Kamadeva: eros leads us

Madan-Bhasma (Shiva Turns to Ashes) 1890. US public domain via wikimedia
Madan-Bhasma (Shiva Turns Kama to Ashes) 1890. US public domain via wikimedia

Jung speaks of “Kama, the God of love”, as “a cosmogonic principle” [1] At the primordial level, Kama is a cosmic principle, as cosmic love. Kamadeva can also be an image of desire, as instinctual love.

In the image above, we see Kamadeva on the left, holding a bow and arrow. In this way he is similar to Eros: “Eros is usually depicted as a young winged boy, with his bow and arrows at the ready, to either shoot into the hearts of gods or mortals which would rouse them to desire” [2]

Eros represents our psychic relatedness. Eros as love and relatedness express the telos of the soul. From birth the living soul seeks relatedness. It is through such relatedness that the psyche grows. Eros is thus related to the religious function of the psyche, speaking to our instinctual urge to seek out an other. Eros guides us to seek out an other as lover. The religious function guides us toward God, as cosmic other, and ultimately as coincident with the cosmic Self.

Jung notes that Eros leads us both “upward” and “downward”[3]. Eros and love, can take us upward toward the divine, or become a detraction, an attachment, which takes us away from the divine.

In the story that follows from the Puranas, Kamadeva is seen as a disturbance from the spiritual path. A scene from this story is illustrated above: Shiva burns up Kamadeva as he attempts to distract him with desire.

The Puranas: Shiva Arrives at Himalaya and Conversation with Parvati

One day lord Shiva accompanied by his ganas like Bhringi, Nandi, etc, arrived at Himalaya, with the purpose of doing penance. When Parvati father Himalaya came to know about his arrival, he went to receive him. After he had made his salutations to Shiva, he was instructed by Shiva to see that he is not disturbed while doing his penance.

Himalaya made all the necessary arrangements so that Lord Shiva could perform his penance without being disturbed. One day Himalaya arrived at the place where lord Shiva was doing his penance. Parvati too came along with him. Himalaya requested him to keep Parvati, so that she could be at his service. Lord Shiva declined to keep her with him, fearing her presence might cause hindrance in the path of his penance. Now, Himalaya became very concerned about his daughter’s future and wandered whether Parvati would remain unmarried.

When Parvati saw her father becoming worried by Shiva’s response she decided to intervene. She said to lord Shiva-

“I am ‘Prakriti’ (Nature) and you are the ‘Purusha’ (almighty). You exist in the ‘Sagun’ form (with form) because of me. In my absence, you will find it impossible even to exist.”

Lord Shiva was impressed by her knowledge. He allowed her to be present near her. Himalaya and Parvati became very pleased.

Parvati used to come daily at the place where lord Shiva was doing his penance. Her companions too used to come along. She used to engaged herself in the worship of lord Shiva with great devotion.

Though lord Shiva was very much impressed by her devotion, but he decided that he won’t marry her until she has proved her mettle by her tremendous penance.

The deities were tormented by a demon named. Tarakasur. They went to lord Brahma to seek his help. Lord Brahma sends ‘Kamadeva’ to disturb the Samadhi of Shiva, so that being influenced by him Shiva married Parvati and ultimately kills Tarakasur.
This attempt of Brahma was unsuccessful. Shiva ‘burnt’ Kamadeva with the help of his third eye. Parvati, then redoubled her effort to attract the attention of Shiva by engaging herself in a tremendous penance.


  1. Symbols of Transformation by Carl Jung, para. 198
  2. The Archetypes and The Collective Unconscious (Collected Works of C.G. Jung Vol.9 Part 1) para. 186
  3. http://www.pantheon.org/articles/e/eros.html
  4. 18 Major Puranas – International Gita Society