Written by Arvind Kamath on 12 February 2018
Valentine's day on 14th February is celebrated by Indians with lot of fervour, while not many are aware of Lord Kamadeva or Manmatha , the God of Love in Hindu mythology. Indians do not worship Lord Kamadeva or celebrate his birthday since “love” is not expressed openly or is considered taboo among conservative Indians though ironically the younger generation celebrate “love” associating it with Valentine's Day - a concept borrowed from the western world. “Love” has been expressed in ancient temples built centuries ago, like Khajuraho or Belur-Halebeedu, but are labelled as erotic and not generally discussed in the open.
Kamdeva is portrayed as a young, handsome man with wings carrying a bow and arrows. His bow is made of sugarcane with a cord of honeybees, and arrows of sweet-smelling Ashoka tree flowers, white and blue lotus flowers, Jasmine and Mango tree flowers. The companionship with cuckoo, a parrot, humming bees, the season of spring and the gentle cool breeze are main characteristics of demigod Kamadeva.
Meanwhile, the daughter of the mountains, Parvati started meditating to acquire Shiva as her husband. Moreover, since Shiva was least interested in the affairs of the world complications began to generate in matters of the world which made all the Gods concerned and afraid.
The Gods then sought the help of Lord Kamadeva, the God of love and passion to bring Shiva back to his original self. Kamadeva knew that he might have to suffer the consequences of doing this, but he accepted to shoot his arrow at Shiva for the sake of the world.
As planned Kamadeva shot his love arrow on Shiva while he was in meditation. This made Shiva extremely angry and he opened his third eye - reducing Kaamadeva to ashes. However, Kamadeva's arrow had the desired effect and Lord Shiva married Parvati.
A short while after this, Kamadeva's wife, Rati pleaded to Lord Shiva and said this was all the plan of the Gods and asked him to to kindly revive Kamadeva. An embodiment of love himself, Lord Shiva gladly accepted to do so. Thus the incident had a happy ending for all.
The Celebrations: It is believed that Lord Shiva burned Kamadeva on the day of Holi. Down south people worship Kamadeva-the Love-god for his extreme sacrifice on the day of Holi.
Like Cupid is the God of love for the western world, Kamadeva is the Hindu deity of love. Lord Kamadeva, is the incarnation of Pradyumna and son of Goddess Sri though spiritually Vaishnavas believe him to be Lord Krishna.
The meaning of the name Kama-deva is 'divine love' or 'God of love'. Vishnu Purana and Bhagavata Purana say Kamadeva is Vishnu. Sometimes he is also called Shiva and is described as "Prayaschita padyata" in Sanskrit. Kama is also a name for Agni (Fire God)
We can conclude very confidently, that only a handful out of 100 people who celebrate V-Day, will know about the 3rd Century Roman saint in whose name V-day is celebrated. Take the challenge yourself.
Author: Arvind Kamath