Same-Sex Love in India: A Literary History


Ruth Vanita & Saleem Kidwai (ed)


Paperback 9780143102069



Same-Sex Love in India is the book that brought to light the long, incontestable history of same-sex love and desire in the Indian subcontinent. Covering over 2000 years, from the Mahabharata to the late twentieth century, the book contains excerpts from stories, poems, letters, biographies and histories in fifteen languages.



In 2009, the Delhi High Court’s historic judgment overturning Section 377 as violative of the Indian Constitution referred to Same-Sex Love in India. So did the 2018 Supreme Court decision which upheld that judgment. All the petitions against this anti-sodomy law have cited this landmark book to prove that homosexuality is not a Western import.


The editors’ introductions to each period and text trace the changing depictions of and debates around same-sex relations, illuminating their social, political and literary contexts. These essays have been called ‘outstanding works of scholarship’. Including writings that range from romantic to analytical, playful to thoughtful, this classic work will help you see Indian culture and society with new eyes.


About the book


For a country that is so steeped in tradition and heritage, it is almost implausible to believe that India has an equally strong and deep rooted connection to homosexuality. By focussing and analysing ancient texts, the book shows how same-sex love was expressed and written about in the decades that have gone by in the country. Drawn from numerous Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and contemporary fictional sources, these writings prove without a doubt that same-sex love was not just present in the country, but also managed to evolve as an integral part of the society.


A well-presented and argued book, each section has an introduction by the editors who give the readers a better understanding about the section and how there are varying opinions to the same. They provide detailed justifications to help the readers to better understand their thought process. One of the major advantages of the book is that it always states that the editors understanding and views are not conclusive and exhaustive in nature, allowing readers to form their own opinion.


Additionally, the book also breaks the stereotype that same-sex love was an invention of Western culture and was brought to India only in the 19th century. Through these readings of ancient texts, the readers will be able to understand that same-sex love was an inherent part of the lifestyle of Indians from ancient times. By helping promote more tolerance and respect towards erotic and sexual diversity, the book, Same-Sex Love In India: A Literary History will be a definite eye-opener for many readers. On the whole, it is a stunning array of writings and can be a valued addition to both history and gender students who want to gain a better understanding on this aspect of society.


It is also important to note that the editors of the book have personally translated all the pieces of ancient literature and that even the formerly translated pieces have been translated again keeping in mind the new sensitivities, which now does not hide or gloss over same-sex love or sexual references in any manner.

Additional Information

Edited by Ruth Vanita & Saleem Kidwai

Published by

Penguin India





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