That night, Prince Vama had a vision so vivid that he felt he was in heaven, watching a divine drama unfold.
Lord Brahma was seated on his swan in Brahmalok, the highest of the seven worlds. Vama watched as the Creator gave life to the brilliant sun, the moon, the earth and the ten prajapatis― deities who would assist him in the creation of all living things. Then Brahma created Kama, the god of love and the most handsome man in the world.
“Go out and ignite passion in the hearts of my creations,” said Brahma to Kama. “Ensure that all species multiply and populate the corners of the earth.”
He gave Kama a mystic bow strung with five kinds of flowers ― the blue lotus, the jasmine, the white lotus, the mango flower and the flower of the Ashoka tree.
Then came Brahma’s most breathtaking creation ― a woman who would partner man in procreation. “I name you Satrupa,” Brahma said to her, “for your face and form are as brilliant as a hundred full moons.” She was indeed beautiful, with cherry-red lips, lush breasts, a tiny waist, and curving hips.
Kama, eager to test the powers of his bow, shot his first arrow… at Brahma himself.
The skies shuddered, the mountains heaved and the rivers flowed backwards. For the arrow inflamed Brahma’s heart and filled it with a sinful passion for his own daughter.
Brahma devoured Satrupa’s lovely form with his eyes and began to woo her. “You are enchanting. Come to my arms,” he pleaded.
“You are my creator, and hence my father. Wipe these sinful thoughts from your mind!” she replied, eyes widening in horror.
“Yes, I am the creator, and the whole world bends to my will. Come to me, my love,” he said, his mind in disarray.
“It is against heaven’s laws and will offend the gods,” she cried out and scurried to hide in the west. Brahma sprouted a head that faced west and began to follow her every move. She ran to the south, and to the north, but before long, he had four heads and four pairs of eyes to follow her. His lust blazed higher the more it was denied.
“I will fly to the skies,” she said and flew above his head. A fifth head sprang up atop the other four so he could gaze upwards. There was nothing she could do now except to surrender at the feet of Shiva, who is Rudra, the fierce one.
An incensed Shiva appeared before Brahma and flayed him with words. “How can you, the supreme creator, lust after your own daughter?” he thundered. Brahma was not prepared to listen, as Kama’s arrow had overpowered his reason.
“I must punish you so that men realise that even the gods will pay for their sinful behaviour,” said Shiva.
He hurled his flaming trishul at Brahma. Volcanoes spewed molten death and thunderbolts splintered the sky. Mother Earth trembled as the trident slashed off the creator’s fifth head and reduced it to ashes.
The severing of his head in this shocking manner brought Brahma tumbling from his throne.
Shiva still seethed with rage. “Your despicable act has made you impure, and rendered you unfit for worship,” he said. “I decree that henceforth no temples will be built in your honour.”
Brahma’s shame stoked his anger. He turned a wrathful face to Shiva. “Do not imagine that you are above passion?” he challenged. “A time will come when you too will succumb to Kama’s arrows. You too will be overcome by lust. Be warned that you will flounder that day, just as I did today.”
The creator turned next on Kama. “You dared to shoot your arrow at the one who gave you life. You will pay for this sacrilege and be reduced to ashes one day.”
Prince Vama shook like a leaf as he watched the fierce battle between the gods and heard Brahma’s dire curse. He struggled to emerge from his vision, but his struggles merely transported him to another unfamiliar world.
There he saw Kama still alive and glorious, lying on the grass by a sparkling stream. Around him was the fervour of springtime, the season of love. Peacocks danced on glistening rocks. Golden fish and turtles swam in the crystal-clear waters. Honeybees buzzed around mango blossoms, lured by the nectar. A cuckoo warbled a sweet welcome. A fawn peered from behind a tree.
By Kama’s side lay an enchantress swathed in silken garments who was more beautiful than the apsaras. Vama knew that this was Rati, Kama’s beloved. She was the goddess who quenched all desire with her beguiling charm, but kept the flames of desire burning forever. Her beauty was ethereal, yet sensual… earthly, yet divine. Her skin was fair and glowing, her eyelids curved and half-closed. Yellow sapphires garlanded her neck, and jasmine strands were threaded through her lustrous black hair.
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