KAMADEVA is the Hindu God of Human Love. He is also the God of Desires. As part of his iconography, Kama wields a bow made of sweet sugarcane with a string made of honeybees. The famous Indian poet Kalidasa recounts; “A stalwart soldier comes, the spring, Who bears the bow of Love; and on that bow, the lustrous string is made of bees….Weaves a string of Bees with deft invention, To speed the missile when the bow is bent.”
His five arrows are decorated with five kinds of flowers; Ashoka tree flowers, white and blue lotus flowers, jasmine flowers and mango tree flowers. These flowers play host to honey-extracting bees. Five arrows and five types of flowers represent the objects of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch and the aggregates of form, feeling, perception, motivational factors and consciousness.
Kama’s attributes are the cuckoo bird, a parrot, humming bees, the season of spring and the gentle breeze. His hook and noose are honey-laden. These attributes characterize his activities of bewitching and enchanting through seductive magnetism, just as bees are drawn and intoxicated by the nectar of flowers.
Also, Kama shoots at the living entities using the sugarcane bow stringed with hovering bees and flowered arrows. This symbolizes the mind succumbing to desires and lust.
In Tamil Sangal literature, the Civaka Cintamani, metaphorically, bees flying around flowers symbolize foreplay and moving from one flower to another as gazing into each other, smiling, holding hands, embracing and kissing. Its final rest to extract honey represents maithuna or sexual consummation. In many religions honey bees are described as the messengers of the gods and in Kama’s instance, honey bees are powering the arrows of love. The assumption here is Kama’s arrows not being a fatal instrument.
Is there a Shakti in here somewhere….. Why not? First, there is Rati, Kama’s enchanting wife who pleads his case when he is reduced to ashes by Lord Shiva. It is Mother Parvati’s sympathy that revives Kama back to life. Secondly, bees are not from a queenless colony. Humans seldom realize how complicated a bee-hive is. They have a mother to care for them and provide sustenance. She is a powerful symbol as if she is a leader of a busy village clicking like a clock. In the bee-hive she is the accepted keeper. Each has a job to do in a lovely home unlike some regretful human loveless home.
Bees realize that all of nature is in harmony. In this bees are also powerful symbols of life and death in which rebirth is an important part. It is a romantic illusion of love; apparently bees also have secret love lives…..
Hara Hara Mahadeva
(draft Bee symbolism)
by Yogi Ananda Saraswathi