• Nikhila Jain

Valentine's Day – An Alien or A Synonym to Indian Culture

Updated: Feb 15, 2020

Valentine’s day is celebrated around the world on 14th February every year. The day is celebrated to mark the anniversary of St. Valentine’s death or burial, which probably occurred around A.D. 270. It was not until much later, however, that the day became definitively associated with love and romance.

The history of Valentine day is deeply rooted in Roman, Christian and Greek cultures. Due to this, Valentine’s day till date is considered as “an alien to Indian culture” by many.

The anatomy of Indian culture revolves around arrange marriages, joint families, homemaker mothers etc. The idea of “expression of love” in public has never been encouraged in Indian culture. The public displays of love and affection are frowned upon.

Valentine’s day has been strongly criticized in India on the onset. The political criticism, traditional family values played an important role in keeping this celebration at bay.

The celebration of Valentine’s day became popular around the 1990s. The TV commercials, popular shows broadcasted on various channels served as the foundation to promote this celebration in India. The day is popular among youngsters and celebrated with excitement and enthusiasm.

The valentine’s celebrations started getting popularity in the corporate culture around the 21st century wherein there were different activities and programs organised, celebrated over the valentine’s week.

History bears the footprints of “expression of love” in Indian culture.

The Hindu god of love “Kamadeva” often portrayed with his female counterpart “Rati” has symbolised love and desire for centuries. There was a tradition of adoring and worshipping Kamadeva, exemplified by the erotic carvings in the “Khajuraho”, “Belur-Halebid” temples. However, the tradition was lost in the middle ages and the celebrations were no longer in practice.

The stories of Kamadeva are traced as back as to the verses of Rigveda and Atharvaveda. The most popular myth regarding Kamadeva is that of “incineration by Lord Shiva”.

The demon Tarakasura who can only be defeated by Lord Shiva’s son was tormenting gods. Lord Brahma requests goddess Parvati to seduce Lord Shiva, as their offspring can then defeat the demon.

Lord Shiva was meditating and breaking his meditation has its own repercussion.

Lord Indra sends Kamadeva to break Shiva’s meditation. Kamadeva creates

an untimely spring (Akāla-Vasantha) and evades Shiva's guard, Nandin. He takes the form of a fragrance and enters Shiva's abode.

He wakes Shiva with a flower arrow. Shiva was furious. He opens his third eye, which incinerates Kamadeva instantaneously and turns him into ash. However, when Shiva sees Parvati, he enquires about her presence.

Parvati enjoins him to resuscitate Kamadeva. Shiva agrees to let Kamadeva live but in a disembodied form. Thus, giving Atanu (a- = without; tanu = body) as a new name to Kamadeva.

Lord Shiva agrees with Parvati's proposal and their union is consummated. Their son Kartikeya goes on to defeat Tarakasura, thus saving the gods.

The spirit of love embodied by the Kamadeva is propagated across the universe, imbibing love in humanity.

Kamadeva has been portrayed as a young and handsome man with wings carrying a bow and arrows.

He bears a striking similarity with the god of desire and love, Cupid.

Cupid is winged and his symbols are arrows and torch.

He was increasingly portrayed as a chubby boy.

The god of love has many names:

  • Roman calls him “Cupid”

  • Greek calls him “Eros"

  • Indian calls him “Kamadeva"

The valentine’s day celebrations in modern times are not just restricted to couples. The celebrations are extended to families, friends and well-wishers expressing their love and gratitude towards each other.

The valentine’s day celebration symbolises more to be a “synonym” rather than an “alien" to Indian culture.

❤ Happy Valentines Day ❤

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