However, in their lesser portfolios, the Vedic gods were challenged by newer gods such as Kartikeya and Dharma. Indeed the Shaktam Goddesses by passed the most of the Vedic gods to become sole entities and powerful enough without recourse to being consorts. There are many versions of Karthikeya’s birth. Each of his manifestation, such as Muruga, Skanda, Subramanya etc has rich versions.
SHIVA PURANA: As Shiva and Parvati moved on from Himavanth’s Palace to Kailash and were enjoying conjugal happiness, all the Devas, Brahma and Vishnu were all disturbed by the peak- evil activities of Tarakasura and the very purpose the wedding of Siva and Bhavani appeared to take a back seat. A Divine Delegation headed by Vishnu sought permission to meet Shiva to explain the grim situation. But finally they decided to send Agni as their Ambassador to Shiva and urge him to beget a son.
Agni chanced to reach Mount Kailasa just as Shiva left Parvati after intimate moments; Shiva’s virya had dropped on the ground. Agni Deva transformed as a pigeon picked up the drops and could not bear the inflammation. Maha Deva Himself advised the pigeon to inject the drops into a woman of immense virtue.
Agni identified Six Women of Great Virtue and injected them into the pores of hairs on their bodies. They too could not bear the extreme effervescence and as directed by Himalaya relocated it into the violent flow of Ganges which carried to the bushes of Sarkanda and there appeared a Boy of mysterious radiance.
Even while this sequence of events was happening, Devi Parvati was extremely furious that Her privacy was disturbed and worse still Bhagavan’s Virya was being wasted and in that fit of anger cursed the wives of Devas who accompanied their husbands in the delegation to become barren!
Notwithstanding, the birth of Kartikeya on the Lunar Calendar of the Sixth Day of the bright fortnight of Margasira Month, Krittika Nakshatra of Shashthi Tidhi of Suddha Paksha of Margasirsha Masa brought the greatest joy to Devi Parvati and Maha Deva, unbelievable relief and sense of liberation to all Devas, and a feeling of frustration and apprehension of the Demons and followers of Takasura.
Sage Visvamitra appeared at the spot and named Him as Guha, bestowed the Totality of Vedic Knowledge, endowed Him with the Title of Brahmarshi and blessed Him to lead Indra and Devas. Agni Deva gifted Him a Divine weapon ‘Shakti’. Six Goddesses arrived at the scene and all of them tried to feed breast milk but the miracle Boy solved the problem of assuming Six Heads and mouths. He was thus known as Shanmukha.
As He grew a year or two, He became restless and moved on to Krouncha Mountain and demonstrated His valour by crumbling it; innumerable Demons got shaken and killed. Indra tested His valour by fighting it out with the former’s ‘Vajraudha’; Indra hit on Kartikeya’s left, right and central portions and out came three powerul entities viz. Shakh, Visakha and Naegam. In the meantime, Sivaganas located Kartikeya and brought Him to Bhagavan and Parvati, who knew no bounds of elation that He was finally home.
Kartikeya was crowned as the King of Kailashpuri and various Deities gifted away their weapons and powers and was declared as the Senapati - Commander in Chief. Now was the time that Tarakasura was destined to be destroyed; the Deities including Brahma and Vishnu could not with stand the fury of the Demon.
Finally, Tarakasura was challenged by Kartikeya, the Demon ridiculed Devas and said that they were seeking to keep a mere boy as a shield and fight behind him. But the ‘wizard boy’ attacked the huge ‘Asura’ with warm-up weapons initially and ultimately at an opportune time when the Demon was caught unawares applied the Shakti weapon deftly and hit on the Demon’s chest even as the biggest menace on earth at the time breathed his last instantaneously.
