By Swami Harshananda
Manmatha literally means ‘one who churns the mind’.
Manmatha is also known by other names such as Madana and Kandarpa. He was born out of Brahmā as the personification of bewitching male physical beauty. He got the boon that he could entice anyone with lust. When he tried this power on Brahmā, creating uncontrollable lust in him towards Sandhyā, his own daughter, he cursed Manmatha to be reduced to ashes by Śiva.
When this happened, he was restored to life again, by Śiva who was moved by the piteous wailings of Rati and also the interventions of the gods. His distinguishing features are the bow of sugarcane stalk, a bunch of five kinds of flowers as arrows, fish as his flag-symbol and the makara as his carrier. Rati is his consort. Actually Manmatha and Rati are the archetypes of physically perfect man and woman. Manmatha is akin to Eros or Cupid.
- Madana means one who intoxicates.
- Kandarpa means the one who was arrogant towards Brahmā the creator.
- Rati is Manmatha’s wife.
- Makara is the mythical crocodile.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore