Friday, August 5, 2011



NOTE : Those, who worship Siva as an ascetic Yogi, or are below 18 years age, are requested to stay away from this blog. 

Kartick joins Devi Durga while she is busy slaying Mahisasura.
His peacock is on his right side. 

Kartik the Lord of war arrives in Bengal twice every year - during the days of Autumn festival. He accompanies Devi Durgaa  and again return alone on the last day of the month of 'Kartik' for one day/night. We know him as  the youngest among Hindu gods - a very handsome god who rides an equally handsome bird - a peacock.

When one delves deeper into the mythology of Kartikeya , one learns about his  valour - his defeating Tarakasura who struck terror among gods for years together and  the  complex story of his birth where Siva and Parvati - the most powerful celestial couple in Hindu mythology, Agni, Ganga and the gods played crucial roles. When we follow this tale , we need remember that Hindu mythology is built with layers of allegory and story-tellers from various  sects  colour these tales  with their very own beliefs .

Our story - as told by Bhishma from his bed of arrows to Yudhistir in eighty third chapter of 'Anushasana Parva' in Mahabharata - begins when we find Siva and Parvati , having  traversed a long path filled with death, destruction, long and harsh years of  very severe Yogic meditation,  reached the point where they could enjoy  their conjugal life.

 Siva embraces Parvati while they relax and enjoy in company of Siva's followers - 'Ganas'.
Virupaksha temple, Pattadakal.

As we all know,the beginning of their conjugal life was fraught with distabilisation  by Ravana, whom Siva punished severely through prolonged imprisonment and then, a prolonged battle with Andhakasura. Andhaka was born in Kailasha .Parvati had so severe disliking for the new-born that Siva gave the infant away to Hiranyaksha for adoption. The adopted Asura , when grown up , became an invincible warrior. He blundered by coveting Parvati .Siva got engaged in a fierce and long  battle with Andhakasura and his companion Gajasura. The later was killed and Andhakasura was subjugated - converted to an ardent devotee of Siva , known as 'Bhringee'.*1

 RavanaDamanaMurti of Siva.Parvati clings to Siva as Ravana upsets her and inhabitants of Mountain Kailasha .
Siva punishes Ravana  holding him a prisoner under this hill for years.
Virupaksha temple, Pattadakal.

When all these  were matter of the past, Siva - who is called 'Hiranyaretah' and 'Mahabeeja' *2, the god with golden  and powerful seeds - and Parvati - the Mother of the Universe and embodiment of  'Shakti',i.e. Power -   were engaged  in Divine union, secluded in their heavenly abode. This was when  they heard the wail of the gods from outside :

' Oh Lord of the Gods!
Withhold - oh please do withhold
Shedding your seeds so Powerful !
You are the Super Yogi ! So is Parvati !
We  are so very afraid
You two together  will give birth
To such Power and Strength 
That  would vanquish us - the gods,
Oh ! His * power would not be contained in the Universe -
Alas! All will be singed !'

 Gods outside the abode of Siva -Parvati.
Virupaksha temple, Pattadakal.

Siva was moved by this appeal . He withheld his ejaculation through his power of  Yoga . When he withdrew, his semen spilled  outside Parvati's womb . His Yogic power has been hailed by his devotees when they address him as 'Urddhalinga' - Ithyphallic' - and 'Urddharetah' *2- in control of ejaculation.

Ithyphallic Siva.
SriMukhalingam temple.A.P.

Thus interrupted ,Parvati was furious with the gods assembled outside . Deprived of motherhood of Siva's child, she cursed them that they would not give birth to children in future*3. Agni was not present this gathering of gods - so he was not affected by this curse. Siva's spilled semen was collected by Agni which grew within  him *4 .

 Kartikeya on his peacock - he is placed in the gallery of Durga in 5th Century AD.
Siva Gallery, Cave temple at Badami.

Gods were faced with a great dilemma - they needed Siva's progeny to defeat Tarakasura. Very much scared of Parvati, Agni was then in hiding - first within water and then atop an 'Ashwaththa' tree. Gods chased and  hounded out Agni and coaxed him, who had Siva's seeds within him, to father a son in union with Ganga. Agni and Ganga complied  and the gods started waiting eagerly for the birth of the child growing within Ganga.

Ganga  found after a while that she would not be able bear the growing child within her for long . She gave birth to the future Lord of the war - prematurely - on mountain Sumeru . She described the child  to Agni as an infant  with  countenance as bright as that of the Sun, the Moon and Agni, with fragrance of Neolamarckia Cadamba flower and cool like water of a lotus-filled  pond ! With the flow of the river, the infant reached a water-body filled with weeds where he was nursed by six 'Kritikas'. Thus, he developed six heads.

 Siva blesses Kartikeya as he proceeds with his army to fight Tarakasura. 
Kartikeya clutches 'Shakti' in his right hand which has striking similarity with Siva's trident.
SriMukhalingam temple.A.P.

Soon, he grew to be a great warrior god and led an army to kill Tarakasura by an infallible weapon called  'Shakti'. He restored rule of the Heaven to the gods and Indra got back his throne after long years.

 Felicitation of Kartikeya .He sits relaxed and smiling, sans his weapons, in 'lalitasana' as celestial dancers celebrate his victory over Asuras. On top of the alcove, we find Siva-Parvati, 
together with Ganesha,Kartikeya, Ganas and Bhringee.
Someshwara temple,SriMukhalingam,A.P.

The name "Kartikeya' connects him to the 'Kritikas' who nursed him when he was an in infant.His other name "Skanda' connects him to Siva as 'Skanda' means spilling ( in this case ,that of  Siva's seeds ). He is also known as 'Devasenapati', meaning the leader of celestial army as well as husband of Devasena.He is widely worshiped as Lord Murugan in South India and as Katragama Deviyo in Ceylone. The word 'Katragama' comes from 'Karthikamam' . He is worshiped in a few other South Asian countries too.

 Kartikeya on a 'Torana' - a gate - among ruins
among ruins @ Vadnagar,Gujarat.

  • One of the meanings of the word 'Skanda' is 'spilling'. If we refer to : , we shall find '
    skanda = a name of Kartikeya, god of war
    skanda = m. anything which jumps or hops (in {tRNa-skanda4}, `" grasshopper "'N. of a man) RV.; spurting, effusing, effusion, spilling, shedding (cf. {a4} and {ghraNa-sk-}); perishing, destruction Gît.; quick-silver L.; `" Attacker "'N. of Kârttikeya (q.v., son of S'iva or of Agni; he is called god of war as leader of S'iva's hosts against the enemies of the gods [1256,2]; 
  •  *1 :Please read about the battle between Siva and Andhaksura in
  • *2 - Both the ascetic and erotic imagery of Siva is explicitly stated in  'Thousand Salutation to Siva' by Upamanyu, in presence of Vasudeva Krsna. Please refer to thirteenth chapter of   'Anushasana Parva' in Mahabharata.
  • *3 - Gods had many sons - I do not understand if our scripture writers had any gender bias - among non-celestial. Pandavas and Hanumana are the most famous among them.
  • *4 - If Agni was not among the group of gods outside the abode of Siva-Parvati, how did he collect the spilled seeds of Siva ?  

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