The Kamasutra is flooding the bookstores. This ancient treatise (the only sutraic text in the Western tradition is Aristotle's Poetics) on sex is a bestseller. But it is not everybody's idea of a coffee-table book.
Reputed publishers like Roli Books have rolled out elegant illustrated editions. DC Books, the leading publishing house in ultra-conservative Kerala has come out with a slim, non-illustrated Malayalam version of the original text. But it is the miniature paintings in the Mughal and Rajput traditions that form the USP of these books.
The miniature paintings inside give graphic guidance. Painters and craftsmen from Mughal and Rajput schools have meticulously etched images of their masters with their pants down, doing what they liked best.
The bookstore at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi stocks quite a number of copies of the book in English and various European languages. I prefer the German version. The hard sounds on the page form a syncopated rhythm with the miniatures.
It could well have been a manual for rhythmic gymnasts. Leafing through the pages, one develops a sense of detachment. Sex is made deterministic as rigid rules are laid down with the sole intent of maximising pleasure.
Detachment is what you see on the faces of servant girls watching over Rajput or Mughal Rajas progressing through beginner and intermediate levels to advanced stages of sexual tutelage. Vatsyayan, the sage who composed the text, was a celibate himself.
The miniature paintings are works of fine craftsmanship. (Orhan Pamuk writes about the rigours of apprenticeship in 'My Name is Red'). The paintings, contrary to the Western School, convey inner life and hides the natural appearance within them like some kind of telegraphic code. (-.-.-.-. [It is very Freudian. The dashes penetrate the dots and the wails of unborn children is the hum of telegraph wires.]) But the ascetic detachment of the miniaturist is at some point conveyed to the reader.
Since women are from Venice and Men are from Madras, different versions of the text are on offer. Kamasutra for women is mostly about dance, make-up, costumes, and the like. The same book for men is slightly more hardcore.