Even among Gods something
like the survival of the fittest syndrome seems to
operate. For some of them are the darlings of the masses while others
are not even worshipped. Kartikeya, alias Murugan alias Subramaniam
alies Velan, belongs to the first category. Just like Krishna is the
darling of the masses in the north, this Dravidian God, Murugan,
captures the imagination of one and all in the South. This is not to
suggest that Krishna worship does not exist in the south or that
Kartikeya worship does not exist in the north.
The story of how and why
Kartikeya, also known as Skanda, came to be is long and complicated,
but interesting. Beginning the story halfway, Siva and Parvati were
deliberately interrupted in their amorous play by the other gods for
its intensity and duration were causing the whole world to tremor and
shake. That having been done, Sivas semen had to be deposited
somewhere and agni or the fire god was found to be the
appropriate receptacle. After many years Agni found the burden of
carrying the semen rather telling and passed it on to Ganga, the
waters, Ganga too bore the burden cheerfully for a while and finally
went to Brahma for a solution. Brahma told her to deposit it in the
grassland in the Saravana forests on the mountains where the sun
rises. Ganga did as she was told.
After 10,000 years a
child as effulgent as the sun was born and let out such a thunderous
cry that six celestial beings who came that way heard it and came
down to hold, feed and quieten the child. As the child looked at the
six of them, he developed six faces and so came to be known as
Very soon everybody got
to know about the birth of the child and Agni, Ganga, Siva and
Parvati, among others reached there. Now a decision had to be taken,
whose son was he?
Siva, obviously quite a
diplomat, said whoever the child looked at first would be the parent.
The child, son of Siva after all, was cleverer than his father. He
assumed four yogic bodies and looked at each of the contestants at
the same time. Siva then said that as the son of the celestial beings
who fed him, he would known as Kartikeya. As Agnis son
he will be known as Mahasena. As Gangas son he would be known
as Kumara. As Parvatis son he would be known as Skanda. As the
forest Saravanas son he would be known as Saravana. Finally,
he will be known as my son in the name of Guha. Therefore
Murugan was born with six names and six faces.
Though called the younger
son of Parvati and Siva, it was Brahma who arranged for Murugas
birth. He was created in answer to the prayer of the gods for a
competent leader of their forces. He was thus born into the role of
the God of war.
Muruga is the child deity
whose childhood pranks are enjoyed by his devotees. It is said that
there was once a wise old poetess called Avvayar. Muruga wanted to
test her wisdom. He saw her coming and climbed on to a tree. As the
poetess came near the tree, she looked up since there were berries
there. Can I throw you some? asked Muruga helpfully.
Touched by the small childs readiness to help, Avvayar said yes
most certainly. The Muruga asked her do you want hot fruits or
the not hot ones? That was the first time Avvayar had heard of
hot and not-hot fruits. You are so wise, do you not know even
that? asked the child. No, admitted the wise woman.
Give me the not-hot ones, she said. The boy threw down
some fruits. Avvayar picked them up and blew the dust off them.
There you are why are you blowing on them now? Are the hot?
Murugans wisdom in
much acclaimed. Story goes that when he was a baby he advised his
father on the Vedas. And his father heeded the advice!
Muruga was a great per of
his mother. He killed a demon when he himself was still very young.
He was also highly praised by the other deities who had gifted him
some very precious gifts like a peacock to ride on, a trident (vel)
to carry and so on.
One day the two sons of
Siva and Parvati, the elephant faced Ganesha and Muruga had a bet.
Some versions of the story say that the contest was for a special
mango which Parvati had only one of. Another version says that both
Ganesha and Muruga both fell in love with the same two girls, Siddhi
and Buddhi. Whoever was more efficient in the contest they had set
for themselves would win the prize.
The task they set before
themselves was to go around the world three times. No sooner was the
task assigned, Muruga sped around on his peacock. Elephant faced
Ganesha traveled on a mouse and so could not dream of competing with
the stylish Muruga who always beat him in pace and style. But Ganesha
went around his parents three times and said they meant the world to
him. Muruga got quite cheesed!
Muruga was a favourite
among girls too. He married Valli and Devyani. Before marrying Valli,
however, Muruga tested her love for him. He went dressed as a hunter
and asked if she had seen a deer run past. He teased and provoked
her. He then also came as an old man and asked her to help him. Once
again he tried teasing and testing her. But Vallis love for
Muruga was steadfast and so finally he appeared in his true form and
wed her. Vedan, viruthan and velan are the words with which
this story is referred to in short.
Kartikeya was fond of
teasing girls in general. One day his mother reprimanded him and
showed him her image in every woman. It is said that Subramanya took
the vow of celibacy then.
There are six pilgrimage
centres devoted to Kartikeya: Tirutani, Palani Tiruchandur,
Swamimalai, Pazhamudircholai and Tiruparamkundram.