and Mahabharata. The film often promoted the worship of the goddess by not only being shown during festival times but also when the DVD was released there incense, a small candle, an image of the goddess, and a pamphlet explaining the vow (Mazur 2011: 78). Jai Santoshi Maa (1975) quickly gained a cult status similar to the Ramayana TV series by Sagar. This movie demonstrates that Hindi film is not strictly patriarchal and how easily the worship of a new god/ goddess can come about through Bollywood film.

Hinduism is not just strictly portrayed in Bollywood films, it is also shown in Hollywood films. Comparing how the religion is interpreted in Hollywood versus Bollywood, demonstrates how others in the world view the religion. It is important to note that Hinduism in non- Indian, western film often portray orientalism and use the sense of the “Other” in positive and negative ways (Mazur 2011: 214). In Hollywood movies, holy men bring wisdom to those in need and are often portrayed as being Gurus. Though there are never any mentions of the teachings or the great philosophies of these teachers. One of the critiques that Hinduism based movies receive is that they often take a historical approach rather than a mythical one. This is often seen with movies that are based around the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. Nevertheless, there are always more negatives than positives that westerners see in these films. For example, the philosophies are perceived as full of wisdom and can be useful to westerners who see rituals are seen as foreign and weird (Mazur 2011: 215). This promotes the idea of the ‘Other’ as well as orientalism. These western movies also stereotype the religion similar to how some of the Bollywood movies stereotype western cultures in theirs. For example, in the movie Lagan (2001) the Indian villagers are portrayed as morally superior and the British are shown are superficial and cruel (Dimitrova 2016: 9). In this film, a British women named Elizabeth and an Indian women named Gauri. Elizabeth develops a love for India, immersing herself in the religion which is shown through Indian music and dance. However, in the end the boy still chooses Gauri because of the desirability of the Indian “self” (Dimitrova 2016: 10). This film is based on the mythology of Krsna and his favorite gopi and the devotional Mira who believes she is wed to Krsna, which is a common theme among Bollywood films.

Hinduism is often imbedded within Bollywood movies. These movies promote a nationalism that ties in religion and devotion to doing your duties. There are two main genres in Bollywood, which are devotional and mythological, which contribute to the idea that one should practice Hinduism and should stay devoted to it. These are genres considered to be the foundations for Bollywood cinema. The mythological genre sets a stage for what the devotion should look like, as well as shows deities to prove that they too follow dharmic ways. The devotional genre guides you through using the narratives of saints from the beginning of life to the end. Though both genres still adhere to the historical aspects of the film.


References and Further Readings

Dimitrova, Diana (2016) “Hinduism and Its Others in Bollywood Film of the 2000s” Journal of Religion and Film 20: 1-20.

Dimitrova, Diana (2010) “Religion and Gender in Bollywood Film.” In Religion in Literature and Film in South Asia edited by Diana Dimitrova, 69-81. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Dwyer, Rachel (2006) Filming the Gods: Religion and Indian Cinema. New York: Routledge.

Lal, Vinay (2006) “Hinduism in Bollywood: A few notes.” University of Los Angeles. Accessed October 3, 2018.

Mazur, Eric Michael (2011) Encyclopedia of Religion and Film. Denver: Greenwood.

Related Topics for Further Investigation





Dhundiraj Govind Phalke







Bhagavad Gita


Noteworthy Websites

This article was written by:  Kailea Long (Fall 2018) who is solely responsible for its content.

Kamasutra Book 3: Virgins

The Kamasutra is an ancient Hindu text composed by Vatsyayana. The Kamasutra is believed to be a manual of sexual intercourse positions by most western societies, but the Kamasutra is a guide that helps people to achieve moral and noble lifestyles. The text discusses the nature of love, family lifestyles, forms of marriage, duties of a wife, behavior a man and woman should exhibit, traits to consider when choosing a partner and ways to develop physical attraction (Doniger 2007:66).

