Introduction to Medieval India


India has always been a land of diverse peoples and religions. It was the birthplace of two major world religions, Hinduism and Buddhism. During the middle ages it was home to Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Christians, Jains, and Jews. Generally, people stayed within their own communities and only mingled with others of the same faith. Add to this the infamous caste system, and you have a very diverse culture that is strictly striated. What is acceptable to some is intolerable or forbidden to others. Dynasties rose and fell, conquerors came and were in turn conquered.


For Hindus there are three aims in life Kama, Artha and Dharma. Love/Sensuality, Wealth, and Virtue/Religious Merit. There was a time of life devoted to each, and each must be taught by a master. The masters of Dharma are the Brahmins (priestly caste), the masters of Artha were wealthy masters of the various guilds, and the masters of Kama were the courtesans de luxe (ganika).

Sexuality in ancient India was neither shameful nor sinful. It was a glorious and honorable part of life. The power of the female orgasm is what permitted the gates of her womb to open and permit an ancestor to be reborn into the world of the flesh. It was a woman's spiritual duty to bear as many children as she could. If her husband was unable to have sex with her during her fertile period she was expected to find a man who would.

The middle ages saw a lessoning of that sexual freedom which only intensified with each passing century. During the 6th century when the great text the Kamasutra was written it was not impossible to marry for love. Infract, the author Vatsyayana says that the only path to marital bliss is the path of love. Yet this changed, marriages became family affairs where girls were sent off to husbands they had never met to live in a house with his other wives. Often, the husband was just as unhappy in such a marriage. Yes, he had the right to marry as often as he could afford, but that frequently only made things worse.


If a man was in the mood for love but his wife was unwelcoming what was he to do? Find a prostitute, take a mistress, or visit the masseuse. having a mistress was the fashionable thing to do. Gentlemen were expected to have at least one full time mistress, preferably a ganika. He was to keep her well, use her gently, and then pass her on.