Many people have heard of the Kama Sutra the Hindu treatise on the art of love. But not many would have heard of the author of this treatise namely Vatsyayna. Richard Burton did translate the Kama sutra which was originally written in Sanskrit. But even he with his vast knowledge of oriental matters could not unravel the life of this author of the Kama sutra.
Who was Vatsyayana ?
For all practical purposes the writer of the kamsutra remains a shadowy figure as hardly any authentic biography of this writer is available. We thus have only the Kamsutra as a book availableand try and unravel the life of this obscure writer. However we know the complete name of the writer which was Malinaga Vatsyayana. It appears he was Hindu and one can surmise that he would have been from a higher caste probably a brahmin.This is more likely as in those ancient times a Brahmin was supposed to be the custodian of wisdom and education and the lower casts like the shudras had hardly any access to knowledge and education.
Again it is possible that Vatsyayana was a man of influence and probably lived an opulent life. He must have had a lot of leisure time available which he could devote on his writings. In addition the writer must have been steeped in Hindu thought and thus was in a position to interpret this part of Hindu philosophy.i.e. achievement of God and self realization through tantric and sex.
Period of Vatsyayana
The period of during which Vatsyayana lived cannot be pinpointed though we can make a generalassessment. From the Book itself, we learn that he was a resident of Benares. This is very plausible as Benares has for centuries been a holy place and seat of learning of the saints and rishis of the Hindu religion. There is also a possibility that Vatsyayana just put into print what was ancient folklore from the Vedic age (2000BC).
Vatsyayans himself mentions that the ruler of Kuntal Satakarni Satavahana, killed his wife while making love to her in the heat of passion with a kartari (small dagger). Kuntal is supposed to be the Jat land (modern Western Utter Pradesh). This king is believed to have ruled during the first century A.D., and hence we can safely conclude that Vatsyayana must have lived this period.
However the Mathematician cum astrologer Daivajna Varahamihira, in his book 'Brihatsanhita' writes of vivah patal( marriage world). This appears to be taken from the Kama sutra. Now Varahamihira who was from South Bengal is said to have lived during the sixth century A.D. Therefore one can conclude that Vatsyasana must have lived before him. So I will place period of Vatsyayana's existence as perhaps from the first to the 3rd century AD. It is a pretty long time back. But whatever the period during which Vatsyayana lived, we must thank him for his treatise that is both educative and informative.