Marriage is the union of two people as partners in a legal relationship recognized by law. According to Rig Veda, marriage is the union of a male to a female virgin of the same class system. When a female is married to a male of equal class, the Dharma and Artha are satisfied based on the holy writing. They will be blessed with offspring and everlasting love. A man must become responsible and find a girl who comes from a noble and respected family, whose parents are alive, and is two or three years younger than himself. The female virgin must come from wealth, well connected, have stable and firm relationships with relatives and friends, good health and all her overall self must be beautiful. The man should, of course, also possess these qualities that the female virgin has (Doniger 2007).

Book three of the Kamasutra text, named Virgins, emphasizes exclusively on marriage, how to create confidence in a girl, on courtship and the display of the feelings by gesture and signs, things to be done only by the man on the acquisition of the girl, what a girl should do to win over a man and make him subject to her and forms of marriage (Doniger and Sudhir 2002).

There are five chapters in the text, Virgins, which focuses on the aspects of marriage. These five chapters are: (1) Courting the girl, (2) Winning a virgin’s trust, (3) Making advances to a young girl, (4) Advances a man makes on his own, (5) Devious devices for weddings.

Courting the Girl

When a man decides to court a beautiful girl from a respectable, well-connected and wealthy family with lucky marks on her body who is in good health., he has acquired both Dharma and Artha (Doniger and Sudhir 75). His parents and friends helps him court the girl especially the mutual friends of both his parents. The male friends tend to point out faults about the girl’s other suitors, and boost their friend’s good qualities to please the girl’s parents especially the girl’s mother. His friends dress like a fortune teller, and declare the future good fortune and wealth of the couple by showing the existence of all the lucky omens and signs, the good influence of planets, the auspicious entrance of the sun into a sign of the Zodiac, propitious stars and fortunate marks on his body (Doniger and Sudhir 75). However, girls who are pregnant, have a disgusting name like the name of one of the twenty-seven stars, or the name of a tree, or of a river, and whose name ends in ‘r’ or ‘l (Doniger and Sudhir 76)., are sick, betrothed to another, sweat a lot and are pimply should be avoided. The girl’s family dresses her up elegantly to events during the time of courtship. The girl’s family receive the man’s family who has come to court her (Doniger and Sudhir 77). Both family come to decision on how long they will wait to test the working of fate from the gods before giving her away. A man must marry by a wedding in the way of Brahma.

Winning a Virgin’s Trust

The Kamasutra prescribes that after the first three nights of the marriage, the couple should sleep on the floor, refrain from any sexual union and not eat any food that has salt or spices. The next seven days, they bathe with musical instrument playing, dress well, eat together, go to events together and visit their relatives. This is required to persons of all class systems. On the tenth night, the husband can begin gentle advances towards his wife when they are alone at night, thereby creating confidence in the girl. Babhravya followers say that when the husband does not initiate talk for three days with her, she assumes he is spiritless like pillar and begins to despise him (Doniger and Sudhir 78). Vatsyayana advices that the husband should slowly seduce her to win her trust and create confidence in his wife, by not forcing her but by gentle persuasion (Doniger and Sudhir 78-79). The husband should use tactics which she would like and become more confident with him. These tactics are as follows (Doniger and Sudhir 79):

He should embrace her the way she likes but not make it last a long time.

He should start by embracing her with the upper part of his body because it easier. He can embrace in the light if she is older and they are familiar with one another, but embrace in the dark if she younger.

When his wife accepts the embrace, the man should put a betel leaf in her mouth and if she does not accept it, he should use appeasing words, promises, and kneeling at her feet to seduce her. He should then begin by giving her some soft kisses, without making a sound. He should then encourage her to talk and ask him questions, which he will pretend to not know or answer with a few words (Doniger and Sudhir 79). He should not scare her if she does not talk but keep asking her if she has any questions over again and over again in a sweet manner, and he should urge her to talk if she does not after that. When she pestered again, she should reply by shaking her head.

When he asks her if she wants him or not, she should remain silent for a long time and when at last importuned to reply, should give him a promising answer by a nod of her head. He could call in the favor of a female friend, who they both trust, to continue the conversation (Doniger and Sudhir 79). When she engages in putting in scented oil near him or ties it in his upper cloth after becoming accustomed to him without talking, the man should touch her young breasts. If she prevents him from doing this, he should tell to her, I will not do it again if you will embrace me (Doniger and Sudhir 80)., thereby causing her to embrace him. While embracing, he should caress her whole body tenderly to gain her consent and when she does not give consent, he can scare her by saying, I shall impress marks of my teeth and nails on your lips and breasts, and then make similar marks on my own body, and shall tell my friends that you did them. What will you say then (Doniger and Sudhir 80). By doing this, he seduces her to gain her trust. On the second and third night, there is increase with confidence and she begins to trust him more, he can then begin to engage more sexual intercourse with his wife. He demonstrates his love to her by promising to be faithful to her in the future, and that she should dismiss all her fears with respect to any rival women (Doniger and Sudhir 81). He then begins to enjoy her in a way that does not scare her.

Making Advances to a Young Girl

A man with no money, no opportunity, a neighbor, dependent on his family, seen as a child or a guest, should not court a virgin. He can court a virgin if she falls in love with him from childhood (Doniger and Sudhir 82). Only men living with their uncle’s can try to gain over uncle daughter or some other girl, even if she is promised to another. When a man has decided the girl, he wants to court, he begins by spending time with her and her friends. He pleases her by playing various games with her, buying her flowers, cooking meals for her and playing six pebbles. He must become kind to the daughter of the girl’s nurse to gain her trust because she can affect the union between him and the girl he loves. The daughter can also talk about his good qualities to the girl’s parents and relatives. He should work hard to grant the girl’s wishes and buy gifts for her, so she sees him as someone who would do anything for her in the future. These gifts can be given privately or publicly. His reason for giving her gifts in private, is the fear that parents of both of them might be displeased (Doniger and Sudhir 84). When her love for him grows, he should amaze her with magic tricks, storytelling, music, moonlight festival and gifts like jewelry. To inform the girl of his sexual experience, he teaches the daughter of the girl’s nurse the sixty-four means of pleasure practiced by men. He finds out if she has sensual feelings for him by observing her gestures and signals like: She never looks the man in the face and becomes embarrassed when she is looked at by him, show some parts of her body to him, speaks to her attendants in an unusual way to gain his attention when she is far away from him, talks to her lover’s friends, shows gentleness to his servants and being sad when any other suitor is mentioned by her parents (Doniger and Sudhir 85).

Advances a Man Makes on His Own

After gestures and signals have been displayed, the man should gain various ways to make advances towards her like:

He should initiate hand holding whenever they are playing a game, engage in touching embrace, and giving her pair of human being couples cut out of a leaf a tree (Doniger and Sudhir 86).

He should dive close to her when playing water sports and tell her about his beautiful dream about her, but using other women’s names.

He sits near her during events and caress her foot and whenever he gives anything to her or takes anything from her, he should show her by his gesture how much he loves her (Doniger and Sudhir 87).

When he comes to know the depth of her feelings for him, he should pretend to be ill and invite her to his house to talk, and tell her that only she can make the medicine for him and nobody else. This pretense must last three days and three nights during which whenever she comes to visit, they should have long discussions. After the girl if finally won over, he may begin to enjoy her fully. The daughter of the girl’s nurse, or a female friend in which she trusts, comes handy when the man does not know how make advances to the girl.

