(This is a guest post by Sumita Ambasta who writes at http://sanjeevni.blogspot.com/)
Chitralekha (for those who do not know) is a hindi novel by Bhagvati Prasad Vajpeyi.
It examines the role of sex in spiritual journeys.
It is a story of two friends who study in a gurukul together. One of them is a brahmin's son and seeks the path of the ascetic. His friend is a prince and goes back to his life of sensual gratification and action.
Chitralekha is the gorgeous courtesan who lives in the kingdom the prince rules over. They enter into a sexual relationship, which for the prince is a natural way of living.
The ascetic comes to visit his friend and admonishes his friend on sensual excesses. However, once exposed to them, he falls to their charms, including Chitralekha.
Its is from Chitralekha that he learns what true detachment means. She loves the prince and he shows no attachment, while enjoying her company as part of his natural life. the ascetic on the other hand, while claiming to show detachment cannot stop thinking about her physical charms.
The book examines the man who is driven by his passions and one who is driven by his intellect and contrasts different approches to sexual motivations as part of the greater framework of desires and senses.
They made a film on this a while back which did not do it any justice. It had a lovely song though. This line always haunts me:
" sansar se bhaage phirte ho
bhagwaan ko tum kya payego"
(How can you find God if you run away from the world?)
I was reminded of this book which deals with these isues with great openenss and maturity. It flays the puritan image of Indian literature in contemporary times. I wish there was a translation more could read.