Goddess Rati is the Hindu goddess of love, carnal desire, lust, passion and sexual pleasure. She is the daughter of Prajapati Daksha and consort of Kamadeva (the god of love). A constant companion of Kamadeva, she is often depicted with him in legend and temple sculpture. She also enjoys worship along with Kamadva. Rati is often associated with the arousal and delight of sexual activity, and many sex techniques and positions derive their Sanskrit names from hers. The Hindu mythology describes her beauty and sensuality. She is depicted as a maiden who has the power to enchant the god of love. The name Rati in Sanskrit means ‘the pleasure of love, sexual passion or union and amorous enjoyment’, all of which Rati personifies.
Rebirth of Rati as Mayavati
The demon Tarakasura created havoc in the universe. He obtained a boon that he would be killed by only Shiva’s son, but lord Shiva had gone to meditate after the death of his first wife Sati. Kamadeva was instructed by the gods to make lord Shiva fall in love again. Kamadeva went to Mount Kailash with his consort Rati and Vasanta (spring), and shot his love-arrows at lord Shiva and invoked desire. Wounded by Kamadeva's arrows, lord Shiva becomes attracted to Parvati, the reincarnation of Sati, but he (lord Shiva) opened his third eye, the gaze of which was so powerful that Kamadeva's body was reduced to ashes. For the sake of Kamadeva's wife Rati, Shiva restored him, but only as a mental image, representing the true emotional and mental state of love rather than physical lust.
The grief-stricken Rati did severe penance and lord Shiva assured her that Kamadeva would be reborn as Pradyumna, as the son of lord Krishna and Rukmini on earth. On advice of lord Shiva, Rati assumed the form of demon Sambrasura's kitchen-maid Mayavati and awaited her husband's arrival in Sambrasura's house. Sambrasura is foretold that he was killed by Pradyumna. Sambrasura found out that Kamadeva was born as Pradyumna, the son of Krishna and his wife Rukmini. He stole the child and threw him in the ocean, where the child was swallowed by a fish. This fish was caught by fishermen and sent to Sambrasura's kitchen. When the fish was cut, the child is found by Mayavati, who decided to nurture him. The sage Narada revealed to Mayavati that she was Rati and the child was Kamadeva and she was to nurture him. As the child grew up, the motherly love of Mayavati changed to the passionate love of a wife. Mayavati told him the secret of their previous births as narrated by sage Narada and that he was not her son, but that of lord Krishna and Rukmini. Mayavati trained Pradyumna in magic and war and advised him to kill Sambrasura. Pradyumna killed him. He returned to Dwaraka with Mayavati as his wife.
Goddess Rati stands for sexual pleasure, carnal desire and sexuality. Goddess Rati represents only the pleasure aspect of sexual activity and does not relate to child-birth or motherhood. Rati is not only Kamadeva’s consort, but she is also his assistant and constant companion, who arouses sexual feelings. Kamadeva is usually depicted with Rati along his side. Rati also enjoys worship with Kamadeva in some festival rites dedicated to him. all paintings are of courtesy of Art of Legend India.