When a girl makes advances towards a man she loves, she does so visiting him regularly with her friends or the daughter of her nurse. She offers him flowers and perfumes, talk to him about his hobbies, she should take care of him and engage in talks about ways to win a girl love. When a girl offer herself because of love, she loses her self-respect and is rejected. She should only be kind to a man who wishes to court her, and she may change her demeanor towards him but oppose when he tries to kiss her or ask for sexual union. If he agrees to not urge her, it proves her lover is devoted to her and she tells him to marry her soon, so that she would give herself to him. She should tell friends that she trusts when she loses her virginity.

Devious devices for weddings

When a girl’s love is won over, the man should cause fire to be brought from the house of a Brahman and spread the kusha grass upon the ground and make an offering of oblations to the fire, then he can marry her according to the guidelines the religious law (Doniger and Sudhir 92). After doing this ritual, he can inform his parents and her parents. The relatives both the girl and man should become familiar of the affair and the girl relatives should be told in a way that allows the marriage, and they should be offered gifts. A man should marry the girl according Gandharva form of marriage (Doniger and Sudhir 92). When the girl cannot make up her mind to marry him, he must come up with ways to make her marry him. The following ways are:

Using her female friends who he trusts and her family trusts, ask them to bring the girl to his house surprisingly, and he would then bring fire from the house of a Brahmin, and proceed as before described.

When the marriage of the girl to another suitor is drawing close, the man should mock the suitor’s future to the mother of the girl, and then have the girl to come to see him, with her mother’s consent, in a neighboring house, he would bring fire from the house of a Brahmin, and proceed as above.

The man should form a bond with the girl’s brother and ask for his help and bribe him with gifts. He tells the brother about his love for his sister and since young men will do anything for a fellow man with the same age, the brother finds a way to bring his sister to some secure place, and the man will bring fire from the house of a Brahmin and proceed as before.

The man can give the daughter of the girl’s nurse, an alcoholic substance to give the girl, and then she will be brought under pretense to a secure place for business, and before she recovers from her woozy state, the man should bring fire from the house of a Brahmin, and proceed as before.

The man should, with the help of the daughter of the nurse, take the girl away from her house while she is asleep, before she recovers from her sleep, the man should bring fire from the house of a Brahmin, and proceed as before.

When the girl visit some village in the neighborhood, the man should, with his friends, scare away her guards and forcibly carry her off, and proceed as before.




Doniger, Wendy (2002) “On the Kamasutra.” Daedalus 131:126-29.

Doniger, Wendy (2007) “Reading the “Kamasutra”: The Strange & the Familiar.” Daedalus

Sharma, Shailja (2002) “Kamasutra.” Counterpoints 169:103-07

Vatsyayana (2002) Kamasutra. Translated by Doniger Wendy and Sudhir Kakar. New York: Oxford University Press.


Related Topics for Further Investigation





Caste system




Game of six pebbles

Betel leaves


Kusha grass


Noteworthy Websites Related to the Topic


Article written by: Trust In God Odudu (March 2017) who is solely responsible for its content.

A Summary of Book 6 of the Kama Sutra

The Kamasutra is an ancient Hindu text on the art of attainting kama, or pleasure, one of the three prescribed goals for twice born males in the Hindu tradition (Doniger, Kakar and Vatsyayana XI). It was composed by Vatsyayana Mallanaga, possibly in the third century CE and has since been the subject of commentaries, criticisms, and translations. Vatsyayana drew on many scholars before him, and this text is certainly not the only of its kind. In the west, the book is often perceived as a catalogue of sex positions. For Hindus, it is a unique and elaborate text containing several books on topics such as finding and pleasing a wife, and the use of drugs and other substances to enhance kama.

For many years, the translation by Sir Richard Burton, published in the 19th century stood as the western world’s best understanding of the erotic Kamasutra (Burton and Vatsyayana, 1981). However, a more recent translation by Wendy Doniger and Sudhir Kakar provides a fresh insight into the discussions of the Kamasutra, its nature, its function as a religious text, and the argument of whether it is to be a descriptive versus prescriptive text. Of course, in ancient India and even today, the reader should decide with discretion. The 2002 translation by Doniger and Kakar was used for this summary.

