When Kamadeva Strikes

In the epic poem Ramcharitmanas penned by the 16th century north Indian Brahmin poet-saint Goswami Tulsidas, one comes across a fascinating description of all that happened to the universe when Kamadeva decided to exercise his powers to wake Lord Shiva from his state of meditation. Kamadeva is the Hindu God of human love and desire and for matters of convenience may be considered the Indian ‘equivalent’ of Cupid. Such an event was planned so that the Gods could pray and ask Shiva to consider the option of himself getting married to Sati, the daughter of the mountain Himalaya.

Mythology says that the demon Tarakasur assumed increasing powers and the Gods gradually lost all of their wealth and influence because of him. Tarakasur had in a way made life difficult for deities and they had to think of a way to get rid of him. Clueless as they were, all the Gods approached Brahma and asked him for a solution. Brahma told them that it was only Shiva’s son who could defeat and kill Tarakasur. He suggested that Shiva who was in samaadhi (meditation), had to be woken up and made to agree to getting married so that his son could take birth. Brahma went on to suggest to the Gods that through his actions, it was Kamadeva who was capable of disturbing Shiva, make him angry and therefore rise from samaadhi.

So the Gods planned that the moment Shiva would wake up, they would bow in his feet and pray so as to almost coerce him into agreeing to marrying Sati. Accordingly, the Gods very lovingly remembered and prayed for Kamadeva to appear on the scene. With his five arrows and the flag with the fish-symbol, Kamadeva came and the Gods explained him everything they had to. Kamadeva agreed to do the needful.

The verses written in Awadhi make for a delightful reading. Here I have translated some of those which deal specifically with all that resulted after Kamadeva began exerting his power on the universe. They occur in the first section of the epic known as the Baal Kaand (The childhood episode) which deals with the birth and early childhood of Rama (the Hindu Deity) who was born in Ayodhya and later became the king. I have picked up verses (83 and 84) for the translation as they are the most pertinent to the heading I have given to this post. It is noteworthy that Tulsidas looks at the universe as clearly composed of two mutually distinguishable elements- the masculine and the feminine and as one for the sustenance of which the element of sexuality is indispensable. Comprising the essence that runs the universe and remains irreplaceable in the most testing situations , it stands for the basic instinct underlining all existence. The verses make it clear that this element pervades the universe and is capable of defying all restraining forces of reason and morality if it needs to do so. One may lose all of one’s socially inherited capabilities and yet sexuality and the modes in which it manifests itself refuse to die out. The translation:

“The deities went to Kamadeva and spoke to him of their troubles. Listening to their request,  Kamadeva thought for a while and smilingly said to the Gods that it was not in his favour to pit himself against Shiva (83). However I will do what you want me to do because the Vedas consider being beneficent to be the supreme Dharma. The saints always praise the one who sacrifices his body for the sake of others (1).

Having said this he bowed his head to all present, and with his arrow made of flowers in hands and his companions (the spring season and others) left. While on the way, he thought (in his heart) that in the act of opposing Shiva, my death is a certainty(2). Then he exerted his influence and the whole universe was under his control. His flag had the sign of a fish and when he got angry, the dignity of all the Vedas vanished in a few moments(3). The army under the control of Discretion that consisted of soldiers like Celibacy, rules, various kinds of self restraint, Patience, Dharma, Knowledge, Science, Virtue, Japa, Yoga and Renunciation got so scared that they ran away(4)

Discretion and his soldiers ran from the battle field. At that time, all of them hid themselves in the caves of the scriptural texts (meaning they remained merely written words and lost all contact with actual practice). There was chaos in the whole universe and all started praying “Oh Lord! what is going to happen now and who will protect us? Who is this two headed being (Tarakasura) for whom Rati’s spouse (Rati is Kamadeva’s wife) has angrily lifted the bow and arrow in his hands?

All the masculine and feminine beings of the universe, whether moving or stationary lost their dignity and came under the control of Kamadeva(84). Every heart was imbued with corporal desires. Looking at the creepers, the branches of trees started gravitating towards them. The disturbed and energised rivers ran towards the ocean and all the ponds and small water bodies started to intermingle among themselves(1). When the stationary, immobile beings (trees, rivers etc) experienced such a condition, then who can talk about whatever happened to the animate beings. All the animals and birds active in the sky, water and on earth lost all sense of their (mating) time and succumbed to the control of Kama(2).

Everyone became lusty and experienced uneasiness. Certain bird species do not care for the time of the day (for mating). The Gods, devils, men, kinnars (hijras), snakes, phantoms, ghosts, betaals(3)- they are forever the slaves of Kama and knowing this I have not described any of their condition. Those who were accomplished and the ones who were renouncers and great saints along with the great yogis  came under the influence of Kama and began thinking of women(4). 

What to say of the mischievous men when the yogis and the greatest of all the ascetics fell slaves to Kama? The ones who used to look at the universe as imbued with divinity, began seeing it as feminine. Women began looking at the universe as masculine and men began looking at it as feminine. For two moments, this drama controlled by Kamadeva kept the universe enthralled.

No one resorted to patience in his heart because Kamadeva had won all of them. Only those could survive who were under the protection of Raghupati Ram(85). 

The later verses describe further events that unfolded. Kamadeva approached Shiva and got scared. As a result, everything in the universe which had seen tumult moments ago, got back to normal. After having tried all his tactics, he could not succeed in waking Shiva up. He got annoyed and climbed a beautiful flower laden branch of a tree and shot his three arrows which struck Shiva’s heart. Shiva woke up and angrily looked all around. When he found Kamadeva hiding in the mango leaves, he  furiously opened his third eye which caused Kamadeva’s body to be reduced to ashes. Henceforth Kamadeva came to be known as Anang (one without a body).

The gods then came to Shiva and expressed their desire of being witnesses to his wedding which Shiva agreed to fulfil. Tulsidas goes on to write about the wedding in fascinating details, about which I shall be writing in a later post.

9 thoughts on “When Kamadeva Strikes

  1. काम देव ने अपना काम किया। उसके पश्चात मानस में असली आनन्द आता है शिव विवाह में।

    क्या गजब थी शिव जी की बारात! कोउ मुख हीन बिपुल मुख कोहू! … जस दूलह तस बनी बराता।

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