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Cupid and Kama:
Love in the West and the East

by William R. Levacy, Ph.D.

Chubby Winged ChildOn February 14 Westerners around the world celebrate a day of love and romance symbolized by gifts of sweetness and beauty and a chubby winged child sporting a bow and a quiver of love-arrows. The history of Cupid goes back to Roman and Greek origins and even further back into the world of the Vedic god of love and desire called Kamadeva.

In the West, Cupid is the god of desire, affection and physical love. The name Cupid comes from the Latin cupido, meaning "desire." In myth he is the son of goddess Venus and god Mars. In Western mythology, Cupid's mother, Venus, became jealous of the princess Psyche (Soul), whose beauty and grace was drawing attention away from Queen Venus.

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.

Cupid wanted to see Psyche every night, but didn’t want her to see him. He would whisper to her at a distance. Psyche’s sisters heard about this and tried to convince Psyche that Cupid was hiding from her because he looked like a monster. Psyche could not contain her curiosity and looked upon Cupid during one of his nightly amorous visits.

This angered Cupid and he left Psyche immediately with no word as to where he was going. Love sick herself, Psyche began looking all over the world in her desperation to find Cupid again. In sympathy for her duress, Jupiter, the leader of the Gods, told Psyche he would make her immortal so she could be with Cupid.

Psyche became a goddess. Cupid and Psyche thus reunited and had two daughters Voluptus or Hedone (meaning “pleasure”).
Cupid and 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.

Kamadeva pierced Shiva with all his arrowsAfter Kamadeva pierced Shiva with all his arrows, the Lord of Silence stirred from his deep meditation. He saw Parvati, his reincarnated love, born anew as Uma, from the region of the Himalayas.

Shiva also saw the mischief-making lord of desire standing before him. Being roused from his meditation infuriated Shiva. He immediately opened his third eye and a blast of intense light and heat hit Kamadeva and reduced him to a pile of ashes. Rati, Kamadeva’s wife, was distraught.

She begged Parvati to beseech Shiva to restore her husband. Out of love for Parvati, Shiva complied, but on one stipulation. Kamadeva would not be able to assume a bodily shape and would exist around the universe as a feeling only. Rati agreed and Kamadeva was restored.

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 boy was powerful and precocious. As the son of Shiva he was invincible. Taraka was still subjugating the gods in battle. Even Vishnu could not beat them. When Indra became aware that Kartikeya was born, he requested he come, following Brahma’s blessing. The young boy, less than a week old, confronted Taraka and his hosts of demons. Taraka thought it was ridiculous for the gods to send an infant to fight him.

Taraka decided to fight Kartikeya alone. This was Taraka’s downfall, since he soon found out the power of Shiva’s son in battle. It took only one blow of Kartikeya’s mace to destroy Taraka. The gods were now re-energized and defeated the remainder of Taraka’s evil army. Kartikeya returned to his parents Shiva and Parvati who had another son they named Ganesh or Ganapati. He is the elephant headed god who removes all obstacles and opens the doors of love further yet.

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.


William R. LevacyBill Levacy holds a BA in Literature, a Masters in the Science of Creative Intelligence, and another Masters in Education with a specialization in e-Learning. Bill holds a Ph.D. in Education with a specialization in Human Performance Improvement (HPI) at Capella University. Bill has had a very busy Vedic Astrology practice since 1983 with clients from around the world. In 1996 he was awarded the prestigious title of “Jyotish Kovid,” (Expert in Vedic Astrology) by the International Council of Astrological Sciences (ICAS) in Bangalore, India.

Bill has appeared on television, including an Astrology Special on The Learning Channel (TLC) which has aired in the US, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Bill
is the author of three books on Vedic astrology, "Beneath a Vedic Sky," "Beneath a Vedic Sun," and his latest illustrated work "Vedic Astrology Simply Put." He teaches work-shops on Vedic Astrology around the US, Europe and India and is President of the American College of Vedic Astrology (ACVA), and its online educational program at

Bill’s website is He can be reached at

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