This is a story about Holika, an Asura and how her end was plotted with the help of the gods.

Holika’s death is celebrated as Holi. Her image is burnt to symbolise the end of her existence all over the country even today. In the same way in the southern State of Tamilnadu, they burn an image of Cupid or Kama. It is called the Kaman Pandigai or Kamavilas or Kama dahanam. An image of Kama and his consort Rati is painted and worshipped. The image of Kama is then burnt on the same day and hour as that of Holika.

Why is Kama burnt? The story goes like this. The demon Taraka kidnapped the apsaras from Lord Indra’s harem. Brihaspathi, Indra’s guru said that the offspring of Shiv and Parvati, Kumara, would bring down Taraka. But Shiva was in deep meditation after the death of his wife Sati.

Parvati seeks Kama’s help and he agrees to shoot his arrows of love at Shiva. The arrow found its mark and Shiva’s penance was broken. Furious he opened his third eye and blew Kama up into ashes. Still Kama’s arrow did the trick and Shiva married Parvati.

Meanwhile Rati the wife of Kama asked Shiva to restore her husband. And moved by her plight Shiva granted her wish and promises to bring him back to life, but that is another story.

This event is believed to have occurred on the full moon day of Phalguna. The death of Kama is celebrated as Kaman Pandigai. A flag called the flag of Kama is erected four or five days before the full moon day in a prominent place and is worshipped with love songs and other frolics. It is then burnt on the full moon day. Lord Shiva is said to have revived Kama on the day of Holi and that is a day of feasting.

The festival is celebrated in two different moods. One of sorrow and mourning and the other happy and celebratory as Kama was revived. They offer sandalwood to Kama to ease the pain of burning.



Story collected by: Vaishnaavi Ramesh

Source: Hindu feasts and festivals by Natesa Sastri

Location: Tamil Nadu

Image: Ritual procession during festival of Kaman Pandigai in Tamil Nadu

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