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Comparison of Two Great Works of Erotic Literature:The Perfumed Garden and the Kamasutra

An Air Warrior and prolific writer with over 200 published short stories and 14 books on fiction



There are two works of literature that have stood the test of time. They can be classified as erotic literature. What is erotic literature? It has been defined as fictional or factual stories coupled with advice that centers around the god of love i.e. Eros. Such accounts can be passionate, romantic, and sexual tint. Erotic literature has always faced cultural disapproval but despite this, it has survived the test of time. Despite cultural ostracization, it is recorded that the oldest Love poem has existed from the Sumerian age; titled Istanbul, it is on display at the Museum of the Ancient Orient at Istanbul in Turkey. Over the centuries two books have caught the fascination of the world. They are the Perfumed Garden and the Kamasutra. Both books are from the East and there is nothing like them in the West. The West, however, is responsible for bringing these books to light and the credit for this must go to Sir Richard Burton the Orientalist who spent hours and hours translating these books and presented them to the western intelligentsia.


The books and a comparison

Comparing both these books is a very difficult task as both are from the same genre but they follow a different methodology and in their own class have no peers. Both the books touch upon the sexual side of human life which in the west for centuries was taboo.

Sir Richard Burton(1821-90) must take the credit for bringing these books before the world. The language of the Kama Sutra is Sanskrit which was the lingua franca of the subcontinent 2000 years back. Sanskrit is now a dead language and only scholars study it. All credit to Burton who studied Sanskrit and translated this magnificent book into English. From all accounts, it is accepted that the book was compiled in the second century in reference to the Julian calendar of the Christian common era. The author credited for compiling the Kama Sutra is Vatsyayana. He remains a shadowy figure and nothing much about him is known except that he was a higher caste Brahmin.

He has claimed that this book is a path to the realization of God. In essence, he caters to the Hindu theory that there are many ways to reach God and one of them is through the sexual act. In contrast to the Kama Sutra, the Perfumed Garden is an Arabic manual. Its language is Arabic and was probably compiled around the 16th century AD. It is a more recent form of erotic literature and it is supposed to have been written by a man called Sheik Nefzaoui. The Sheik remains a mysterious writer about who nothing is known but generally, it is accepted that he compiled this manual on the advice of the Bey of Algiers who wished to learn about intimate relations between men and women and how he could benefit from it.

The purpose of both the books is the same but while the Kama Sutra talks of lofty ideals of achieving God, the book by Sheik Nefzaoui has no such pretension and is unapologetic that it is written just for sensual pleasure and how to get the most out of life. Burton also mastered the Arabic language like Sanskrit and translated both books.

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Approach of the books

The style of narration of both the books is different. The Kama Sutra is an extremely clinical book. It is also a book that considers itself to be part of the Hindu religion and is closely entwined with Hindu tantra philosophy. The perfumed garden follows a different route and is much more readable. It is more like a storybook as it contains 22 short stories which are explicit in the descriptions of human emotions and acts.

The book can be classified as erotica and integrates with the general text of the book and the purpose is clear to help achieve extreme bliss. The book is the recognition of human nature. Can anybody deny that the act of cohabitation between man and woman remains the most blissful form of pleasure in the world?

One can safely say that the purpose of both books is different whereas one espouses God the other has no pretense about God and focuses on human pleasure. Richard Burton translated the Kama Sutra in 1883 and the translated version has got 1250 verses spread across 36 chapters and seven parts. It gives a graphic account of human relationships which can be read about in the book but one can say it is a monumental work and brings out the tremendous knowledge of the writer.

The book by the Sheik reads more like tales from the Arabian nights but it gives extremely good and relevant advice on all matters relating to sex. Coming to the last part, as to the comparison of these books; one can safely say that they cannot be compared and both of them are great literature These books have been read by millions of people around the world and obe can get a translation easily from any of the bookstalls or e-commerce sites from Amazon downloads. One can read both these books but I will suggest that reading them in the company of your love will give you a heightened knowledge and perception of what both these writers have alluded to.

© 2022 MG Singh emge

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