Exploring Sex And Sexuality Through India’s Best Erotica - Homegrown

Exploring Sex And Sexuality Through India’s Best Erotica

“And it seemed she was like the sea, nothing but dark waves rising and heaving, heaving with a great swell, so that slowly her whole darkness was in motion, and she was Ocean rolling its dark, dumb mass. Oh, and far down inside her the deeps parted and rolled asunder, in long, fair-travelling billows, and ever, at the quick of her, the depths parted and rolled asunder, from the centre of soft plunging, as the plunger went deeper and deeper, touching lower, and she was deeper and deeper and deeper disclosed, the heavier the billows of her rolled away to some shore, uncovering her, and closer and closer plunged the palpable unknown, and further and further rolled the waves of herself away from herself leaving her, till suddenly, in a soft, shuddering convulsion, the quick of all her plasm was touched, she knew herself touched, the consummation was upon her, and she was gone. She was gone, she was not, and she was born: a woman.”

-D.H Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover

This was my introduction to good erotica (and the female orgasm). Banned for apparent “obscenity” when it came out in 1928, Lady Chatterley’s book satisfied not only because of the excess of sex in it (there was that too) but the way Lawrence could transform desire, especially the physical into something that was part of the sublime or the greater natural world. For someone coming from hyper-sexual India, good erotic literature for me became not only sweetly tantalising but simultaneously perhaps the greatest tool of imagination and liberation. This, of course, is far from the majority’s worldview. Open dialogue in Indian society about sex and sexuality is surrounded by a giant smokescreen of prejudice, cultural shackles and religion-fuelled hypocrisy. What happens behind closed doors must stay behind closed doors. Those who dare to trespass whether with educational or artistic motives bear the brunt of moral, political and even legal policing – remember when we banned porn?

So where does that leave erotic literature in India? While it’s still not flourishing in the mainstream market (it’s quite a seller underground) erotic literature is here to both stay and innovate. Having produced one of the world’s most profound, albeit problematic, treatise in sexuality, the Kama Sutra, Indian writers continue to carry on the legacy of unveiling, exploring and celebrating desire through the written word. After having curated our erotic literature recommendations based on female sexuality we bring to you another refreshing array of Indian erotic writings cutting across a diverse range of styles, sensibilities and even sexual orientations. Though the focus has been to bring writings in the English language, many of the anthologies mentioned carry works translated from various regional languages. From tantalising tales rooted in mythology to the confessional poetry of hedonistic sex, here are our latest picks of deliciously immersive Indian erotica.

I. Yaraana: Gay Writing From South Asia (1999)

Edited by Hoshang Merchant

Yaraana travels through centuries and communities to bring what is perhaps one of the most extensive and diverse explorations of gay identity in South Asia with writing translated from Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Tamil and other Indian languages. Edited by Hoshang Merchant one of the most influential gay literary icons of the century, the book’s masterfully hand picked prose, poetry and plays are sure to find resonance in each reader.

From Ashok Row Kavi’s autobiographical piece on growing up gay in Bombay to Vikram Seth’s brilliantly etched account of a homosexual relationship in The Golden Gate, these stories represent a variety of styles and sensibilities. Mahesh Dattani’s play Night Queen, which also appears in the book is significant as one of the first serious attempts at dramatising homosexuality on the Indian stage while the passionate poems by R. Raja Rao included here also formed the basis of the Bollywood film Bomgay. Other poets include Dinyar Godrej, Adil Jussawalla and Sultan Padamsee whose works is searing in all its intensity. While extracts from literary stalwarts like Bhupen Khakkar, Kamleshwar and Vishnu Khandekar provide a rare insight into the lives of homosexual men in India’s small towns and villages. Moving away from the subcontinent is an extract from Shyam Selvadurai’s Funny Boy which details an account of growing up gay in war-torn Sri Lanka and K.C. Ajay, an illiterate taxi driver, gives us an alternate glimpse of love and friendship in Nepal.

