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Kamadeva is the god of human love and passion who is known to awaken carnal desires among humans. Etymologically, Kama means sensual desire and Deva means a divine being. He is regarded as the heavenly god of love who arouses passion and love among those struck by His cosmic arrow. He is described as a beautifully winged youth with greenish skin, holding a bow while a quiver with arrows hangs on his back. His bow is made of sugar cane and its string is made of a line of honey bees. His arrows are made of 5 types of flowers, his vehicle is a green parrot and he is accompanied by his wife Rati (sexual desire), Vasant (spring personified) and a gentle breeze.
His story is mentioned in various Puranas with a few versions. We will describe the main stories here:
According to the Shiva Purana, Kamadeva was born from the mind of Brahma. According to another story, he was the son of Shri (Lakshmi).
The Shiva Purana explains that right after he was born from Brahma’s mind, Kama stood in front of his creator and asked ”Kam darpayani?”, or “whom shall I please?” By this famous question he acquired the name Kandarpa, and this was his father’s answer:
“You should move around this world engaged in the eternal work of creation with the five arrows of flowers in your hands and thus multiply the population. Not even the gods will be able to obstruct your arrows.”
For this reason, Kamadeva is considered as one of the most popular and well-known deities. References to Kamadeva can also be found in various scriptures, including the Rig Veda, Atharva Veda and others, although He figures more prominently in the Puranas.
Origin of God of Love
The birth of Kamadeva has been accounted in several different ways. Some Puranas state that Kamadeva was created from the mind of Lord Brahma while according to other beliefs, He is the son of Sri. He has also been seen as Lord Vishnu, Lord Krishna or Pradyumna, Krishna’s son, is regarded an incarnation of Kamadeva. In some places Kamadeva has even been mentioned as the son of Lord Vishnu.
Depiction of Kamadeva
The God of love is illustrated as a handsome, youthful winged man with a greenish (sometimes shown reddish) complexion. He carries a special bow made of sugarcane with a string of humming honeybees and arrows that are with five kinds of scented flowers. He rides a parrot which is His vehicle. He is accompanied by Vasanta, the god of spring and Apsaras, Gandharvas and Kinnaras. Kamadeva’s consorts are Rati, the daughter of Daksha and Priti. Rati is mentioned more prominently, who symbolizes desire. He is known by names such as Ratikanta, Ananga, Madana, Pushpavan, and Pushpadhanva and several others. Legends Associated with Kamadeva
Kamadeva disturbs Lord Shiva’s Meditation
When Lord Shiva’s consort Sati entered into fire and embraced death due to the insult her father Daksha showed to Lord Shiva, He was completely devastated and angry. He abandoned His duties and went into severe meditation. This led to a destructive imbalance in the world, which worried all the Gods. Meanwhile, Sati was reborn as Goddess Parvati. She wished to marry Lord Shiva but He was least interested and chose to ignore her feelings.
Lord Brahma told Narada that the deities decided to send Kamadeva to influence lord Shiva so that the marriage between him and Parvati is felicitated.
Indra called Kamadeva and told him that the demon king Tarakasur could be killed only by such a person who was the son of Shiva and Parvati. Indra instructed Kamadeva to arouse passion in lord Shiva, so that he agrees to marry Parvati.
Kamadeva, accompanied by his wife Rati went to lord Shiva to accomplish his mission.
After reaching the place where lord Shiva was engrossed in his meditation, Kamadeva made repeated attempts to arouse passion in the heart of lord Shiva, but his actions were no avail.
Right then, Kamadeva saw Parvati arriving accompanied by her companions. She was looking divine in her beauty. Just at that moment lord Shiva too had come out of his meditational trance. Kamadeva thought that it was the most appropriate moment to have a go.
Kamadeva struck lord Shiva with his ‘Kamabana’ which did have a deep impact on him. Lord Shiva was struck by the awesome beauty of Parvati and his heart became full of passion for her. But at the same time he was surprised at the sudden change in his behavior. He realized that it was an act of Kamadeva.
Lord Shiva looked all around him. He saw Kamadeva standing towards his left side, with a bow and arrows in his hands. Now he was fully convinced that it was indeed an act of Kamadeva.
Kamadeva became terrified, he started remembering god, but before the deities could come to his rescue the third eye of lord Shiva got opened and Kamadeva was reduced to ashes.
Parvati got scarred after seeing Lord Shiva in such a destructive anger. She went to her house along with her companions. Rati – the wife of Kamadeva wept inconsolably.
The deities arrived and consoled her by saying that by the grace of lord Shiva, her husband would be alive once again. After that the deities went near lord Shiva and did his worship. They told him that it was not the fault of Kamadeva, as he had acted in accordance with the aspirations of the deities. They also told him the mystery of Tarakasur death. The deities then requested him to make Kamadeva alive once again.
Lord Shiva told the deities that Kamadeva would take birth as the son of Krishna and Rukmini in the era of dwapar. A demon by the name of Shambar would throw him off in the sea. He would kill that demon and marry Rati, who too would be living in a city near the sea.
But the deities were not satisfied. They requested lord Shiva to help Rati to unite with her husband. Lord Shiva then told them that Kamadeva would become his gana, but he also warned them against revealing this fact to anybody. Rati then went to the city where the demon Shambar was expected to appear in the era of dwapar. The deities too went back to the heaven.
Lord Shiva’s anger did not subside after the death of Kamadeva and the whole world started to feel the wrath of lord Shiva’s fury. All the living creatures became terrified. They went to Lord Brahma and prayed to him, to save them from Shiva’s wrath.
Lord Brahma went to lord Shiva and conveyed their request to him. Lord Shiva agreed to relinquish his anger. Lord Brahma then carried Shiva’s ‘fury’ to the sea and went to the sea. He requested the sea to possess it until the final annihilation. The sea agreed to do this. This way Lord Shiva’s fury entered into the sea and all the living creatures felt a sigh of relief.
Kamadeva reincarnates as Pradyumna
Parvati also told Rati, that her husband Kama will take a body again later on as a son of Krishna and Rukmini, and will be named Pradyumna. “At that time you will be able to rejoin your husband if you will take the position of a maid servant at the house of the demon Sambara,” Parvati said.
Rati was glad to hear the news, and after her death she incarnated as Mayavati, the maidservant of Sambara. The demon Sambara learned from Narada that Pradyumna, the baby boy of Krishna and Rukmini, will kill him. The demon kidnapped the baby and threw him into the ocean where a big fish swallowed him. Fishermen caught the fish and sold it to the cooks of Sambara. When the belly of the fish was cut open, a beautiful baby was discovered and he placed in the care of Mayavati. Mayavati raised the boy and as he grew, she expressed great sexual attraction to him rather than motherly affection. The boy asked his mother in wonder: “My dear mother, how is it that you express feelings that are not befitting a mother?” Mayavati explained to Pradyumna that he was not her son but the god Kama who was born as Pradyumna, the son of Krishna and Rukmini, and was kidnapped by Sambara. In fact, she was his wife, Rati, who came to join him in that incarnation. She also described to him how his parents were probably still grieving his loss. Hearing this, Pradyumna, filled with anger and challenged Sambara to fight. He killed the demon and, along with Mayavati, went back to Dwaraka. When he arrived in Dwaraka, all were impressed by his beauty and his resemblance to Krishna, but they did not recognize him as he was mere a baby when he was kidnapped. It was his mother Rukmini who recognized him because of the strong motherly feelings that she started to sense for him.
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