Hinduism goes far beyond being a mere religion – it can be
described as an attitude; a philosophy; even a way of life! Hindu
mythology brings us several interesting tales and legends, many of
which contain hidden lessons for life itself. These entertaining and
enriching stories of Gods and Goddesses; kings and queens; princes and
princesses; even ordinary human beings; educate us on ethics, values
and morals that we must uphold, in order to have a peaceful, joyful
and fulfilling existence.
Such is the tale of Sandhya and Kama, siblings, who took birth from
the mind of the Prajapati, Lord Brahma himself. Displaying
extraordinary qualities, their lives have come to become enduring
embodiments of love, purity, integrity and chastity.
Let us now take a look at the life and times of Sandhya and Kamadeva.
Kamadeva, also known as Kama or Manmatha, is the Hindu God of love or
desire. His name comes from the Sanskrit words, 'Kama' (love or
desire) and 'Deva' (God). Hence, this deva is associated with human
desire, love, lust and/or longing and often implies sensual or sexual
love. He is often portrayed holding a bow and arrows and is
accompanied by his partner, Rati.
According to the Vishnu Purana and the Bhagavata Purana, Kamadeva is a
name of Vishnu, Krishna and Shiva as well. kama is also a name given
to Agni (God of Fire) in the Atharva Veda. Interestingly, some legends
associate Lord Krishna's son, Pradyumna, as a reincarnation of Kama.
Other names of Kama include Manmatha (the one who agitates), Atanu
(the one without a body), Ananga (the incorporeal), Ragavrinta (the
stalk of passion), Ratikanta (Lord of Rati), Madana (the intoxicating
one), Manasija (the one born of mind), Kandarpa (the inflamer of
passion), Pushpavaana, Pushpadhanva, Kusumashara (the one carrying
arrows made of flowers) and Abhipura.
Kama is depicted as a youthful, handsome man with green skin. He rides
a parrot and wields a bow, made of sugarcane, with a string of
honeybees. His floral arrows are made of five types of fragrant
flowers. These flowers include Ashoka flowers, white and blue lotuses,
Mallika plant (Jasmine) and Mango tree flowers. The names of his
arrows are Harshana, Rochana, Mohana, Shoshana and Marana, indicative
of the various stages of feelings that one goes through, while one is
Kama Deva - God of Love - Statue
Apart from his partner, Rati, his companions are a cuckoo, parrot,
humming bees, a gentle and cool breeze and Vasanta, the vibrant season
of spring. It is believed that the Goddess Vasanta emerged from a sigh
of frustration! His festival is celebrated as Holi, Holika or Vasanta.
Legends about Kama can be traced right back to the Rig Veda and the
Atharva Veda. The Puranas also make prominent mention of this God of
Love. He participates in Puranic battles, along with his troops of
soldiers. According to the Shiva Purana, he is the Manasaputra (one
who emanated from the mind) of Brahma. In the Skanda Purana, he is a
brother of Prasuti, and a son of Shatarupa, who was created by Brahma.
In yet other texts, he is considered to be the son of Vishnu.
Thus Spake The Vedas - Book
Kama also receives mention in the 12th century Javanese poem,
Smaradahan, which relates the tale of Kamadeva burning by Shiva's
anger and his fall from heaven to the earth. Kama and Rati are
referenced as Kamajaya and Kamarati in Kakawin poetry and some later
works as well.
Kama is the husband of Rati, who is the daughter of Daksha. Legend has
it that she was created from Daksha's sweat. She is the very essence
of desire and carries a discus and a lotus. Her slim arms are compared
to lotus-stalks. Though she is his partner, she is only a minor
character in his story.
Different Puranas record different versions of Kamadeva's birth.
According to the Mahabharata, a Prajapati named Dharma was born from
the right breast of Brahma. He had three sons, Sama, Kama and Harsa.
In some versions, Kama arises from the mind of Brahma. In yet others,
he is the son of Sri. Some legends portray him as being in the service
of Lord Indra.
Shiva Incinerates Kama
One of the major legends associated with Kama is that of his
incineration by Lord Shiva. In the narrative, Indra and the Gods were
suffering at the hands of the terrible demon, Tarakasura. The demon
had a boon that he could not be defeated by anyone other than Shiva's
son. At that time, Shiva had lost his wife, Sati, and was
disillusioned with Samsara (worldly life) and all that it had to
offer. He shut himself out from everyone and everything and immersed
himself in deep meditation in the Himalayas.