An important aspect of the Kamasutra is that its audience was most likely male, but according to Wendy Doniger in her book, Redeeming the Kamasutra, the Kamasutra can be useful to women (Doniger 93). In Doniger and Kakar’s translation, Vatsyayana suggests nuns and courtesans are the only women in Hindu society who are truly [socially] free (Doniger, Kakar and Vatsyayana XIV); Book 6 of the Kamasutra is dedicated entirely to the courtesan (a high class entertainer for men), which exposes an attitude towards courtesan’s that is very different from the popular opinion in the west. Vatsyayana’s text suggests that courtesans have long played an important role in the Hindu social order. What sets Book 6 apart from the other books of the Kamasutra is that it appears to be written by the courtesan, for the courtesan. She appears to be faithful and affectionate towards her lover at all times, yet she is often involved with more than one man. The courtesan’s main concern is profit, although she makes it appear to her lover that he is her top priority (Doniger, Kakar and Vatsyayana 137).

Chapter one of book six explores how the courtesan “decides on a friend, an eligible lover, and an ineligible lover” (Doniger, Kakar and Vatsyayana 131-136). Men trust women who are driven by desire, sex, and passion, and this is how the courtesan poses herself. Vatsyayana suggests that every woman possesses these traits to an extent, and because the courtesan’s main goal is to make money, she is a natural born tradesperson. She exhibits no greed as she displays herself as goods for purchase, always beautiful but secretive (Doniger, Kakar, and Vatsyayana 131). The courtesan may choose the men with whom it is appropriate to keep company, particularly what kind of company, as she has the whole community at her disposal. Policemen and powerful individuals may offer protection, “ward off loses” and “get money” for her. These men should be considered friends; men who sell goods that aid in the seduction of lovers could also be considered friends because they can ultimately bring her greater wealth and more lovers with their services and connections (Doniger, Kakar, and Vatsyayana 131). Even when choosing a lover, there are certain guidelines that deem whether or not a man is suitable: some lovers are good only for money (jealous, greedy, or impotent men), while other men possess good qualities (knowledgeable, poetic, generous men) and are, therefore, considered the prescribed lovers (Doniger, Kakar and Vatsyayana 133-135). The courtesan should stay away from sick men, old men, and men who are devoted to their wives.

Hindu social norms dictate a woman should be intelligent, honest, of sound mind and body; she should only speak when spoken too, and be knowledgeable enough in the Kamasutra to please her man. Additionally, a courtesan must be all these things, as well as being beautiful, young, versed in the arts, and of course, have a sexual nature (Doniger, Kakar, and Vatsyayana 133-134). These traits will make her a suitable lover.

There are various reasons for taking a lover that Vatsyayana’s predecessors suggested, including passion, fear, gain, religion, and future prospects. Vatsyayana suggests, for the courtesan, that “gain, warding off loses, and love” are reasons she may take a lover; however, gain should come first for her, as her goal is to make money, but she should use her judgement and consider other reasons as well (Doniger, Kakar and Vatsyayana 135).

Before a courtesan engages a lover, she must get his attention and learn about him. Even if he has propositioned her, the courtesan remembers that men want most what is difficult to attain. A courtesan may utilize her friendships to send gifts to her potential lover, in an attempt to mediate the beginnings of the relationship. After this, the courtesan may meet with her prospective lover, and attempt to seduce him (Doniger, Kakar and Vatsyayana, 135-136).

The second chapter of the Kamasutra discusses how the courtesan properly entertains her lover by giving him what he desires (Doniger, Karkar, and Vatsyayana 137-142). She may act as a wife does, infatuated with him, inquiring about his interests and behaving as if he is the centre of her life, suggesting that she may even become ill if he does not make love to her. Of course, this is all a façade, as the courtesan must act attached even though she is not (Doniger, Kakar and Vatsyayana 137 lies). If questions of infidelity arise, the courtesan may refuse to eat in order to show that she is upset and remains dedicated to her lover. At the same time, she is known to be deceptive—such as inventing a demanding mother to whom the courtesan is obligated or devoted—when she is to meet with another man.

