Love is in the air, it seems, with the first gust of the spring breeze… Vasant Panchami. It is the first of the two spring festivals (the other being Holi at the end of this season) welcoming spring and which, interestingly, is associated with the emotions of love and all emotional anticipation linking it immediately to the young, handsome God of Love Kama (also known as Madan, hence also called Madanotsav) and his beautiful wife Rati. There are several stories about them, one of them being that this day they descend on Earth to bring with them the fresh hope of romance and love along with the first fragrant breeze of spring, the season or rebirth and renewal. Which is why Vasant Panchami is associated with Shringara Rasam – the mood of love and serenading – celebrating beauty while honouring Kamadeva, his wife Rati, and his friend Vasant (the personification of spring).

Vasant Panchami is associated with Shringara Rasam – the mood of love and serenading – celebrating beauty while honouring Kamadeva, his wife Rati, and his friend Vasant.

But most of the stories of Kama, revolve around his decisive role in bringing Lord Shiva and Parvati together, the chief being that Shiva, mourning the death of his wife Sati/Uma, had become a reclusive ascetic, retreated to the Himalayas to meditate and forget his grief. Parvati, a reincarnation of Sati told her father King Himavat (Himalayas) that she would marry only Lord Shiva, who informed Shiva about his daughter’s desire to marry him but Shiva is said to have declined and without even a glance at Parvati, walked off. Undaunted, she remained behind at Kailash to take care of him while he meditated. Years passed but she couldn’t win him over. The Gods intervened and approached Kamadeva to wake Shiva from his deep meditation and make him fall in love with Parvati.

It was on Vasant Panchami that Kamadeva agreed and shot his five love arrows, one of which distracted Shiva to make him look and get bewitched by her beauty. But as soon as he realized it was Kamadeva’s ruse, he opened his third eye and reduced Kamadeva to ashes. The ‘God of Love’ was brought back to life after Shiva married Parvati.

It was on Vasant Panchami that Kamadeva agreed and shot his five love arrows, one of which distracted Shiva to make him look and get bewitched by her beauty.

An extension of this tale is on that fateful day when Kama was reduced to ashes, Rati swore severe penance for 40 days to Lord Shiva. Her penance imbued ‘colour’ into the ashes, making Shiva finally relent and revive Kama from the curse, bringing him back to life on the day of Vasant Panchami. Which is why the couple – Kamadeva, the god of love and desire, is worshipped along with his wife Rati on this day.

An extension of this tale is on that fateful day when Kama was reduced to ashes, Rati swore severe penance for 40 days to Lord Shiva. Her penance imbued ‘colour’ into the ashes, making Shiva finally relent and revive Kama from the curse, bringing him back to life on the day of Vasant Panchami.

Another legend behind Vasant Panchami is that this is also the day when Parvati approached Kama to waken up her husband Shiva, deep in yogic meditation since Maha Shivratri. All the other gods accompanied her and sought Kama’s help to bring Shiva back from his meditation so as to perform his duties in the world, implying the transition from a yogi to a householder, a family man. Kama concurs and shoots from his flower arrows at Shiva from his heavenly bow of sugarcane in order to rouse him and to make him give attention to his wife, Parvati for marital bliss.

Another legend behind Vasant Panchami is that this is also the day when Parvati approached Kama to waken up her husband Shiva, deep in yogic meditation since Maha Shivratri.

Interestingly, all these stories convey the consistent defining role of  Kama: he is the personification, the representations of love, spring and romance. A young, handsome man, he wields a bow and a quiver of five arrows. His bow is made of sugarcane with a string of honeybees while the love arrows are floral, decked with five kinds of fragrant flowers: the white lotus (aravinda), the Ashoka tree flowers, Mango tree flowers, Jasmine and the blue lotus. Vasant Panchami is the celebration of Kamadeva and all what he represents: love, romance, youth, beauty and spring, even the celebration of woman and womanhood through Rati where kama – desire – is to be feted.

Kamdev
Picture Credit: Wikicommons

Again, besides his physical description, his symbolic attributes reinforce the metaphors of eternal bliss, flowers and flourishes blossoms and blooms: his companion being the cuckoo; his vehicle Suka the parrot, the hovering humming bees, Vasant, the season of spring with its cool, gentle waft imbuing the world with fresh colour and fragrance.

But for most, Vasant Panchami is the festival dedicated to Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, language, music and all arts who was born this day, created by Brahma as his inspiration and source of wisdom.  She plays the veena, the symbol of divine music, holding the Vedas, the book of inner knowledge and the rosary – the  mala as the power of mantra. She is supposed to be the energy of Brahma, symbolizing creative energy and power in all its form, surprisingly even longing and love  – kama. Flaunted by a flamboyant yellow, Saraswati’s favourite colour and also, the shade of the mustard crops in full bloom, an agrarian analogy, underlying the close association of Man with land, crops, Nature and Saraswati as the goddess and as a river, the very source of life.

Vasant Panchami is the festival dedicated to Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, language, music and all arts who was born this day, created by Brahma as his inspiration and source of wisdom.

A folklore claims that Saraswati rescued a depressed Kalidas from attempting suicide by drowning in the river and he emerged a new man to eventually become a renowned poet. Which is why on this day, the goddess is worshipped so that she may bestow the gift of knowledge to her devotees, restating the tradition of little children, wearing yellow coloured clothes, scrawling their very first letter on this day to be blessed forever with knowledge and above all, wisdom and insight to know and make oneself and the world better.

Kavita Kane writes a monthly column named Goddess of All Things for SheThePeople. Views expressed are the author’s own.

Feature Image: STP

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