The word ‘Kama’ surely attracts a lot of attention and raised eyebrows all the time. In Sanskrit, 'Kama' means love, desire, sensuality, and longing. In Hinduism, the Lord who embodies all these four qualities is Kamadeva, the God of Love.
The beauty of love lies in the ways it can bewitch the mind. The feeling of love, desire, and longing can be deceptively beautiful. At one point it can make you feel as if you’re riding the clouds, the next second it can cause immense pain. This invisible yet the most powerful force in the world is what Lord Kamadeva plays with. That is why he is also known as Manmath, the one who churns the heart; Madana, the intoxicating one; and Ananga, the intangible one.
According to popular sources, Kamadeva is the son of Lord Brahma, the creator of the universe. He has two wives- Rati and Priti. While Rati is well-known for her ravishing beauty that can even distract the saints, little is known about Priti who is a personification of affectionate love. The mention of Kamadeva goes back to the ancient Rig Veda. He is one of the few deities who gained enough prominence in the Puranic stage as well.
Since he is the God of love, he is portrayed as a young, handsome, and confident man who has the responsibility of ensuring that life on earth never stops. He has wonderful ways of uniting two lovers. One of them being very similar to that of cupid- shooting an arrow and making a person fall in love with the one who yearns for him/her.
Unlike the arrows of warfare, Kamadeva carries five kinds of arrows made of white lotus, Ashoka tree flowers, Mango tree flowers, Jasmine, and Blue Lotus. With a bow made of sugarcane, Kamadeva aims at different areas of the body. For instance, the arrow that hits the heart causes infatuation, the one aimed at the lips leads to excitement, the one directed at the mind causes maddening love, the arrow that focuses on the eyes causes hallucination and the last arrow aims at the whole body to cause the target to become fully absorbed in love!
Another characteristic of Lord Kamadeva is that he has a parrot as his vehicle. The choice of the vahana is not random. Parrots are known for their affectionate nature towards one another and their ability to speak like humans. Moreover, they are monogamous. All these qualities make them a perfect companion for the God of Love as parrots are wise when it comes to matters of the heart.
Kamadeva is also accompanied by cuckoos and humming bees- a symbol of the spring. Wherever he travels he creates a romantic atmosphere around for he has the season of flowers and a romantic gentle breeze traveling with him. However, being a matchmaker is not an easy task. It can even cost one’s life. Well, at least this is what happened in Lord Kamadeva’s case when he intervened between Shiva and Parvati.
Lord Kamadeva, Shiva and Parvati
After the death of his first wife, Sati, Lord Shiva went into seclusion. He grew apart from all the worldly desires and became heavily engrossed in meditation.
Meanwhile, a demon named Taraksura, creates havoc in the heavens for he had been bestowed by Lord Brahma a boon that made him more powerful than even Vishnu and Shiva. Only one person could save all the Devas from the invincible Taraka- the offspring of Shiva. So, all the lords came together to break Shiva’s meditation and get him a suitable mate- Parvati. Parvati, an incarnation of Sati, was trying hard to grab Shiva’s attention but to no avail as her beloved was deep in meditation.
Who could be better at matchmaking than Kamadeva? So the king of the Devas, Indra summons him and assigns him this dangerous mission that invited Shiva’s wrath. He instructs Lord Kamadeva to fill Shiva’s heart with the desire to marry Parvati so that they could produce a child who in turn would kill the demon. Armed with all his necessary love weapons and wife Rati, Kamadeva sets on the journey to Shiva’s abode to fulfill this divine task.
Kamadeva Shooting Lord Shiva
To avoid Shiva's guards, Kamadeva takes the form of a sweet-scented breeze. On entering Shiva's meditation place, he creates an untimely spring with the chirping of birds and the blossoming of flowers. Finding the right moment, Kamadeva shoots his love arrow at Shiva and thus, breaks his meditation. Shiva soon becomes distracted with Parvati but is also surprised at the sudden change in his behavior. He realizes who is the culprit behind the entire episode. Furious, he confronts Kamadeva and immediately reduces him to ashes with his third eye.
Seeing her husband incinerated, Rati becomes inconsolable as the man behind all pleasures and happiness, not just in her life but all over the world, is no more. Seeing her plight, Shiva resurrects Kamadeva. However, in a bodiless form. It is at this moment that the spirit of Kamadeva fills the entire cosmos filling every being with feelings of love, desire, passion, and longing.
If you’re wondering whether that love arrow worked or not, the answer is yes! Shiva and Parvati married and gave birth to Kartikeya who later killed Tarakasura and saved the universe. Moreover, according to various sources, Kamadeva also returned to the world as Krishna and Rukmini’s son, Pradyumna.