The traditional Hindu wife, as depicted in the Kamasutra via the perspective of Vatsyayana and the courtesan, is that of a devoted, infatuated woman, who speaks only of things her husband knows and prays for him while he is away, even taking up ritual responsibilities in order to honour him. She affirms his intelligence and proclaims a love that will last beyond life itself. A courtesan may actually engage in some or all of these practices, but she most definitely portrays herself as a loving devotee to her man—as Vatsyayana comments at the end, however, this is the nature of the courtesan, as she is really just playing a part.

Of course, as previously mentioned, the courtesan has a goal, which is to make money. According to chapter three of Book 6 in the Kamasutra, there are natural and contrived ways in which a courtesan may be able to extort money from her lover (Doniger, Kakar and Vatsyayana 142-147). Vatsyayana disagrees with previous scholars when he says that the courtesan can heavily increase her profits if she uses contrived means. She may create debts to creditors, or even terrible scenarios, such as being robbed of her jewellery, or a fire that burned down her home and all of her belongings, in order to gain sympathy and ‘reimbursement’ from her lover (Doniger, Kakar and Vatsyayana 142-143). She may even pretend to need money in order to bring gifts to him, or help friends of his/hers that are in need. The courtesan may also then express to her lover how much his kindness has helped her and made her happy. The lover often obliges and gives the woman money or gifts, as it is implied throughout Book 6 of the Kamasutra that this is how a man shows attachment, or at least this is his understanding of showing attachment.

Occasionally, her lover may shows signs that his passion is fading or that he is no longer interested, and the courtesan is a master at picking up on these signs (Doniger, Karkar, and Vatsyayana 145). He may portray his receding desire through his body language or his actions, by giving her too much or too little money, sleeping elsewhere, or breaking his promises. A courtesan knows that a devoted man does not act in this way, and because her affection is only manufactured for profit, she’ll make one final attempt to hustle what remains of his money from him, and then she will get rid of him. In Doniger’s commentary text, she suggests that this may reflect the courtesan’s attitudes and point of view (Doniger 105).

There is an entire section of chapter three dedicated to getting rid of a lover (Doniger, Karkar, and Vatsyayana 145-147). The courtesan needs very few reasons to abandon her lover; if he is depleted of funds to give her, if he desires another woman, or if his passion diminishes, she will leave. In Redeeming the Kamasutra, Doniger suggests that the courtesan “employs…passive-aggressive behavior to indicate that it is time to [end the affair]” (Doniger 105). This includes refusing to sleep with him, showing contempt for his interests, making herself seem unattractive and uninterested in him. This will often result in the ending of the relationship. At the end of this section, Vatsyayana includes a verse that summarizes the job of the courtesan: she is to enchant man, take his money, and then release him (Doniger, Kakar and Vatsyayana 147).

A courtesan may, after careful consideration, get back together with an ex-lover. There are conditions, of course, she must consider, which are outlined in chapter four of the sixth book of the Kamasutra (Doniger, Kakar and Vatsyayana 147-151). In fact, there are six different scenarios that the courtesan should consider, and then there are suggestions as to how to deal with these different scenarios. Essentially, the courtesan should only get back together with her ex-lover if he still has money or has made more money, if he is still interested in/attached to her, and/or can continue to provide the courtesan with a source of income. She should reject him if he is fickle or ungenerous. If the relationship rekindles, a courtesan will begin courting her lover again. She may bring back her demanding mother to make her lover believe that it was the mother who was keeping them apart all along. A messenger may suggest to her man that even though she has a new lover, she is not in love, and only desires this one man. At the end of the chapter, Vatsyayana once again disagrees with his predecessors when he suggests that, between a new lover and an old one, a new lover is more aligned with her goals. He then comments that this can be dependent on the nature of the man (Doniger, Kakar and Vatsyayana 150).