Kartikeya continued His battle escapades further on by hitting Banasura as the target from Kailasa Mountain to Kraucha Mountain as a simple feat and recalling the weapon Shakti back therafter. He set up three Siva Lingas at the Krouncha by His mystic vision viz. Kumareshwar, Pratigyeshwar and Kapileswar to please His father Bhagavan Siva. Yet another time, when a Demon Pralamb tried to create obstacles to Devas, especially Brihaspati and Seshanag’s son Kumud who took refuge from Himself, Kartikeya repeated the miracle of destroying the Demon without even facing him.
Other versions of Kartikeya’s birth to follow suit!
Hara Hara Mahadeva
SIX HEADS SYMBOLISM OF KARTIKEYA. How many faces do you think you have? Just jot down all the masks you wear or intend to, and that may bring a shock! Kartikeya has six and you probably end up counting up to sixty, six-hundred or even more….You may even feel Mother Kali’s Trishula is deserved after all.
While Lord Ganesha removes all our obstacles, Kartikeya or Murugar mirrors perfection and is liable to provide spiritual knowledge if one is able to go beyond his symbolisms and events surrounding Him in the Puranas. This is not just for Kartikeya but nearly all of the Puranic hymns and verses. The stories are not there for anyone to laugh and expose ignorance.
Despite various versions of Kartikeya’s birth, the central plot is that He is the God of War. This was earned by his gallantry to destroy the demons. He is described to be gentle and blue eyed but behind all that is his virile and violent nature also. His links with Agni paints him to be pitta-fiery in nature. He is portrayed mainly as a young lad with golden body and six heads. These are all symbolic of the roles he plays in war.
SIX: The Tamil epithet ‘Shanmuga’ means ‘six faced’. But this is just scrapping the surface. They represent the five senses and the manas –mind; the six chakras and six tattvas.
We will just take the Agni induced birth of Kartikeya in Shiva Purana, Skanda Purana, Kumara Khanda and Rudra Sambhita (Other Puranas contain different versions). In this, Shiva’s sperm droppings symbolize Divine Energy, which is swallowed by Agni as instructed by other gods. This annoys Parvati, Shiva’s Shakti. When Shakti is shaken, prakriti is in trouble. Agni ends up being unable to bear the intensity of the energy.
The entire story was posted earlier but what is to be emphasied is this: When it was finally dropped into the Ganges, She too could not manage Shiva’s energy. She left it in the midst of reeds and thereafter Kartikeya was born. The entire sage passed through six carriers and six different places before culminating as Kartikeya. The infant was nurtured by six mothers. It was then Lord Shiva summons Kartikeya to take on Tarakasura and save the world from evil.
MILITARY DIRECTIONS: Firstly the six heads denote his magnanimous virtues. In the Gita: 10-24, Lord Krishna takes the opportunity to explain his own omnipresence. He names the most perfect being, mortal or divine, in each of several categories. Of this, Lord Krishna states that ‘among generals, I am Skanda, the Lord of War’. Now, we don’t want a genaralissimo who is a human being who cannot see his or her own back, do we? The six faces, therefore symbolise that Kartikeya sees in all the directions to ensure defense against rage that can hit him.
But the six directions are not just compass directions: East; parents; South: teachers; West: wife and children; North: friends, relatives and neighbors; Nadir: servants, workers and employees; Zenith: religious men.
SHAT SAMPAT: Six faces of Kartikeya also represent the six virtures – Shat sampat. These virtues are necessary to stabilize the mind and emotions. Shat-sampat is essential for mental training and contemplative meditation. Adi Shankaracharya’s Tattva Bodha and Vivekachudamani has more details on this.
(1) SHAMA –Tranquility: Intentional cultivating an inner attitude of tranquility, peace of mind, or contentment is a foundation on which the other practices can rest.
(2) DAMA – Training: Training of the senses (indriyas) means the responsible use of the senses in positive, useful directions, both in our actions in the world and the nature of inner thoughts we cultivate.
(3) UPARATI – Withdrawal: With a proper inner attitude of tranquility, and the training of the senses, there also comes a sense of satiety, or natural sense of completeness, as if no more of the sensory experience need be sought.
