How the Kamasutra became known all over the world?

Sir Richard Francis Burton - the man who discovered the Kamasutra

From the time of its creation till the beginning of the XIX century the Kamasutra remained the asset of the exclusively Indian population, and if to be more precise, just of a little its part, in general of the elite (high casts). But it lasted till the moment when India was gradually colonized by English empire in XVIII-XIX centuries. In the process of the colonization, there was active development of territory and culture of the country by English people, and as a result, they discovered many ancient texts, including the Kama Sutra.

The man who discovered the Kamasutra

Richard Francis BurtonThe main merit of discovering the Kamasutra belongs to Sir Richard Francis Burton who was a British traveler, translator, writer, ethnographer, poet and linguist. By his nature, he was a real traveler, hunter for adventures and adventurer. That is why, after his failed studying at the Oxford University he decided to register in the troops of East-Indian campaign in 1842 to go to India for his service. During his service in India Richard spent most of time on learning local language and culture. After a few years he learnt Hindi and a few of its dialects that allowed him to communicate more with local inhabitants and to get familiar with the Indian culture.

After 10 year in India Richard Burton approved himself to be more linguist, culture expert and researcher than the military man, as a result the Royal geographical society allowed him to leave the service to continue the researches of other countries. Therefore, during the rest of his life Richard Burton was travelling by the world.

How Richard Burton learnt about the Kamasutra

As Burton was a man of quite free views on sexuality, he was also interested in features of sex culture of the Indian population. In 1842 in the city of Bombay, while communicating with a local prostitute he learnt of existence of a special book, which was dedicated the art of love and head the title of the Kamasutra. Is it clear that when he got text of the Kama Sutra for the first time he was very impressed and right at that time he said his famous words: “We British never knew of this kind of love-making. Had we known, we would not have ruined the lives of so many British virgins.”

He understood that this book could not be any more possession of only India; the whole world needed to know about it. During another 10 years, Richard Burton was carrying the sketches of the very first Kamasutra, which Europe was just about to learn. Only in 1871 the speed of his travelling became lower that allowed him to collect his notices which he had collected during dozens of years, to take a pen to expose on a sheet of paper everything that he had learnt about the book during many years. And this became a start point of acquaintance of Europe and then of the whole world with the Kamasutra.

The first edition of the Kamasutra

The first edition of the Kamasutra 1883As the free views on the sexual and erotic literature of Richard Burton were in advance with the time, it was impossible to publish the book in England of that time because of the “Law on sexually explicit publications” of 1857, which did not allow publishing literature with such content. Therefore, Richard together with his comrade and co-thinker decided to found a special Kama Sutra Society, on behalf of which by the permission of special authorities he manager to publish the first translation of the Kamasutra from Sanskrit in 1883.

Till present the origin and authenticity of the translation are unknown as Richard Burton didn’t know Sanskrit which was the language of the book. However, there are some assumptions that he translated the book from the translation, which existed at that time into the language that Richard knew.

How the Kamasutra was accepted in Europe

Conservative England greeted the first translation of this book with cold. The laws and public morality were at odds with the content of the Indian tractate, which for that time was considered quite explicit. There were printed only 250 copies. After some time it was considered pornography and was forbidden till 1963. After the Second World War with growing of a new generation and changing standards and values in Europe started the sex revolution which put ease the society from its sexual side. It gave the translation of the Kamasutra a new fresh breath. The book was again allowed to be printed. The new generation was released from any prejudices, rules, and interdictions in sex and met the book with great interest and love, and very soon it was called the “Bible of sex”.

Why and how the Kama Sutra became so popular in the world?

Kamasutra ancient imagesBy that time, the translation was equipped with large images of different positions in sex, what was not presented in the original text. Of course, it became a reason of the quickly growing popularity of the Kamasutra. However, as a result the accents were moved, they leaded readers far from the main more valuable, important and deep part of the content of the Kama Sutra, making it out of attention. We say about the parts, which highlighted the relations between the man and the woman, the essence of their sexual intimacy, previous game, environment, and prelude – everything, that turned mechanical sex into an act of love. Instead of that, all the attention was concentrated on the positions which by themselves, without everything that was mentioned above meant little.

After that, since 1970 there started an active porn industry, which also caught up and started to develop actively brand of the Kamasutra in the whole world, making different films and educational manuals on sex positions. As a result, among many people, name of the book is associated exclusively with sex positions. Through the years, popularity of the book was growing as well as demand for educative literature about sex. Thus the Kama Sutra is known nowadays.


  1. sai kumar

    Hi, i am sai kumar. i am so glad to go through the article on kamasutra in your blog as it swept away the wrong notions on the devine book. i would like to thank you for that. what my question is you mentioned that the book itself is treated as it just consists only sexual positions, it is because “It is used to publish the text incorrectly, without paying any attention to the authentic translation”. May i know which book is true translated and almost closer to the original vatsyayana’s kama sutra. if possible can you refer which book or author to follow in telugu language.

  2. Considered as the basic work on love in Sanskrit literature, it was written by Vatsiaiana. The full title is Vātsyāyana kāma sūtra (‘The Aphorisms on Sexuality, from Vatsiaiana’). Chronologically, the author is located in the Gupta period (which took place between 240 and 550 AD).

  3. Amanda N Luoma

    Were can I find the original book at.

    1. akraj

      hey amanda N luoma I hope you have found the book, if not I got the PDF version of the same you can simply get from me.


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