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Kama In Hinduism

Kama, literally means intense desire, is one of the ends of life (purusharthas) in Hinduism. Kama is instinctual, states Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. Adi Shankaracharya explains that kama is the reason for man’s action and effort. This principle has been established in Katha Upanishad, the Bhagavad Gita, and Manusmriti, as also in many Hindu scriptures.

The cosmogonic hymns in Rig Veda (10.129) refer to kama as the first seed of the mind and the generator of this creation as the great desire of the Cosmic Being.

Kama is deified in Atharva Veda (9. 2; 19, 52); yet he is not a God of love as in the later literature, but a God who fulfills all desires. His arrows, with which he pierces hearts, are referred to in Atharva Veda (III.25). He is also described as the first born (IX. 2).

When desire for an object manifests and then becomes deep-rooted without hindrance, the action is performed well and hence the result is definitely obtained. Thus the worldly cycle is set in motion. Hence, kama is an extremely important aspect of man. It is for this reason that man himself is referred to very emphatically as mamatmamaya – kamamaya evadyam purushau (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.4.5)

Kama is one of the trivarga (three aims) of active life as per Hinduism; the other two being dharma and artha.

The Mahabharata states that ‘delight which the five senses with the mind and the heart find in the surrounding world of objects is called kama, and it is the highest fruit of action.
Kamasutra of Vatsyayana also states that kama is a just inclination of the senses of sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch, accompanied by mind and prompted by the heart towards their respective objects.

In Manusmriti (2.94) it is said that kama is recurrent even after its fulfillment, just as ghee poured as oblation in fire makes the flame rise even higher. The Bhagavad Gita also speaks of kama as mahashana, the insatiable consumer. Man twofold desires; the attainment of desired objects and the avoidance of the undesired.

Kama also indicates sensual desire. It can mean desire for enjoyment of sex, wealth, unguents and garlands. The life of householder is prescribed as the righteous means of utilizing kama for a noble purpose. The important purpose of a marriage is dharma and dharmika progeny. This is the resolution that is recited at the marriage ritual.

Since the various aspects of kama do admit of analysis and deep study, and since kama is the root cause of all human activities, the lore dealing with it came to be called Kamashastra.