Perhaps the best way to sum up the essence of this anthology with all its agony and joy of a man being in love with other men, in an unaccepting society is through Merchant’s writing itself. While writing about yaarana– the phrase that enters a sex relationship in most of the Indian hinterland he says, “Poetry is a way out of prose; love is a way out of poetry; friendship is a way of love.”


II. Same-Sex Love In India: Readings In Indian Literature (2001)

Edited by Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai

This anthology presents a stunning array of writings on same-sex love from over 2000 years of Indian literature. Translated from more than a dozen languages and drawn from Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, and modern fictional traditions, these writings testify to the presence and celebration of homosexual love, long before it was overtly persecuted. From the Rigveda to Vikram Seth, this anthology compiled from religious books, legal and erotic treatises, memoirs and biographies amongst others has become a staple in courses on gender and queer studies, Asian studies, as well as world literature.

III. Close, Too Close: The Tranquebar Book Of Queer Erotica (2012)

Edited by Menu and Shruti

Despite its faltering storylines, what stands out about this collection is its attempt to bring queer erotic writings to the masses, as it has been published by a mainstream publishing house, making the book easily available. Our favourite stories are–“Soliloquy”, “Perfume” and “All In The Game” that ponder on the politics of desire in all its tender and playful intricacies. While the settings of the stories placed in the familiar spaces of a bus, rented flat or shikara bring the characters close to the pockets of our own reality. Raw, exotic and still literary this one is for the mixed-bag.

IV. Venus Flytrap: The Zubaan Anthology of Women’s Erotica (2012)

Edited by Rosalyn D’Mello

In patriarchal India if anyone is allowed to own up to their raging hormones and sing their odes to lust and desire without judgement, it’s usually only the men. That’s where Zubaan, a feminist publishing house decides to turn tables by bringing out a collection of erotica by Indian women. It promises to “trace a lineage of women’s erotica, juxtaposing contemporary voices alongside those from pre-modern times. From the devotional to the kinky, the pieces in this genre-bending collection explore and celebrate, through the prism of language, the world of sensation, lust, and desire.” A promising read for anyone looking to unearth the female body and its pleasures.

V. Summer in Calcutta (1965)

Authored by Kamla Das

Kamala Das is well known in Indian literary circles for her uninhibited erotic poetry and prose and for openly celebrating female sexuality. In this book of poetry she takes us through her changing world of love, longing and lust. In her first few poems like “Love” and “A Relationship”, Das is content in a sweet kind of love devoid of tensions. However she soon spirals into poems like “Forest Fire” that demands a physical consummation with violent urgency where as in the anthologies’ namesake “Summer In Calcutta” she creates an unapologetic mood of sexual hedonism. In her characteristic satirical and confessional style, Das’s poetry is both riveting and refreshing at the same time.

VI. The Parrots of Desire: 3,000 Years of Indian Erotica (2017)

Authored by Amrita Narayanan

In mythological narratives, Kama, the god of desire, has a parrot as his vehicle. Where as in this book the parrots multiply until they cover the multiple facets of our erotic lives. The book draws its sensual delights from a variety of Indian texts (not just the Kamasutra) and expands the notion of what erotica means. Here is where jealousy, anger, regret, ennui, passion, longing and bodily fluids all mix to give erotica the nuanced shades that it deserves. The style of writing is equally experimental, rather than following a chronology, Narayanan groups the texts thematically, mixing poetry with prose throughout. A racy read that leaves you wanting for more long after the climax.

Feature Image Credit: Kaamotsav by Saumin Patel
If you enjoyed reading this article we suggest you read:

Exploring Female Sexuality Through 6 Bold Pieces Of Indian Erotica

A Kama Sutra Colouring Book Lets Adults Explore Erotica In A Unique Way

Kaamotsav Vol I: Saumin Patel’s Graphic Novel Avoids The Current Trappings Of Indian Erotica


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