A few days ago, it was Vasant Panchami. A couple of weeks later, it would be Valentine’s Day. On Vasant Panchami, Goddess Saraswati is worshipped. But there’s another interesting story associated with this day. Since love is in the air, a not so well known legend of Shiva, Parvati and Kamdev begs retelling. After the demise of his wife Sati, Shiva renounced the world and went to live on his own in the Himalayas. Taking advantage of the situation, the Demon Tarakasura sought Brahma’s boon, with the clause that only a son of Shiva could overpower him. Tarakasur began creating havoc everywhere with his new found invincibility. Shiva wasn’t interested in marriage at all! So no chance of a son being born to him. Now the gods went to Brahma, who had created the mess! Well, he had a solution. He instructed all the Gods to worship Adi Parashakti, the supreme deity, who promised to reincarnate as Himalaya’s daughter Parvati and marry Shiva. However, things weren’t working out as planned. The charm and beauty of Parvati failed to entice Shiva and bring him out of his deep meditation. That’s when the Gods (led by Indra) summoned Kamdev, aka Lord Manmatha, who is the Indian Cupid. Legends have it that Kamdev was son of Vishnu and Laxmi. He married Rati, the goddess of lust and infatuation. As per some other stories Kamdev was the son of Brahma. Kamdev is portrayed as a handsome young man with golden wings holding a bow and arrows, riding a parrot. Everyone was scared of Shiva’s wrath, but for the sake of saving the three worlds, Kamdev accepted this dangerous mission and set off! With a little help from the Lord of Vasant (Spring), a favourable atmosphere was created with singing birds and blooming blossoms everywhere, and Kamdev aimed his special sugar coated bow, with the bowstring soaked in honey, strung by a line of bees, at Shiva who was meditating silently. Do you know that Kamdev has 5 arrows to make you fall in love?! Each arrow causes the ‘target’ to swoon under a certain effect of love, and is tipped with a special fragrant flower. The five flowers are white lotus, Ashoka tree flowers, Mango tree flowers, Jasmine and blue lotus. The names of these flowers in Sanskrit in order are Aravinda, Ashoka, Choota, Navamallika, and Neelotpala. Kamdeva’s five arrows are associated with five effects that desire has on one afflicted by it. The five arrows are said to be Unmada, Tapana, Shoshana, Stambhana and Sammohana, or, fascination, disturbance, burning, desiccation, and destruction. Wondering what the 5 arrows of Kamdev do to you? The first arrow is aimed at the heart, it causes initial excitement and a youthful cheerfulness. The second arrow is aimed at the lips, it causes one to cry out in this excitement. The third arrow is aimed at the head/brain, it makes one lose their mind / go crazy with love. The fourth arrow is aimed at the eyes, it makes you see things (even hallucinate). The fifth arrow is basically designed to hit you anywhere causing the ‘target’ to simply be absorbed with love. Well, The story doesn’t end there. Shiva was overwhelmed for a few moments before regaining his senses. He’d lost his composure momentarily. Although Kamdev had 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 the spell, he was infuriated and started looking for the perpetrator of the heinous act. Soon Shiva found Kamdev, who was trembling in fright, holding his sugarcane bow. Shiva immediately realised who was responsible for the deed! He opened his third eye instantly, and burnt the hapless Kamdev to ashes. It was too late for the rest of the Gods, who rushed to Kamdev’s rescue. Kamdev’s consort Rati was understandably aghast at the situation, and inconsolable. Struck with maddening grief she approached Parvati to convince Shiva to bring her husband back to life. Coaxed by His new love, Parvati, Shiva’s heart melted and he granted Kamdev’s life. However, since his body had been incinerated, Kamdev would live without a physical form as the invisible power of love and desire prevailing in creation. Thus, Kamdev came to be known as Ananga, the one who exists without a body. Rati had got her husband back but only as a disembodied image and not in body. It can be said that this was Shiva’s way of ensuring that Kamdev symbolised true love and longing, and not just physical lust. And if you’re still wonderingyes, the arrows worked: Shiva did marry Parvati and together they had a son, Kartikeya, who became the general of the gods and destroyed the demon Tarakasura.
Deepam Chatterjee is the author of The Millennial Yogi. He can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org