Depicted as the most handsome and desirable man among the deities, Kaamdev is often considered the Indian Cupid. He rides a parrot and carries a bow of sugarcane that is strung with a line of honeybees along with floral arrowheads. As he strikes with his arrows, no man, or even God at times, can escape the arousal of passionate desire. This season of love, we bring a few things that you probably didn’t know about the God of love and desire.
1. Kaamdev was the reason behind Shiva and Parvati’s union
After the demise of his wife, Sati, Shiva renounced the world and went to live on his own in the Himalayas. However, the world needed him. Therefore, as instructed by Brahmas, all the Gods worshiped Mahadevi, the supreme deity, who promised to reincarnate as Parvati and marry Shiva so that he can come back from his seclusion.
However, the charm and beauty of Parvati failed to entice Shiva and bring him out of his deep meditation. Now, there was only one man who could ignite the fire of passion in Shiva and that man was Kaamdev. Obliging to the request of the Gods, Kaamdev struck Lord Shiva with his floral arrows which finally aroused feelings of desire in the Lord’s heart for Parvati.
2. Kaamdev matched Shiva with Parvati at the cost of his life
Although, Kaamdev managed to ignite passion in Shiva’s heart for Parvati, it did not take long for the God of Destruction to get back to his senses. Once Shiva recovered from the effects of Kaamdev’s spell, he was fiercely infuriated at Kaamdev for disrupting his meditation.
When Shiva found Kaamdev with his bow, he realized who was responsible for the deed and he opened his third eye which immediately burnt Kaamdev to ashes. It was too late for the rest of the Gods who came to Kaamdev’s rescue. His wife, Rati who was also present at the spot was inconsolable.
3. But Kaamdev lived on
Rati, struck with maddening grief approached Parvati to convince Shiva to bring her husband to life. Coaxed by Parvati, Shiva’s heart softened and he granted Kaamdev’s life. However, there was a condition. Kaamdev would live on but only in a formless manner.
Thus, Kaamdev lived on without a body, as the invisible power of love and desire prevailing in the cosmos. Rati got her husband back but only as a mental image and not in body. Some believe that this was Shiva’s way of ensuring that Kaamdev symbolized true love and longing and not just physical lust.
4. Kaamdev in Buddhism
Certain theories indicate that Kaamdev was the Hindu counterpart of Mara who tried to come in the way Lord Buddha and his enlightenment. Buddhism depicts Mara as four evil influences that come in the way of spiritual enlightenment. The fourth Mara or the Devaputra Mara (the son of God), is the demon of temptation and desire and identified as Kaamdev.
It is said that Siddhartha during the dusk before his enlightenment, defeated the temptations of Kama. It is interesting to notice that although Kamadev is held in high regards in Hinduism, his counterpart in Buddhism is considered a demon.
5. Kaamdev was born as Krishna’s son
Shiva who burnt Kaamdev to ashes and left him to live on formless in the cosmos, promised Rati, his grieving wife that both of them would be reborn and marry each other. Kaamdev was born to Lord Krishna and Rukmini and was named Pradyumna.
Rati, on the other hand, was born to Rukmini’s brother, Bhimkaraya Rukmi. Pradyumna, as an infant was abducted by Sambara, a demon, cast into the sea, swallowed by a fish but finally rescued and taken back to Sambara’s house where a woman raised him. The woman knew of his identity as Narada had already informed him and upon growing up, Pradyumna killed Sambara, went back to his father Krishna and eventually married Princess Rukmavati, the reincarnation of Rati.
6. Other accounts say Kaamdev married the woman who raised him
According to certain accounts, the woman who raised Pradyumna at Sambara’s house was the reincarnation of Rati. Her name was Mayavati and she was Pradyumna’s nanny during his childhood but made advancements at him as a lover as he grew older. Pradyumna who looked at her as his mother did not respond to such advancements but when he came to know the truth about himself and Rati, he reciprocated.
Now, according to Vishnu Purana, Mayavati was not just a maid at Sambara’s house but she was actually his wife. However, all texts say that Rati projects an illusion of Mayavati to Samabara and never actually gets physically involved with him, staying chaste for Pradyumna.
7. Kaamdev and Holi
It is believed by a major portion of Hindus that Kaamdev was revived on the day of Holi. In the south Indian state of Tamil, Holi is known by three different names – Kaman Pandigai, Kamavilas and Kama-Dahanam.
Devotees sing songs depicting the sorrow of Rati during Holi in Tamil Nadu and people also offer sandalwood to God Kaamdeva as a gesture to help soothe his pain of burning. Kaman Pandigai is an exquisite dance form, performed by the devotees with Kaamdev and Rati as the main characters.
8. The one time Kaamdev’s arrows failed
He was the man who could ignite desire in any soul be it mortal or divine. However, when Kaamdev challenged Krishna to call out for the Gopis of Vrindavan on a full moon night and stay unaffected when struck by arrow, Krishna accepted.
This was a time when Kaamdev was clouded with pride, thinking of himself as the greatest God of all. On a moonlit night cool breeze blew from the Yamuna and thousands of Gopis left their work at home and ran to the direction of Krishna’s flute. However, flanked by young women, Krishna remained unaffected, forcing Kaamdev to accept defeat.