Transcendental Flowers, Part 3

BY: SUN STAFF - 15.9 2020

Transcendental flowers glorified throughout Vedic literature.

In our last segment we discussed the Campaka flower, which is one of the celestial flowers Kamadeva shoots from his bow. One of Kamadeva's names is Kusuma-shara, 'one with arrow of flowers). The five types of flower-arrows varies from list to list, but generally includes the Campaka, Lotus (blue and white), Mallika (jasmine), and Mango or Ashoka tree flowers. Kumkum and Damanaka flowers are also associated with Kama, due to their enticing scents.

Kamadeva is generally represented as a young, handsome winged man with greenish skin, wielding a bow and arrows. His bow is made of sugarcane, and his bowstring is made up of honeybees. The flower arrows are sometimes depicted as stalks with bud heads, and sometimes open blooms. Kamadeva is usually accompanied by a cuckoo, parrot, or humming bees, all symbols of Spring.

"O Daughter of the snow-capped Himalaya Mountain! Manmatha [Kama], the God of love has only a bow of flowers, whose bowstring is comprised of a cluster of honeybees; he has only five arrows and these are made of flowers. . . Yet with such frail equipment, bodiless and alone though he be, Manmatha, having obtained some grace through Thy benign side-glance, subjugates the entire universe and emerges victorious."

(Saundaryalahari, verse 6)

Considering that the purpose of Kama's arrows is to enflame his targets with feeling of loving desire, it is easy to see why divine flowers are his preferred arrows. While Kama is a warrior, he does not serve Yama. His arrows pierce the heart of his intended targets, but they do not end lives. Instead, the arrows create burning desire, assaulting the senses and creating a strong desire that kills one's peace of mind.

Copper Plate Engraving, c. 1770

Kama is called by many epithets that describe this: puspayudha (flower-weaponed); kusumesu (flower-arrowed); puspabana (one with a flower bow); and puspadvaja (flower-bannered). In a pastime described in Matsya and Padma Puranas, the flower arrow that pierces Shiva's heart is named Mohana, meaning infatuating or deluding.

The name Kamadeva is found in Rig Veda (RV 9, 113. 11). In Vishnu Purana and Srimad Bhagavatam (SB 5.18.15) Kama is mentioned as a name of Vishnu/Krsna. It is also a name used for Shiva and Agni.

Kamadeva's appearance in various incarnations is described in sastra, and of particular interest is his relationship to Pradyumna, Krsna's son. This is mentioned in Krsna Book Chapter 55, and also in the Bhaktivedanta Purport to Srimad Bhagavatam 5.18.15:

"This Kamadeva, who appears as Krsna's son named Pradyumna, is visnu-tattva. How this is so is explained by Madhvacarya, who quotes from the Brahmanda Purana: kamadeva-sthitam visnum upaste. Although this Kamadeva is visnu-tattva, His body is not spiritual but material. Lord Visnu as Pradyumna or Kamadeva accepts a material body, but He still acts spiritually. It does not make any difference whether He accepts a spiritual or a material body; He can act spiritually in any condition of existence. Mayavadi philosophers regard even Lord Krsna's body as material, but their opinions cannot impede the spiritual activity of the Lord."

Tiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu, c. 1830