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2012-2013

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  • Thumbnail for  The many roles of Kāma : how two narratives of the God of Desire transformed the discourse on sexuality in Early India
    The many roles of Kāma : how two narratives of the God of Desire transformed the discourse on sexuality in Early India by Gilo, Yael Sophie

    In early India both the Brahmanic and Buddhist communities generated myths featuring Kāma, the god of love and desire. These myths served as an allegory for the shifting discourse on sexuality, which conveyed specific models of sexual behavior in order to preserve traditional Brahmanic cosmic and patriarchal social order. Additionally, a significant portion of this discourse on sexuality focused on the Buddhist and Brahmanic struggle to gain control over women’s roles within social, political, economic, and religious contexts. The Buddha-Kāma myth emphasized renunciation and detachment. This Buddhist message of renunciation was viewed as a threat to the Brahmanic social order. This narrative depicted the Bodhisattva meditating under a tree in the hope of attaining enlightenment; indeed Kāma attempts to distract the Bodhisattva, to no avail. The Brahmanic community responded by producing the Hindu myth of Śiva and Kāma, which depicted a battle between Śiva and Kāma, wherein Kāma attempted to rouse Śiva, who, in anger, responded by burning Kāma to the ash, only to resurrect him later. This Brahmanic narrative successfully subsumed the ascetic threat by re-establishing Kāma’s place in the cosmic order and emphasizing that controlled desire was fundamental for the preservation of the universe.