Sati reincarnated as Parvati, the daughter of King Himavan. From a
very young age, she held a deep fascination and love for Shiva and
longed to marry him. Shiva, though, continued to be immersed in
meditation and did not care for her presence around him.
Parvati Worshipping Shiva - Picture
Brahma knew that only their offspring could destroy Taraka. Hence,
wanting the union of the two, he advised Parvati to seduce Shiva. She
tried everything to woo him. She would visit his cave every day, clean
it, place a garland of fresh flowers around his neck, sit at his feet
and meditate for hours on end.
When he still failed to respond, she took a vow to stay totally off
food and water. She then stripped herself of her clothing and, in that
biting cold, proceeded to go into deep meditation for days on end. She
was then known as Aparna and Uma.
When all of Parvati's efforts failed, Indra assigned Kamadeva to the
task of breaking Shiva's penance and get him attracted to Parvati. In
order to create the right atmosphere, Kama created the spring season.
He also took the form of a fragrant southern breeze in order to evade
Nandi and enter Shiva's abode. Then, one by one, he started shooting
his floral arrows at Shiva.
When Shiva was awoken by Kama's arrow, he was absolutely furious.
Being famous for his fiery temper, he raged on, looking for the person
who disturbed him from his penance. When he sighted Madana (Kama),
Shiva opened his third eye, from which emanated streams of fire, which
instantly turned the former into ash.
Ravi Varma Shiva Burning Kamadeva Poster
Shiva then spied a frightened and horrified Parvati standing by the
side and asked her how he could help her. A grief-stricken Rati ran up
to Shiva, pleading him to revive her dead husband. She tried to make
him understand that it was not his fault and that he had shot the
arrows only on the behest of the Gods. To date, Kama is offered fresh
mango and sandalwood paste as an offering to cool down the burns
inflicted by Shiva.
Shiva relented and agreed that he would bring Kama back to life, under
one condition; that he would live on in a disembodied form. Shiva and
Parvati together resuscitated him. Hence, Kama is also called Ananga
or Atanu. The spirit of Kama is now spread all over the cosmos,
touching and affecting every living being with its powerful, though
In the meantime, the arrow that Kama had shot at Shiva took effect and
made him fall in love with Parvati. They united in holy matrimony and
later created their son, Kartikeya (or Murugan), who went on to
fulfill his mission of destroy Tarakasura.
Kama Reincarnates as Pradyumna
According to the Matsya Purana, after Kama was incinerated by Shiva,
he reincarnated in the womb of Krishna's wife, Rukmini. He was named
It is believed that, in order to invoke Kama and make a person fall in
love with you, you need to chant the powerful 'Kleem' mantra. Some say
that chanting of this mantra 108 times every day, for 21 days, during
the early morning hours, thinking of your loved one, will result in
that person feeling the same love for you.
Believers claim that this mantra not only creates love, but also helps
couples stay in love over a long period of time, resulting in a happy
union. One important thing, they say, is that the practitioner must
necessarily keep away from consuming alcohol and non-vegetarian food
during this 21-day period.
They say that the mantra greatly benefits all types of performing
artists as well, since it gives them added grace and charisma; also
helping them perform better in their field.
Worship and Rituals
Kama and Rati prominently feature in several Hindu rituals and
ceremonies. During a Hindu marriage ceremony, the bride's feet are
often painted with images of Suka, the parrot, which is the vehicle of
Kama also features in several legends and is venerated by those
seeking health, beauty, spouses and children.
In Gaudiya Vaishnavism
In Gaudiya Vaishnavism, Kamadeva is considered to have incarnated as
Krishna's son, Pradyumna. Hence, he is believed to have many of
Krishna's qualities, such as color, appearance and beauty, to name a
Here, Krishna becomes the spiritual Kama, the ever-youthful,
ever-handsome transcendental God of Vrindavana. He is love itself and
yet, remains detached from mundane love and the one who is worshipped
with the Kama-Gayathri and Kama-Bija mantras.
Krishna was deeply loved and adored by the Gopis. Yet, their love was
pure and shorn of all lust and worldliness. Likewise, the love of
Krishna and Radha is unparalleled in the entire Universe. Though she
loved him with her whole being, her power often managed to defeat the
powers of Lord Kamadeva himself.