In the fifth chapter, Vatsyayana discusses how the courtesan may weigh or prioritize her profits, posing it as a discussion between himself and past scholars. A courtesan should not limit herself to one lover if she feels she can make more money this way, but there are scenarios to consider. In the choice between lovers, Vatsyayana suggests that the one who gives gold is preferable to the one who gives her what she wants, because gold is most valuable and can give her the greatest monetary return. Vatsyayana elaborates on other scenarios, but the answer is always the same. However, he does suggest that there are certain situations in which avoiding conflicts or losses can be more beneficial to the courtesan than monetary profit.

The sixth chapter in the Kamasutra’s sixth book contains methodological approaches to calculating gains and losses, consequences, and doubts (Doniger, Kakar and Vatsyayana 155-159). Losses are the result of fate, or of some fault of character or decision making. These losses may have terrible consequences and should therefore be carefully avoided. As a business person, a courtesan should focus on gains. Vatsyayana says that there are three losses: money, religious merit, and hatred; and three gains: money, religious merit, and pleasure (Doniger, Kakar and Vatsyayana 155). Vatsyayana suggests a formula that considers doubt as either pure or mixed, and consequences as having one sided, two sided, or group results. This formula can help the courtesan control her losses. The discussion that follows is one of contemplation, and suggests that gains and losses of the three types can occur depending on the level of doubt that is present. Essentially, because the courtesan wants to maximize gains and minimize losses, she should consider these arguments for the purpose of her business.

The last chapter of book six, entitled “Types of courtesans” (Doniger, Kakar and Vatsyayana 159-160) suggests that there are certain women more suited to this profession than others. In contrast to women who are virgins, courtesans may be women known for dancing, artistry, or simply for being an intelligent member of an upper class. These women may be more inclined to money than passion (as opposed to virgins and wives), and could therefore be considered for this particular kind of work.

Ultimately, Book 6 of the Kamasutra depicts courtesans as intelligent, masters of deceit and feminine sexuality. They are not portrayed as shameful women who are degraded in society; instead, they are respectable business women who play a major role in cultivating a Hindu man’s sexual experience. They reverse the conventional gender norms that Doniger discusses in her commentary; instead of being passive and innocent, she is active and powerful (Doniger 109). The Kamasutra and the courtesan are similar in this way, neither are well known [in the west] for their religious and social functions in Hindu society. At the end of the second chapter of Book 6, Vatsyayana writes a verse that could be used to sum up the portrayal of women, mostly courtesans, in this book of the Kamasutra:

Because of the subtlety and excessive greed of women,

And the impossibility of knowing their nature,

The signs of their desire are hard to know,

Even for those who are its object.

Women desire and they become indifferent,

They arouse love and they abandon,

Even when they are extracting all the money,

They are not really known (Doniger, Karkar, and Vatsyayana 142).




Burton, R. and Vatsyayana (1981) The Kama Sutra: The Richard Burton Classic Translation. London: Unwin Paperbacks.

Doniger, Wendy (2016) Redeeming the Kamasutra. New York: Oxford University Press.

Doniger, W., Sudhir Kakar, and Vatsyayana (2002) Kamasutra: Oxford world’s classics. New York: Oxford University Press Inc.


Related Readings & Websites


Doniger, Wendy (2002) “On the Kamasutra.” Daedalus 131: 126-129.

Doniger, Wendy (2007) “Reading the ‘Kamasutra’: the strange & the familiar.” Daedalus 136: 66-78


Courtesans, Kamasutra:

Kamasutra Summary:









This article was written by: Jessica Freehill (Spring 2017), who is entirely responsible for its content.