23 April 2016

10th Night Vasantha Urchavam: Burning of Manmatha

During the night of Chithirai Pournima (i.e. the tenth evening of the Vasantha Ursavam 2016 Festival), Lord Somaskanda performs a dance in front of Sambanda Vinayaka while the Goddess is taken inside the Temple shrine. Lord Somaskanda is installed on the porch of the Vasantha Mandapam of the 3rd Prakaram.  Kama (Manmatha) appears in the form of a huge straw effigy. His effigy which holds a bow and arrow covered in flowers is seated in a cart. 

A string is tied connecting Lord Shiva and Manmatha A priest lights a cracker at Lord Somaskanda’s palanquin where it takes off down the string, reaches Kama and makes him explode into flames. Immediately the burning effigy of Manmatha is moved back near the Makila Trees where it remains until entirely burnt. 

Afterwards Lord Somaskanda is taken back into the Temple and returned to his shrine. 

Fixing the strings between the Palanquin and Kamadeva

Edge of Lord Somaskanda's palanquin with string stretching to Kamadeva on other side

Another view of preparing the string to carry the firecracker down to Kamadeva

Kamadeva being burnt in effigy

Story of Lord Shiva burning Kamadeva 

Shiva filled with sorrow at the death of Sati after being humiliated by her father Daksha, withdraws from the world to spend his days in meditation. Without Siva as Guardian, the Gods became worried that the worlds are in danger and approach Lord Brahma for advice. Lord Brahma says: 

"I understand your difficulties. It was my fondest wish to see the child of Rudra and Sati. Thanks to the foolish actions of Daksha, Sati is no more. However, all is not lost. Know that she has been re-incarnated as Uma, the daughter of Himavan, the king of the mountains. Becoming aware of her destiny from a tender age, she has resolved to obtain Shiva for a husband and has been performing a penance for that purpose. The child of Uma and Shiva shall be your savior." 

God Indra becoming impatient sends for Kama (Manmatha) the God of Love and instructs him to go to Siva and make him fall in love with Parvathi. 

Kama calls forth his attendants, including Vasant (spring), and the Apsaras and marches to the place where the Lord was performing his penance. 

With the arrival of Vasant, the desolate forest is transformed into a beautiful garden, with flowers in full bloom. The songs of the birds fill the air, and the atmosphere is redolent with a divine fragrance. Kama judged it to be time. He strings his bow made of sugarcane and affixes a flower-tipped arrow to it. Impelled by his incantations, the arrow flies from the bow and strikes the Lord squarely on his chest. 

Lord Shiva burning Kamadeva (Manmatha) with his third eye

The Lord feels desire rise deep inside him. However, in a moment, he regains control over his mind, and the desire is supplanted by anger. Omniscient, he immediately knows this to be the work of Kama. He opens his third eye and glances at the God of Love. Such was the potency of his gaze that Kama is instantly reduced to ashes. 

The Apsaras who were singing and dancing, were stunned. They fly from the forest in terror. Only Parvati remains. When Shiva looks at her, he sees the image of Sati and realises this is his wife reborn. 

Meanwhile, the Apsaras carry the news of Kama’s death to his wife Rati. She rushes to the Lord and falls at his feet and beseeches; "Lord, is it fair that my husband should be dead? He was merely doing the bidding of Indra and the other Gods. His sin was nothing more than pride. You have found yourself a wife, and will be very happy. What will become of me? I have lost my husband, dearer to me than life itself. Kill me also, so that I may join him in death!" 

By now, Lord Shiva’s anger had subsided. He says to Rati, "Do not be afraid, Your husband is not really dead. I have merely burnt his corporeal body, of which he was inordinately proud. From this day on, he shall live only as a disembodied spirit. Only you shall be able to perceive his physical form. To everyone else, he shall be invisible." 

From that day on, Manmatha no longer had a physical form. Gods as well as mortals can never perceive him and he does his work unobserved, aided by his flower-tipped arrows of love. 
[Abridged from the "Matsya Purana"] 

No comments: