Kama Sutra: Character Profiles
The Hindu family often employed astrologers at the birth of a child or before a marriage. Vatsyayana suggests that a suitor’s friend could pose as an astrologer to predict a happy union with the lady of choice.
The Brahmin is a priest who knows Vedic ceremonies. A man who wants to get married should find a Brahmin to marry him, and a virgin of his own caste, in front of a ceremonial fire in order to become a householder with legitimate progeny.
Burton uses the word “citizen” to denote a respectable upper-class man of an urban society, whether bachelor or householder. This is a man of good taste and means who can participate in elite society.
The courtesan or Vesya is an educated woman who earns her living through prostitution among upper-class men, becoming their equal companion in intellectual conversation and courtly pursuits. She is an independent woman and manages her own affairs, usually with the protection of friends and officials.
The Courtesan’s “Mother”
The courtesan has an older woman companion who helps to manage her affairs and keep the men at bay and under control. This woman acts as a chaperone and madam to the younger woman.
The Daughter of a Nurse
Frequent mention is made of the daughter of a young woman’s nurse as someone for a suitor to win over and use as a female messenger to his intended. This is similar to the nurses in Shakespeare’s plays who are intimate to the young woman’s household and play the part of a go-between for the young lovers.
A eunuch is usually a castrated male who guards women in a king’s harem. Vatsyayana describes the sexual life of a eunuch as someone who can act as a man or a woman and who engages in oral sex. Some translators think the eunuch means someone of a “third nature” or a homosexual.
A man in good social standing always has friends about him especially if he is trying to get a woman. The friend helps to find a woman and to introduce the man to her. He recommends the man to the woman by telling of his virtues. Vatsyayana defines a friend as someone who is truthful and does not tell a man’s secrets.
The Female Friend
The female friend can be a friend of either the man or the woman. She helps to persuade the woman to give in to the suitor, or teaches the young woman the arts of love. She is a go-between.
A king or high official is allowed to have a harem or many wives kept secluded and guarded. Often this was to safeguard his line of succession by producing many male heirs. The women of the harem took turns with their husband, but are often described as devising other secret means to satisfy their sexual desires.
The husband is the legitimate spouse of a virgin of his own caste. He may have only one wife or many if he is rich. He needs to be proficient in the knowledge of the Kama Sutra to protect and to please his wife and produce legitimate progeny and wealth for his family.
The king is the ruler of the land who typically has a harem and may discreetly enjoy almost any woman in the kingdom as long as he does so privately.
The Kshatriya is the ruling class of warriors, who would typically be the men of the king’s court, his ministers and officials.
A messenger is a go-between to get lovers together. Vatsyayana describes a good messenger as bold, with good manners, skillful in communication, appropriate in behavior and apprehension. This could be a friend, a faithful servant, a woman or a man.
The Nayika is the appropriate woman a man may court and enjoy sex with. There are four types, says Vatsyayana: the virgin of one’s own caste, the twice-married woman (widow), a courtesan, or in some special cases, the wife of another man, for expediency but not for pleasure.
A pithamarda is a side-kick or friend, a confidant who is typically single and without money but who helps the man or courtesan to get a lover. He is the panderer or go-between.
A shudra woman is of the servant class who largely does not figure into the love affairs of the upper classes except as a low union.
A Vaishya is a merchant, a man who knows how to make money through trade. He is the one who knows how to teach a man to create artha, or wealth.
The Vidushaka is a clown or jester, a humble servant of a man who is witty, learned, and of the Brahmin caste.
The Village Woman
The village women are described as having few rights among upper-class men who may have sex with them without courtship or responsibility, although Vatsyayana warns this may damage a man’s reputation.
The Vita is a social parasite, who has no money but is amusing and with his wife is invited out socially at the expense of friends. Such a person may serve as a go-between or an instructor of the sexual arts.
The Elder Wife
The elder wife has precedence over a younger one, acting as a sister and instructor to the younger wife, unless the elder wife is barren. Then she must give way to the younger and fertile wife.
The Younger Wife
The younger wife must obey the elder wife as a mother. All wives are obedient to the husband and take care of his parents and all his children. They should please the husband as he should please all the wives.