Presents Kamadeva, the Hindu god of desire, in tales, art, and ritual. Also covers Kamadeva's appearance in Buddhist lore.
God of Desire presents Sanskrit tales of the Indian deity Kāmadeva as he battles the ascetic god Śiva, assists the powerful goddess Devī, and incarnates as the charming son of Kṛṣṇa. Exploring the imagery and symbolism of the god of desire in art and ritual, Catherine Benton reflects on the connection of Kāmadeva to parrots, makaras (gharials), and apsarases (celestial nymphs), and to playful devotional rituals designed to win his favor. In addition to examining the Hindu literature, Benton also highlights two Buddhist forms of Kamadeva, the demonic Māra, who tries to persuade the Buddha to trade enlightenment for the delights of a woman, and the ever-youthful Mañjuśri, who cuts through ignorance with the bodhisattva sword of wisdom. Tales of Kāmadeva from the Hindu and Buddhist traditions present desire as a powerful force continually redefining the boundaries of chaos and order and gently pulling beyond the ephemeral lure of passionate longings.
Catherine Benton is Lecturer in the Religion Department at Lake Forest College.