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March 29, 2011 - Conference - Conference
Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3

Persian Adaptations of the Kokaśāstra

Susanne Kurz (Ruhr-Universität Bochum)

India is famous as the homeland of the Kāmasūtra, a learned Sanskrit work on the art of love. In Europe, this work is mostly known in free translations or paraphrases linked with ample illustrative material. But it may be less known that such books sometimes combine the contents of the Kāmasūtra with those of other Indian treatises on the art of love. One of these other treatises which has established a tradition of its own is the Kokaśāstra or Ratirahasya. It was produced in the first millennium AD by a certain Kōka or Kokkoka. This work, though also written in Sanskrit, is said to be less learned in character and thus easier to grasp for non-specialist readers. This may be one of the reasons for its great popularity with Persophone Muslims who soon started to “translate” the work into Persian. As these Persian works composed in the tradition of the Kokaśāstra are not translations in any modern sense of the word and since they have undergone major changes in the course of time I prefer to call them adaptations of the Kokaśāstra.
With a closer look at manuscripts of these Persian versions of the Kokaśāstra a couple of questions arise: How close are the “translations” to the original? What do they preserve? What do they add? How are illustrations employed? Which titles are used to designate the Persian versions? To what extent are they actually adapted to Persophone Muslims’ minds? How do the Persian versions change over time? Which are the main features remaining the same? Is there a relation between Persian versions of the Kokaśāstra and other Indo-Persian works on the art of love? And how do we know if we are facing a “translation” of the Kokaśāstra?
The lecture attempts to address most of these questions in analyzing at least four manuscripts of Persian adaptations of the Kokaśāstra (15th to 19th century) against the background of some other Indo-Persian treatises on sexual issues. Exemplary illustrations and contents will be used to support the line of reasoning.

Location and info

Tuesday, 29 March 2011
From 16.00 to 18.00 h.
Université Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris 3
Centre Censier
13 rue de Santeuil