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Cupid and Kama:
|by William R. Levacy, Ph.D.|
Venus realized that her subjects were forgetting to worship her in favor of Psyche. Disturbed, Venus, ordered her son Cupid to make Psyche fall in love with something that would be very unpleasant and would revolt those worshipping Psyche. Unfortunately, while Cupid was sneaking into Psyche’s room to shoot her with one of his love arrows, he tripped and nicked himself with his own arrow. He immediately fell prey to his own power of love and became uncontrollably in love with Psyche.
In variations of the myth, Cupid is depicted as playful, unreliable in love, and perverse. He is represented as shooting two kinds of arrows -- a gold-tipped one that inflames love and a lead-tipped arrow that fills the target with hatred. In Europe, Cupid was associated with putto, a winged, child-like being (often incorrectly associated with the Bible’s Cherubim angels, who were actually not fat). In Sanskrit, the word for child is putra. In India’s Kannada language, putto is an affectionate name for a young boy.
In the Vedic traditions of India, the myth of Cupid is seen in the stories about Kama Deva, the god of love.
There was a terrible demon named Taraka. He performed a large tapas or penance and got the attention and favor of the gods. Brahma asked Taraka what he would like in return for his austerities. Taraka said that he would like to be undefeatable in battle. Brahma told Taraka he could get his wish but would have to modify it a bit. Taraka knew that Shiva was involved in deep meditation since the death of his wife Sati. As such Taraka modified his request to Brahma to state that he would be undefeatable except by a son of Shiva who was under seven days old. Brahma agreed and Taraka began to mount a battle against all the gods. Very soon, Indra, the chief of all the gods, approached Brahma for help. The devas were getting soundly defeated in battle with Taraka and his league of demons. Something needed to be done since the universe was in peril.
Fortunately at this time, Sati reincarnated as Parvati who longed to be in union again with Shiva. Parvati would come each day to Shiva’s meditation grove and offer flowers and the worship of her love. Shiva was deep in mediation and was unmoved by Parvati’s presence. However, Indra saw this as an opportunity. He contacted Kamadeva, the god of love, and asked him to shoot Shiva with one of his love arrows. Indra knew that even Shiva, the lord of ascetics, would be unable to defend himself against the extreme stimulation of Kama’s arrows.
He knew it was dangerous, but Kamadeva agreed to the plan since he thought he would be helping the gods. To be sure things were right, Kamadeva brought along his wife Rati and Vasanta, the Lord of Spring. When they arrived at Shiva’s place of meditation, Vasanta released the power of springtime. The mango trees blossomed, the air was full of divine fragrance, all the animals became at peace with one another. Kamadeva saw that the mood was right and fired all five of his special flower arrows with his sugarcane bow.
Kamadeva himself is the epitome of youthful vigor and was extremely handsome. His many names included Ragavrinta (stalk of passion), Ananga (without a body), Kandarpa (stimulator of god), Manmatha (mind confuser), Manasija (mind born), Madana (intoxicating), Ratikanta (lord of Rati), Pushpavan or Pushpadhanva (one with bow of flowers).Kamadeva rides on a chariot drawn by parrots or love birds. His bow is a sugarcane stalk. It is strung by a line of bees. Each of the arrows causes the person to be “lovestruck” with a particular affect when it is fired at a specific part of the body.
(1) Aravindam (aimed at the heart) causes unmaadam or initial excitement and some extreme childish exuberance
(2) Asokam (aimed at the lips) causes rodanam or makes one cry inside with excitement
(3) Chootam (aimed at the head) causes sammohanam or makes the targeted person lose their mind with love
(4) Nava-mallika (aimed at the eyes) causes sonam or makes the targeted person observe things that normally go unnoticed (hallucinate). The flames of love reddens the body and eyes
(5) Neelotpalam (aimed anywhere on the body) causes maranam which basically slays the person with love
Each of these arrows is tipped by a specific, fragrant flower. The five flowers are 1) Ashoka tree blossoms (Saraca Indica), 2) white lotus ( Nelumbo nucifera), 3) blue lotus (Nymphaea caerulea), 4) Mallika or Jasmine (Jasminum sambac) and 5) mango tree blossoms (Mangifera indica). In Ayurveda, India’s health system, many of these flowers have a stimulating, aphrodisiac quality to them.
Now the awakened Shiva was available to love his wife Parvati. They retired to Shiva’s abode in Mount Kailash. Soon , out of the heat of their union, a son was born to them named Kartikeya (of Krittika or the Pleiades), also called Skanda (to attack or spill out) , Shanmukha (Six-faces), Arumugan (“Six faces” in Tamil language, and Subramaniya (Supreme Knowledge). Kartikeya is shown as a young boy riding a peacock and carrying a bow or a lance.
The lore of Kamadeva is appropriate for the Western Valentine’s Day. It symbolizes the love of Parvati and Shiva and how that love can defeat even universal demons. The offspring of that love, shown in the story of Kartikeya or Mars, shows the indomitable power or shakti that comes from love. The love of Parvati towards Shiva also symbolizes the longing of a seeker to be united to the pure, transcendental state of bliss, where the many become one.
Bill’s website is www.vedicastrologer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org