Scorching of Madan
This highly popular legend is based on the story of Lord Shiva and Sati. Sati was the daughter of Daksha Prajapati, one of the first sons of Lord Brahma. On reaching adulthood, she turned into a beautiful woman and fell in love with Lord Shiva. Her severe penance to gain the Lord as her husband was rewarded when Shiva agreed to marry her. Going against the wishes of her father, Sati married Lord Shiva.
Shortly after her marriage, Sati came to know that Daksha was about to hold a special ceremony. Surprised that her father did not invite either her or her husband, Sati went on to participate in the event despite the warnings of her husband.
Once at her father's house, she realized that the non-invitation was a deliberate act on the part of Daksha and the reason was his anger for her daughter's disobedience. Daksha minced no words to heap a severe insult on Lord Shiva. Deeply grieved and hurt by the insulting remarks and regretting her act of coming to the ceremony despite her husband's warnings, Sati immolated herself in a sacred fire.
On learning about his wife's death, a furious Lord Shiva rushed to the place and lifted the lifeless body of Sati on his shoulders to perform a dance of destruction which led to the annihilation of all present there including Daksha himself. It was only when Lord Vishnu dismembered Sati's body with his "Sudarshan Chakra" did Lord Shiva regain his composure.
But this terrible personal deprivation made Lord Shiva lose interest in marriage or bodily enjoyment. He renounced the worldly activities he was entrusted with and went on to perform a deep meditation. But this was seen to ruin any chance of the execution of the demon Tarkasur, whose death was believed to be in the hands of the son of Lord Shiva.
So the gods requested Madan (Kama - the God of Desire) to tempt the contemplating Shankar into marriage with Goddess Parvati, who was a reincarnation of Sati. On the entreaty of Goddess Parvati, Kamadeva shot his love-arrow on Shiva's heart. A deeply disturbed Lord Shiva opened his eyes and his fury instantly turned Kamadeva into ashes. But he calmed down when Rati, Kamdev’s wife, beseeched him to restore her husband to life. This he did and granted immortality to Kamdev, though the latter was only regenerated as "anang" (a mental image, lacking any physical form). The incident is supposed to have taken place on the day the spring season began that year. Nature seemed to celebrate the rebirth of everyone's favourite god Kamdev.
This interesting legend is commemorated to this day in various parts of India. In Tamil Nadu it is known as "Kaman Pandigai". In North India it is called Kama-dahanam (the burning of lust). People offer to an image of Kamdev such things as sandalwood paste (believed to soothe his burn injuries) and and mango blossoms (his favourite flower). Fire is also worshipped in several places and a betel nut tree, a castor oil plant or a plantain tree is buried in the middle of the fire once the flames die down.