Kama deva – Hindu God of Love in Tamil and Sanskrit Literature! (Post No.2860)


Picture of Rathi, Silpi drawing

Research Article written by London swaminathan


Date: 1 June 2016


Post No. 2860


Time uploaded in London :–  18-07


( Thanks for the Pictures)




(for old articles go to tamilandvedas.com OR swamiindology.blogspot.com)


Contact swami_48@yahoo.com


“In the beginning there was Desire (Kama)

Which was the primal seed and germ of the mind.

The Sages searching in their hearts with wisdom

found in non-existence the kin of existence”.

Creation Hymn, Rig Veda (10-129) by Rishi Prajapati Paramesthin


rathi 1

Manmatha, Silpi drawing

India was the largest country in the world 2500 years ago, with approximately an area of five million square kilometres. Though the Puranas named 56 countries inside Bharata, that is India, it was only namesake political divisions. Amazing thing about such a vast area is that from one end to the other end extending to 4000 miles there was only one culture. The oldest Tamil book Tolkappiam mentioned the Vedic Gods Indra, Varuna and Durga as gods worshipped by the Tamils. It also mentioned the four Vedas and the Hindu values of life Dharma, Artha ,Kama, Moksha. All the main deities of Hindu pantheon are mentioned in Sangam Tamil literature hundreds of times. Manmata, also known as Kamadeva, the Cupid of Hinduism is also mentioned in several places.


Since they knew all the mythological stories about Kamadeva, we may assume it was a house hold name. 2000 year old Akananuru mentioned him in one place and Paripatal and Kalitokai referred to him in several places. His flag, his festival and his beautiful wife Rathi were part of Tamil’s day today life. When we compare this with the Manmata in Kalidasa’s works, we may even say that they were very familiar with Kalidasa’s works. I have written elsewhere in this blog that the 200 similes of Kalidasa (out of 1000 plus) found in Sangam Tamil literature, show that Kalidasa lived well before the Sangam Age, probably in the first or second century BCE.

The God of Love, Kama, equivalent to Eros and Cupid, is found in the oldest Sanskrit literature. Rig Veda mentioned Desire (10-129) as the seed of creation.

1.Cupid in Sangam Tamil Books

Akananuru verse 181 by Paranar tells us about the three eyed Shiva, source of Four Vedas and then the Makara festoons in the ancient Port City of Pukar on the east coast of Tamil Nadu. The commentators explain that it was the beginning of Festival of Kama. We see such festival in the sixth century BCE king Udayana’s Kingdom. So it has been celebrated for thousands of years from North to South.

Kalitokai and Paripatal tell us that

he was the son of Vishnu (Kali 140-8),

his wife was Rati (Pari. 19-48),

his arrows made up of Five Flowers (Pari. 10-97, 22-26)

his Fish Flag (Kali. 26-3, 84-24) and

his brother Saman (Kali.26-4)


There are more references repeating the same points.


Kaman Festival is celebrated at the time of Holi in the Spring season. Even today street corner dance dramas are held in Tamil Nadu during the festival.


Sanskrit word KAMA is used in Tamil literature and his other Sanskrit name Mara is also found in Sangam literature (Pari 8-119). Kama gave the English word amorous.


2.Kamadeva in Sanskrit Literature

The earliest reference is found in Rig Veda (10-129). But it was not the God Kama. It is simple desire. Actually the abstract idea of Desire has given birth to a Concrete Kama (Cupid). One of his names is Ananga meaning ‘bodyless’. When he interfered Shiva’s penance he was burnt down to ashes. When his wife begged Siva to revive him, Lord Shiva told him that he would appear only to her in body form. So he was called Ananga. This is symbolic. The lustful desire was destroyed but the real love existed in between husband and wife. Other names such as Atmabhu (self existent), Mano ja, Manasija:, Anayaja: meaning mind born or unborn also show it is only an abstract idea. Stories were created only for the laymen. Arrows made of five flowers are all symbolic.



3.Fact File of Manmatha

His wife’s name- Rati

His brother’s name – Saman

His Flag – Fish

His Vahana (mount) – Parrot

Five Flowers in his arrow- Asoka, Lotus, Mango flower, Nilotpala and Jasmine

He is Mind born from Vishnu or Brahma

He was burnt to ashes by Shiva but revived

His reincarnation – Krishna’s son Pradyumna

He is Lord of the Apsarasses (heavenly nymphs)


4.Ninteen Names of Manmatha

Amarakosa,the first thesaurus in the world, gives 19 names of Kamadeva:–

Madana, Manmata (Churner of Mind),Maran, Pradyumna:,Meenaketana: (Fish Flag holder), Darpaka, Smara:, Ananga: (bodiless), Kandarpa:, Kama, Sambarari ( enemy of Eunuchs), Manasija: (mind born), Kusumesa: ( Flower arrowed), Ananyaja: (born of no other), Pushpadhanva (Flower arrow),Ratipati (wife of Rati), Makaradwaja: (Fish flagged), Atmabhu: (Self Existent), Panchasara: (Five arrowed).


Other names found in Sanskrit literature: Ishma, Kanjana, Kinkira, Rama, Ramana, Bhavaja,Manoja, Karshnii, Mayasuta, Srinandana, Abhirupa, Dipaka, Gadayintu, Gridhu, Gritsa, Kamana, Kharu, Kantu, Kalakeli, Mayi, Madhudipa, Muhira, Murmura, Ragavinta,Rupastra, Ratanaricha, Samantaka, Sansaraguru, Sringarayoni, Titha, Vama.

rati or who

5.Kamadeva in Kalidasa

All the works of Kalidasa have Kama deva in several places. Following are some of the references for comparing with Tamil literature:–

Sakuntala: — sak,Kumarasmbhava: -ks,Raguvamsa: -rv, Megaduta:-mg, Vikramorvasiya: -vu,Malavikagnimitra: -ma

Flower Arrows:–ks 7-92,3-10, 4-40,45, 6-44, 7-67; vu 2-6,11; ma 4-12; sak- act 3-3; mg-104; rv 9-39, 11-45.

Manmata, Madana- sak-3, 1-41,

Fish flag :– sak 3-5, rv 9-39, vu 2-2


6.Early References in the Vedas

Rig Veda first mentioned Desire (Kama) in 10-129; Dr Muir says that Greeks also connected Desire with creation. This Kama or Desire, not of sexual enjoyment, but of good in general, is celebrated in a curious hymn of the Atharva Veda which exalts Kama into a Supreme God and creator.


“Kama was born first. Him neither gods nor fathers, nor men have equalled. Thou art superior to these and forever great” (Atharva Veda).

In another part of the same Veda Kama appears to be first desire, then the power which gratifies the desire. Kama is also in the same Veda often identified with Agni, and when  “distinguished from each other, Kama may be looked upon as a superior form of the other deity.


7.Five Views on Kama’s Birth

1.He is the son of Dharma(God of Justice) and Sraddha (the goddess of faith)—Taittriya Brahmana

2.He is Atmabu (self existent)

3.He is the son of Lakshmi – Harivamsa

4.He was water born (Ira-Ja)

5.He is Unborn (Aja), Ananyaja ( born of no other)


Son of Krishna and Rukmini was so handsome and identified with Kamadeva; considered a reincarnation of Manmata/Kama.