When one flips through the pages of legendary scriptures, one stumbles upon many tales that portray rather offbeat perceptions of love and a different course of relationships. One such story is of Krishna’s son Pradyumna and his marriage to Mayawati. To understand this story, we have to revisit the creation of Kama Dev, the God of Love, lust and pleasure, and his other half, Rati.
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When Pradyumna and Mayawati were Kama Dev and Rati
Kama Dev was created by the mind of Lord Brahma, with a purpose to form a cultivated society. To lay a foundation of love. If you look at mythological love stories from Indian History, you realise that back then, gender equality wasn’t an issue and love wasn’t taboo, so a goddess with similar traits named Rati was also created.
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It is often wondered why did Goddess Rati fall in love with Kamadeva? Well, because Brahma created them with all the essentials to create an epitome of love and ideal union. Attractive in looks, enhanced them with shringar, indulging in lust and playful games, oozing sensuality in their behaviour, they touched upon some of the cornerstones of a fulfilling relationship.
These traits are also reflected in their choices – spring is their favourite season, colourful birds like the parrot and peacock their chosen vehicles, and last but not the least, a shared vision to work toward common goals. For example, when Brahma assigned them the task of dissuading Lord Shiva from an ascetic’s life and persuade him to descend from the Himalayas to marry Parvati, they set out to do so together.
Kama Dev and Rati teamed up with Vasant Ritu – the spring season when nature blooms with colours, fragrances and pleasantness that influences the human mind and body and causes a release of hormones that increase the craving for love and mating. Under these circumstances, they tactfully lured Shiva away from the Himalayas and toward Goddess Parvati. As Shankar, Shiva married Parvati and started a family to give a worthy progeny to the society.
Then, why did Lord Shiva kill Kamdev? For he was oblivious that all of this was Kama’s plot, and when he learnt the truth, Shiva burnt him to ashes. Rati, then, laments and approaches all the Devas and Goddesses to bring back her beloved. They empathize with her and are moved by her grief, and promise a reunion of the two. Thus, Kama and Rati become the epitome of a perfect couple sharing similar traits, likes and dislikes.
Pradyumna and Mayawati – A Nonconformist Tale of Love
The story of Pradyumna and Mayawati, during the Dwapar Yug, is among the love stories from Hindu literature that raise a lot of eyebrows and often leave people feeling unsettled.
During this era, Kama Dev descended on earth in human form as Pradyumna – The Son of Sri Krishna. Rati incarnates as Mayawati, wife of Asura Sambara. Within a few days of Krishna’s son Pradyumna’s birth, Asura Sambara abducts the infant and throws him into the ocean because he has been told that Krishna and Rukmani’s offspring would be his annihilator.
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Pradyumna gets a new lease of life…
But Pradyuman is swallowed by a big fish, which is then caught by fishermen and transported to Asura Sambara’s house for a feast. When Mayawati cuts open the fish, she finds an infant inside who is still alive. She feels instantly drawn to him. The child’s innocent face immediately strikes a bond with her. Unaware of his whereabouts, she takes him under her protection and decides to raise him.
She succeeds in convincing Sambara to let the child stay, for he is just a harmless, lost infant. Her instant, strong affinity towards the child is incomprehensible even to herself. She shuns the assistance of the maids and raises him on her own with qualities of a worthy Kshatriya. Along with the warfare skills, she teaches him magical powers learnt from Asura Sambara.
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A sexual attraction takes hold
Years pass, Pradyumna grows up into a handsome lad. He bears a striking resemblance to God Kama, with a chiselled body, defined features and an undeniable charm. Quite often, Mayawati experiences a desirable attraction towards him, not suited to a mother figure. She experiences a strong urge to be around him all the time.
Perplexed with her own emotions, one day, she is lost in her thoughts when Narad Muni, the mythical sage who could travel all the lokas, visits her. He reads her mind, and thus, tells her that the reason behind her unacceptable, disturbing feelings is that in a previous birth she was Goddess Rati, the wife of God Kama, who has incarnated as Pradyumna.
Learning about the past, her guilt and confusion fade away. She doesn’t suppress her desires and feelings anymore. Her eyes now openly express her love towards Pradyumna, her touch is different now. It’s not motherly but womanly.
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Pradyumna learns his reality
Pradyumna can sense the change in Mayawati and feels disturbed receiving these subtle messages of desire and love from her. Unable to hold the suspense behind this transformation, he confronts her. She then discloses to him the truth about their previous lives as spouses and the purpose of birth – killing Asura Sambara.
And thus, Pradyumna sets forth to kill Asura Sambara. Like Rati, Mayawati too supports Pradyuman in his pursuit to end Sambara’s life. A duel rages between Krishna’s Son Pradyumna and the Asura. Prdayumna prevails over the mighty Sambara since he bears both the blood of a Kshatriya and the knowledge of magical powers of the Asuras. Once the Asura is killed, Pradyuman and Mayawati enter into holy matrimony and set out for Dwarka to Lord Krishna and Rukmani.
A Marriage Frowned Upon
This marriage between Mayawati and Pradyuman raises a storm in the cultured minds of today defined by societal constructs. How can a boy marry the mother figure in his life? How can someone develop romantic feelings for a respected elder?
Seeing through the lens of mythology, the reason laid is bare – they were destined to do so, and their marriage was plotted by the Devas as part of a bigger plan to bring down an invincible Asura and also to bring Kama Dev back to life so that he could be reunited with Rati once again. If you look at who was Pradyumna in Mahabharata closely, the whole reason for his existence becomes clear.
Even if one views this unconventional wedlock between Pradymna and Mayawati through the lens of modern psychology and behavioural science, it can be explained that behind the garb of relationships and age barriers there lies a raw, basic instinct of love, lust and attraction. These are flare up when the societal barriers are knocked down.