Books: Love, Eroticism, and Female Sexuality in Classical Sanskrit Literature: Seventh-thirteenth Centuries by Shalini Shah

This book is an attempt to analyse the conception of kama in the early-medieval classical Sanskrit literary tradition from a gender perspective. By reading against the grain, the author has tried to illuminate the sexual status of women within the different genres of these classical Sanskrit sources. The book highlights that far from being a unitary homogeneous category with only a certain kind of sexual status, women and their sexuality have been conceived differently in different philosophical schools, be they dharmasastra, kamasastra, Lokayata, tantric, ayurvedic and the asceptic philosophies. The author has further made a case for seeking the prostitute sexuality diiferently from that of a kulavadhu, i.e. a household woman. The treatment of the sexual desire of mayavinis, raksasis, dakinis, and svairins too places them in an all-together different category from the other women of patriarchy.. This book also argues in favour of the validity of talking in terms of love (prema) tradition in contra-distinction to an erotic (srngari) tradition in the classical Sanskrit sources of the early-medieval period. The basis for this binary division is predicated on the fact that in the love tradition, in which we include the poetry of the female poets, Bhavabhuti's and Jayadeva's work deals with reciprocity and emotions in the sexual relations between man and woman, while the masculine erotic tradition authored by the srngari poets is marked by hegemonic masculinity in which women exist solely as fetishized objects for exclusively male erotic stimulation.

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