Upon alighting high in the Himalayas, Kama dismounted his parrot and climbed onto the Makara – a mythical crocodilian creature, traditional symbol of the authentic tantric path for it represents the inner reality of all things, the truth beyond ordinary understanding.
Kama thus began his approach to the meditating Shiva, holding aloft a flag that bore his emblem of the fish – the smaradhvaja – sign of restless material reality, undomesticated intimacy, the very Force of Nature itself: Shakti.
Nor had Kama made his journey to the mountains alone, for his path was heralded by a beautiful adolescent named Vasanta, Spirit of the Brilliant Season: Springtime.
His body draped in yellow gossamer, Vasanta’s every step caused flowers to bloom, trees to blossom, wild peacocks to dance like noonday clouds. The air through which he moved brightened with the call of the kokila cuckoo, symbol of Spring and Love. And everywhere the mellow hum of dancing dragonflies and drowsy bees, drunk with the flavour of his perfume.
As Kama and his pretty chum grew close, the mountains began to throb with the fervour of desire. The flowers oozed their pollen. Shiva’s narcotic datura plants eased through the earth to edge their path. Birds and animals fell into a frenzy of helpless mating.
The shape-shifting Apsara sky-nymphs erupted into erotic dance. The Gandharvas – irresistibly handsome men, heroic in sexual dalliance, who hold the secrets of men’s most intimate pleasures – burst into seductive song.
Naturally Shiva’s female self, Parvati, could not remain unmoved. Even before the exquisite Kama and Vasanta came into view, the beautiful goddess – skin dusted with camphor, skin soft as mango shoots – found her lips moistening, her breasts swelling as round as scented kadamba blossoms, her breath quickening to pants and sighs.
Kama, however, ignored the Bright Goddess. His goal was none but Shiva.
He raised his sugarcane bow that dripped the sweet sap of life, intent upon exciting the great deity with such intensity that he would rouse from the fathomless depths of his meditative bliss and sire a child to save them all.
Kama therefore drew taut his bowstring of pollen-laden bees, seekers of the nectar of worldly delights – and let his scented, passion-inducing flower-arrows fly.
The first dart was arabinda: the pure white lotus, symbol of dedicated intention. This Kama aimed at Shiva’s broad chest to incite intense excitement, for this flower-arrow was called Harsana, That which Arouses a Bristling Erection.
Secondly, jonesia ashoka: the ‘sorrowless tree’, symbol of love and the cure for grief. This Kama aimed at Shiva’s lips to make him tremble with the thrill of sensual expectation, for this flower-arrow was called Rochana, That which Stimulates Deep Passion.
Thirdly, amra: the mango flower, symbol of heartfelt wishes fulfilled. This Kama aimed at Shiva’s handsome head, to make him lose his mind with ardour, for this flower-arrow was called Mohana, That which Sexually Infatuates.
The fourth was navamallika: the heady jasmine shrub, said to induce iccha, enflamed desire. This Kama aimed at Shiva’s eyes, that he might see things of which he was not normally aware, for this flower-arrow was called Shosana, That which Removes All Limitation.
Lastly, Kama let fly nilopala: the aphrodisiac blue lotus, said to heighten awareness and quicken the production of semen. This Kama let fall “wherever it pleased” – a euphemism for the divine manhood – that Shiva might lose himself in unbounded ecstasy, for this final floral dart was called Marana, That by which one is Slain by Love.
As these five arrow struck Shiva, the great mountain deity not merely roused from his mediation, but with his sushma sexual energy so kindled that he was already near maddened with erotic longing. Shining like molten gold, he reached out to clasp Parvati in his arms – and with equal hunger they united. So it is that Shiva is called Kameshvara, Lord of Passion.
Shiva is omniscient, of course, and knew all too well the true source of his awakened ardour. Such was its intensity that it could only be kamaja – born of Kama, who is also known as Shukravahin, He who Causes Semen to Flow.
So it was that even as Shiva and his beloved began athletic love, the God of the Mountains partially opened his third eye – the Agni ko Mukh in Nepali, the Mouth of Fire – to scold the audacious intruder. The beam of light released was so blinding that it resembled the fire of the Final Dissolution.
And thus Rati’s premonition came true as Kama, the exquisite God of Sensual Love, was in a moment reduced to nothing more than a mist of perfumed ashes …
[Part 4 follows soon]
Read more in Limitless Sky.
 Myth tells that the fire released by Shiva’s Wisdom Eye – symbolising the power to discriminate between the ‘real’ and ‘unreal’ – was too dangerous to be left roaring recklessly about the universe. As energy cannot be destroyed, but only transformed, it was instead embodied as Vadaba, the Flaming Mare, which was plunged into the depths of the Great Sea for safety. And there, the old stories claim, it will remain until climate change causes the oceans to warm and the ice caps to melt, whereupon Vadaba will rise once more to the surface and engulf the world in flames: the foretold Kalagni, the Fire at the End of Time.