There are few and lesser-known temples of Kama in India. They include
- The Madan Kamdev Temple in Baihata Chariali, Kamrup district in
- The Kameshwara Temple in Aragalur – it is believed that Kama
awoke Shiva from his meditation in this location
- The Kameshvara Temple in Kamyavan, one of the forests of
- The Soundararaja Perumal Temple at Thadikombu, near Dindigul,
- The Harsat-Mata Temple at Abhaneri
In Other Cultures
The God of Love features prominently in several other global cultures
as well. In Greek mythology, he is known as Eros, the God of sexual
attraction. His Roman counterpart is Cupid. Some myths exalt him as a
primordial God. In yet other myths, he is the son of Aphrodite, the
ancient Greek Goddess of love, beauty, pleasure and procreation.
In Greek mythology, he is also one of the Erotes, the winged love
Gods, associated with love and sexual intercourse. The Erotes
manifested in Hellenistic and Roman art in the alternate forms of
Cupids and Psyches. Later, Erotes went on to become a permanent part
of Western art, in the forms of multiple types of Cupids, Amorini and
Legend has it that Lord Brahma, the Creator of the Universe, was once
holding his court, with all the Devas. All of a sudden, a beautiful
female sprung out of his heart, followed by a handsome young man, who
was holding a bow and flowed-head arrows in his quiver. The young man
requested Brahma to specify his duty. The latter told him to
romantically charge all creatures with his fragrant flower arrows.
Then Brahma proclaimed that no one, not even the most powerful Devas,
would be able to escape the effect of those arrows. The handsome youth
was named Kamawas and was also called Manmatha, the Enchanter. He
could effortlessly bewitch anyone that he set his eyes on.
Kama himself was immensely attracted to the beauteous Sandhya. Filled
with false pride, he decided to test the efficacy of Brahma's boon. He
shot his arrows at all present in the court. They immediately had a
profound effect on everyone, including Brahma and Sandhya. Brahma
became infatuated with Sandhya and lustily ogled. Even Sandhya was
clearly exhibiting flawed behavior.
Watching all this occurring in court, Dharma, the God of
Righteousness, found it rather shameful and could not stand it. He
prayed to Lord Shiva to manifest himself and set the atmosphere right
Bristling in shame due to his own behavior; also fearing a rebuke from
Shiva; Brahma started sweating profusely. The sweat shed by him gave
rise to the 64 Pitruganas or Progenitors, who came to be known as
Then, the beauteous female was called Sandhya, the One who was born
out of the deep concentration of Lord Brahma. Shiva appeared in front
of Brahma and rebuked him for creating Kama and giving rise to such an
erotic environment during a formal, serious session.
As Sandhya watched Shiva, she became the recipient of his grace and
gained the knowledge of his mysticism. She later came to be recognized
as the Mother of the Pitruganas.
Brahma Curses Kama
In the meantime, Brahma, still bristling in humiliation at being
rebuffed by Shiva, cursed Kama that he would be burnt to ashes by
Shiva's Third Eye. This shocked Kama, who, prayed in fear to Brahma,
saying that it was not his fault. He had merely discharged the duty
that had been delegated to him by Brahma himself.
Brahma understood his plight, but reasoned that it was not right of
Kama to create such scenes of lust or orgy in court. Though sexual
urges could distract anyone and everyone, some discipline and
moderation was required to regulate human behavior. Brahma then
relented and said that Shiva himself would find a way to save Kama.
At the very same time, Daksha shed a drop of sweat, which transformed
into a striking, perfectly structured damsel, with incredible beauty
and grace. Her name was Rati. The moment Kama set his eyes on her; he
fell deeply and passionately in love with her. Their union was later
solemnized by Daksha and Brahma.
Sandhya Undertakes Severe Penance
Having had the darshan of Lord Shiva the minute she was created,
Sandhya was naturally inclined to undertake severe and austere penance
in order to attain his grace. She felt guilty and blamed herself for
creating intense feelings of passion and lust for all the males that
set their eyes on her. She felt especially bad that she had aroused
the same in her own brother, Kama and father, Lord Brahma. For that,
she took a vow to burn herself to death.
In the meantime, Daksha gave all his 27 daughters to Chandradeva in
marriage. They were all stars and constellations and were given
corresponding named such as Ashwani, Rohini, Revati and so on. Of all
his wives, Chandradeva loved Rohini the most. The other 26 women
resented this discrimination and complained to Brahma about it. He
took them to Sandhya, who was engaged in deep penance.
After ages, Shiva materialized before her and granted her three boons,
which she asked for. They were as follows...
- Human beings would become conscious of sexual desire only after
- She would be regarded as the greatest devotee ever known; the
one who undertook the most austere penance ever
- She would beget a good husband and any other man who cast a
lustful glance at her would turn into a eunuch
Sandhya is Reborn as Arundhati
After bestowing those boons upon her, Shiva advised Sandhya to go to
the banks of river Chandrabhaga, where Sage Medhatithi was conducting
a 12-year long yagna (sacrificial fire ritual) to absolve Chandradeva
of the curse that Daksha had put on him, for subjecting his daughters
to injustice. Shiva told Sandhya that, once there, she would be able
to fulfill her vow.
