civilizations have thought about love as insistently as India.
Love is the driving force of almost every plot of epic, legend,
drama, or song. In devotional cults it is seen as an earthly
foretaste of divine bliss. It is transformed into mystical
ecstasy where devotees unite with gods through love-play.
Its variations are endlessly analyzed in rhetorical texts
known as riti literature. In this genre, lists are
drawn of numerous types of men, women, degrees of experience,
and of love situations. Combinations across the categories
are developed in verse and in painting. There are verses transmitting
the arts of Kama, the god of love. There is love demanded
by honor and duty, even among thieves. There is love so undeniable
that it overpowers codes of conduct otherwise observed. There
is love so painful that it steals dignity, reason, and life.
Desire, as the root of action, can lead only to the cycle
of rebirth. By ascetic discipline of body, mind, and senses,
desire is yoked in meditation (yoga), leading to the
release from worldly existence. Love is adored, love is abjured;
but in temple, court, home, or hermitage, the matter is considered