Becoming Rati

One thing I love most about Goddess Cosplay is having a variety. A variety of colors and stories and a diverse series allowing me to highlight the beauty of different cultures and more.

When deciding that I should do a series on a Hindu Goddess, and I came across Rati, the Goddess of desire and of course I wanted to become her, feel her, and understand her story.

The Hindu religion has many Goddesses and Gods. Out of the many, Rati does not seem to be as greatly worshiped or as widely known as the others, but her story is beautiful.

It starts with the God Kamadeva. Kamadeva reigns over the acts of love and attraction. As the God of love, he inspires interests of the heart and body.

The Creation of Rati

In ancient Hindu scripture it was written that Kamadeva was created from the mind of the creator God Brahma. Of Brahmas 10 sons, the 10 Prajapatis, who were meant to populate the world, his son Daksha was tasked with making a wife for Kamadeva. It was Kamadeva’s task to encourage the 10 Prajapatis to populate the world. Kama then spread his love. The son’s began to incestiusly lust after their sister. Shiva, another creator God, saw this and was amused by it. Out of the embarrassment, the shame, and most notably the sweat of Daksha, arose Rati. They were a perfect pair. He was love and she was desire. The name Rati can have various meanings, but my favorite interpretation refers to anything that can be enjoyed.

The journey of Rati and Kama is not an easy one. Because of the embarrassment Kama caused Brahma, Kama was cursed to be burned by Shiva. After pleading, Brahma mended his statement to Kama by saying that he would be born again.

“Her eyebrows formed small waves and her side glances moved up and down like gentle tides. Her eye’s resembled blue lotuses and her curly body hair was like the mossy growth in the river. With mind expanded like a tree, Rati glowed. The depth of her orifice was like a deep eddy. Rati’s body glowed with beauty. In fact, she appeared as the abode of beauty itself, like the beautiful Goddess Laksmi.”

God of Desire: Tales of Kamadeva in Sanskrit Story Literature. By Catherine Benton.

In Hinduism, love and sex should not exist with one without the other.  This idea is Rati and Kama personified. This type of harmony is idealized. Rati is very much an accompaniment to Kama, but she is what keeps his own desires flowing and the Goddess ensures that the love cast by Kama is also dipped in lust, sensuality, and desire.

Desire’s test

The curse put upon Kama by Brahma came true. Through a series of events, Kama upset Shiva and thus, he was burnt to an ash. Rati was devastated. Heartbroken, she takes what is left of her lovers remains and covers herself in him. She pleads relentlessly to Pravati, Shiva’s lover, to bring her own love back. After being reassured that he would be born again, she goes to where she may find him and waits. Rati becomes Mayavati, a servant in the house of Sambara. A demon that is prophesied to be killed by her reborn husband. Sambara knows of his foretold fate and fights against it by locating the child and throwing him into the ocean, where thereafter he is swallowed by a fish. This fish is then caught by a fisherman, delivered to Sambara’s house, where upon cutting it open, the house-maid, Mayavati, finds a child called Pradyumna.

In time, it is revealed to her who the child is and she nurtures him until he is a man. With more time her love evolves, while its strength continues to grow steadily. She tells him of their story and after a shock, he receives her love as a wife. She trains him to fulfil his destiny as Sombaras killer and defeats the demon. Their love perseveres.  

Once again, I love that Rati is a reputation of anything that can be enjoyed, and perhaps of anything that can be desired. Love and desire has many forms. What that looks like to you, to I, to anyone, can be vastly different and still authentically true to the individual. Rati loved Kama easily, then through suffering, and as he grew. I’d like to think the desire never faltered because it was an authentic and a love true to her.

While lots of imagery of Rati and Kama can be sexual in nature, through my lens the passion they exude is symbolic of desire. In addition to representing anything that can be enjoyed Rati can also can mean “the pleasure of love, sexual passion or union, amorous enjoyment.” In sanskrit her name has often been infused with the name of sexual techniques and positions.

I’ll end this by saying that sex and love can be the biggest passions we experience in life, but not the only ones. This story and this idea can translate to many desire worth pursuing for the sake of a life well lived.

“They declaim against the passions without bothering to think that it is from their flame philosophy lights its torch.” – Marquis de Sade

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Through these photos, I want to share with you softness and strength. I want to show the strength of a woman’s confidence. Beauty as a virtue that can be held not only externally, but also within. Desire as a strength that lies within beauty. I share the timelessness and simplicity of these concepts stylistically.