He said that she would be able to attain the husband she wanted, if
she thought of him before jumping into the fire. He also assured her
that she would become invisible and hence, would be able to fulfill
her vow without anyone seeing her.
Sandhya did as advised. She visited the yagna and was immediately
drawn to a radiant Brahmin there. He was in fact sage Vasishtha. She
thought of him and jumped into the holy pit of the flaming
Jyotisthomayajna. The fire burnt her body and carried it deep into the
solar system. Her pranashakti (soul energy) was absorbed by Lord Shiva
himself. Then, Suryadeva (the Sun God) divided her body into three
parts, namely, Pratah-Sandhya, Madhyanha-Sandhya and Sayam-Sandhya,
and established them in his chariot.
When the yagna ended, she emerged from the havankund (holy pit) as a
beautiful girl with a glowing body. Everyone present there was stunned
to see this fetching lass who had the effulgence of gold. Realizing
that this was divine will, sage Medhatithi adopted her as his
daughter, giving her the name, Arundhati.
Arundhati stayed with Sage Vasishtha and gained spiritual knowledge
from him. She adored him both as a Guru and as a human being. At the
age of five, she declared that she would accept only him as her
husband. Brahma, along with the major sages and seers worked to unite
Vasishtha and Arundhati. Thus, Arundhati got the husband that she
wished for. She went on to have a happy life and became an enduring
example of chastity.
Birth and Life
According to the Bhagavata Purana, Arundhati was the eighth daughter
of Kardama and Devahuti. She is the grandmother of Parashara and
great-grandmother of sage Vyasa. The Shiva Purana talks about her as
being Sandhya in her previous birth. Having jumped into Medhatithi's
yagna fire, she was then born as his daughter and married Vasishtha,
as is mentioned above. Some other Puranas describe her as the daughter
of Kashyapa and sister of Narada and Parvata. She was then offered in
marriage to Vasishtha by Narada.
According to the Valmiki Ramayaka, she gave birth to hundred sons.
Unfortunately, they were all cursed by Vishwamitra and breathed their
last, far before their time. She then bore two other sons, named
Shakti and Suyagya. They both studied with Rama at Vasishtha's
hermitage. Some other sources relate that she had eight sons,
including Shakti and Chitraketu.
Arundhati prominently features in several legends of Hindu mythology.
- The legend of her birth can be found in the Shiva Purana and
the Bhagavata Purana
- The infamous rivalry between sages Vishwamitra and Vasishtha,
which led to the untimely demise of her hundred sons, is described
in the Bala Kanda of Valmiki's Ramayana
- The Mahabharata is one among many treatises which talk about
her sons and grandson, Parashara
- The Mahabharata further describes her as a Sanyasin (ascetic),
who used to even give discourses to the Saptarishis (Seven Sages).
She was so powerful that Swaha, the consort of Agni could assume
the form of the wives of the other six Rishis, but could never
take the form of Arundhati. The epic also extols her for her
purity and chastity .
In Hindu Astronomy and Marriage Rituals
- As per Hindu astronomy, pair of Mizar and Alcor in
constellation Ursa Major is known as Vasishtha and Arundhati
- The Arundhati star is only faintly visible. Due to this, it is
believed that one cannot see it when one nears their time of death
- Due to its faintness, this star is shown in steps, with the
first showing the brightest stars and then to the Arundhati star
- In one of the traditional Hindu marriage rituals, the groom
shows the bride the pair of stars as the most ideal couple, who
embody chastity and conjugal bliss
- On the second bright day of the lunar month of Chaitra, Hindu
women belonging to certain sects observe a fast in her honor. It
is believed that this vrat protects their sumangli (married)
- The instructions given to her by Brahma are described in detail
in the Uttara Kanda of the Sri Ramcharitmanas
- Arundhati's meetings with Sita and Rama are described in detail
in the Ramayana, Sri Ramcharitmanas and Vinaya Patrika
- The epic poem, Kumarasambhavam, penned by Kalidasa, mentions
Arundhati as well. Here, she is described as being one of the
prime influencers, who convinced Shiva to wed Parvati. The sixth
canto of the treatise relates this episode in detail
- The eponymous epic poem in Hindi, composed by Jagadguru
Rambhadracharya, beautifully describes the life of Arundhati