(4) TITIKSHA – Forbearance: Forbearance and tolerance of external situations allow one to be free from the onslaught of the sensory stimuli and pressures from others to participate in actions, speech, or thoughts that one knows to be going in a not-useful direction.
(5) SHRADDHA – Faith: An intense sense of certainty about the direction one is going keeps one going in the right direction, persisting in following the teachings and practices that have been examined and seen to be productive, useful, and fruit bearing.
(6) SAMADHANA – Focus: Resolute focus towards harmonizing and balancing of mind, its thoughts, and emotions, along with the other virtues, brings a freedom to pursue the depth of inner exploration and realization.
SIX VICES: The war metaphors and the six heads of Kartikeya illustrates that the six demonic vices: (1) Sex – kama. This is longing or excessive desire. (2) Anger – krodha. Anger also includes wrath and passion. When desires are unfilled, krodha is the result. (3) Greed – lobha. This is covetousness or the desire to acquire beyond limits. (4) Passion – moha. Moha is delusion; to fall into error; darkness or delusion of the mind. (5) Ego – mada. Simply means pride and arrogance; wantonness or lust. (6) Jealousy – matsarya. These vices are products of avidya or ignorance. They ought to be conquered to live righteously and proceed up the spiritual path.
SIX - SKANDA SHASTI: Lord Kartikeya or Skand is worshiped six days after Diwali as ‘Skanta Sashti’ festival to commemorate the victory over Tarakasura and Surapadman. Friday, the sixth day of the week is an auspicious day to pray to Skanda. At least this is the South Indian tradition. Friday is also a good day for vrat which is observed for six days.
PAKSA: Means the half of a lunar month. The first half from new moon growing to full moon is called ‘purva’ or ‘apuryamana. This came to be known as Sukla or Suddha.
The other half going from full to no moon is apara or apa-ksiyamana. This later came to be known as Krsna or Tamisra. These two halfs are called fortnights and are composed of 15 tithis or lunar days called Prathama.
Skanda Shahti falls on the sixth tithi or the sixth lunar day of a paksa. Krittika nakshatra is constellation called the Pleiads. This constellation contains six nakshatras or stars.
SHADANANA ASHTAKAM: The Octet on the Six Faced One.
By Sage Agasthya
Salutations to Him whose lotus feet,
Is worshipped by crowds of holy people,
Who is personification of nectar,
Who has six heads,
Who is a great hero,
And who makes the mind of Parvathi happy.
Salutations to Him who saves ,
The soul of his devotees,
Who fulfills all their wishes,
Who even fulfills wishes of his enemies,
And who has killed the great Asura called Tharaka.
Salutations to him who rides on a peacock,
Who exists formless, with form and with thousands of forms,
Who is good , who does good,
Who is the eternal form which is near,
Who is far away , who is inside and who is outside.
Salutations to Him who taught knowledge to Brahma,
Who is dressed only in directions,
Who exists everywhere,
Who is of golden colour,
Who has golden hands,
And who is golden with luster of gold.
Salutations to him who is a sage,
Who is of the form of sage,
Who immerses himself in meditation,
Who is always a lad due to the result of penance,
Who is prettier than the God of love,
And who grants immense wealth.
Salutations to him who was born in Saravana stream,
Who is like the reddish sun at dawn,
Who is a little child,
Who is a hero even when he was a child,
And who was brought up by the six pretty maidens.
Salutations to the great power ,
Which is greater than the power of Shiva,
Salutations to him who is the leader of Shiva’s companions,
Salutations to him who does not have birth or old age,
Salutations to the Vishaka and he who carries the Shakthi.
Salutations always to him who is the mountain,
Who is the lad who is the leader of every one,
Who broke the krouncha mountain,
Who killed the asura called Tharaka,
Who is born out of fire and ganges,
And who was looked after by Karthika maidens.
Saravana Bhavaya Namah!
(Translation: Sri P.Ramachandar)
Hara Hara Mahadeva
(draft Kartikeya Symbolisms) by Yogi Ananda Saraswathi