St Valentine’s Day is back again with pomp and great aplomb. The festival of love, romance, friendship, fascination, admiration and passion has stood out as the trendiest youth event in the modern world, even though its origins and traditions date back to time immemorial under various names as per different countries.
In India too, the system of ghotul, for instance, has been in vogue till date, in some parts of southern States. Lord Krishna’s playful romance with Radha and gopikas is a testimony to the fact that romantic life was fairly welcomed in the ancient period.
Coming to the growing popularity of Valentines over time, it is pertinent to appreciate as to what critical significance the occasion carries in personal as well as social life? Here is the logic: Nature (God for theists) designed humans and other beings in such a way for their survival and propagation as to simply follow two basic instincts, namely nutrition and procreation. Humanity ceases to exist if nutrition (for self-existence) and procreation (for the continuity of species) are not attained. And in order to make these two elemental needs pleasurable, rather than indifferent, humans across the centuries devised ingeniously several ways and means to make nature’s law attractive to be complied with spiritedly. Hence, there are food delicacies and romantic escapades.
An anonymous scribble reads like this: A woman in love asked her boyfriend, “Whom do you love most in the world?” He said, “You… of course!” She again queried, “Who am I to you?” He thought for a while and looked into her eyes so deeply. She was curious about his words. Then he responded, “You are my other half…”.
In the Puranas, it was said that Lord Siva was considered as ‘Arthanareeswara’ because in him there was a fusion of male and female halves. Siva represented power and that power was in creation, maintenance and destruction, all of which in turn were vested in female half, Shakti. Since then, everyone has been searching for the missing half of one’s soul. Only when one finds the partner of her/his life, s/he will no longer feel the lingering pain in the heart.
It is in this respect that the roles of romance and love become vital in bonding the two halves into a person. It is evident from the Vedic texts as to how Manmadha or Kamdev ignited a desire in Siva by shooting his divine arrows. The desire that is romantic soon resulted in the loving fusion between Siva and Parvati (or Shakti). These illustrations are sufficient to highlight the pivotal function of love and romance in one’s life.
Medical scientists say that love instinct stands virile right from birth to death. Sigmund Freud termed this cradle to grave urge as life instinct. It is basic, unlearnt; making man to survive through all ages. But opposite to it is the hate instinct or death urge when aggression takes place. So, love becomes unrequited when it is one-sided, ie, not reciprocated by the other person.
John Keats, famous for his most famous line, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever”, was in love with his neighbour girl Fanny Brawne, a beautiful teenager, five years younger to him. His love letters to her became quite a piece of literary importance. He died at the age of 25. Guy de Maupassant, a renowned French short story writer had many women in his life. His indiscriminate sensuous misadventures fetched him incurable (at that time) syphilis. While on death bed at an age of early forties, he was known on record for sharing his romantic memoirs with his friends.
Romance and Love
It is also apt to discuss here the subtle difference between romance and love. Romance means something in perceptible terms like holding the hand, embracing, whispering in the ears, jocular behaviour with a desire for sensuous advancement, etc. Love, on the other hand, is purely a mental and philosophical phenomenon. It may be imbued with a desire for metaphysical feelings or sensuous pleasure or neither.
Plato regards that there are two types of love, ie, one with desire for sex and the other is divine, devoid of sex. Divine love is also referred to as platonic love. It is entirely love for God. Ascetics, monks and the old devote their time for pursuing God. They feel that their purpose to exist is to seek God and to achieve salvation or moksha.
In myths, history and fiction, we find many lovers either with fulfilment or disappointment. Aphrodite herself had an unpleasant marriage with lame god Vulcan but enjoyed a satisfying romantic affair with Adonis. Majnu becomes madly obsessed with love for Laila and they both die as ‘platonic lovers’, without consummating their passion. Ganga leaves Shantanu when he objects her to the drowning of their eighth child. Pygmalion, the mythical misogynist king, and Galatea, the sculpture-turned-pretty damsel are a happy couple at the end. Sappho, the priestess who falls in love with boatman Phaon faces unreturned love. It is this unrequited love that results in the suffering of heart pain.
As long as one partner experiences love and affection in an equal and mutual manner, it leads to the ecstasy of love. Otherwise, one-sided fling brings a deep sense of sadness and sentiment of eternal loneliness. So, the outcome of love or romance is uncertain, including that of commitments to the vows of St Valentine’s Day. And the uncertainty may be favourable or disappointing but in any case, it enriches one’s life.
In the words of the legendary Russian author Yuri Borev, even death serves life positively. Accepted love helps one realise the beauty of life whereas the rejected love makes him or her acutely conscious of life’s value in the light of its gracefulness and joy. Therefore, either way, St Valentine’s Day will remain as the most cherished moment not only for today but for the days to come too.
(The author is former DG Cyber Crimes, Bhopal)