Who is Kartikeya, The Hindu God?

Who is Kartikeya, The Hindu God?
Posted on 24-06-2023

Who is Kartikeya, The Hindu God?

Kartikeya, also known as Murugan or Skanda, is a prominent Hindu deity who holds a significant place in the mythology and religious traditions of India. He is revered as the God of War, Victory, and Wisdom, and is considered as the commander of the divine army. Kartikeya is widely worshipped in South India, particularly in the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh, and has a rich mythological background associated with him. In this essay, we will explore the various aspects of Kartikeya's character, his origins, his symbolism, and his significance in Hinduism.

The origins of Kartikeya can be traced back to the ancient Hindu scriptures, primarily the Puranas and the Epics. His story is intricately woven into the fabric of Hindu mythology and serves as a source of inspiration and devotion for millions of Hindus.

According to the legends, Kartikeya is the son of Lord Shiva, one of the Trimurti (the Hindu trinity) comprising Brahma (the Creator), Vishnu (the Preserver), and Shiva (the Destroyer). His mother is Parvati, the divine consort of Lord Shiva. The circumstances of Kartikeya's birth are quite fascinating. It is believed that when the demon Tarakasura became a menace to the gods, Brahma had foretold that only Shiva's son could defeat him. However, Shiva was immersed in deep meditation and had renounced worldly affairs after the death of his first wife, Sati. In order to awaken Shiva from his trance-like state and bring forth a powerful son who could vanquish Tarakasura, the gods devised a plan.

The gods approached Kamadeva, the God of Love, who shot his arrow of desire at Shiva, breaking his meditation and causing him to open his eyes. However, Shiva's third eye opened with great intensity, reducing Kamadeva to ashes. Nonetheless, the gods were successful in their mission, as Shiva's seed had already been released. The six celestial mothers known as the Krittikas, who happened to be passing by, collected the divine seed and nurtured it in a lake called Saravana. It is from this incident that Kartikeya received the name "Kartikeya," which means "the one raised by the Krittikas."

Kartikeya's birth is also associated with several other tales. In one version, it is said that after the gods entrusted the Krittikas with the divine seed, Agni (the God of Fire) consumed it in the form of a spark. This led to the birth of six babies, who were then joined together by Parvati to form one child with six heads, representing the six celestial mothers. In another account, it is believed that Parvati herself gave birth to Kartikeya and later entrusted him to the Krittikas for his upbringing. These variations in the stories demonstrate the diverse regional beliefs and interpretations surrounding Kartikeya's birth.

Kartikeya is often depicted as a young and handsome warrior with six heads and twelve arms. He rides a majestic peacock named Paravani, which symbolizes his command over arrogance and pride. The peacock's association with Kartikeya is believed to stem from its ability to consume poisonous substances, thus representing the deity's role as a destroyer of evil forces. In some depictions, Kartikeya is also shown holding a spear or a lance known as "Vel" in one of his hands, which is his primary weapon.

The symbolism associated with Kartikeya extends beyond his physical attributes. As the God of War, he embodies courage, valor, and determination. He represents the indomitable spirit of victory and is worshipped by those seeking success, protection, and overcoming obstacles. In South India, Kartikeya is considered a patron deity of farmers, as he is believed to bring prosperity and ensure a bountiful harvest.

Kartikeya's character and exploits are chronicled in the Skanda Purana, one of the eighteen Mahapuranas of Hinduism. The text narrates several significant episodes from his life, which have become an integral part of his mythology. One of the most famous stories is the slaying of the demon Tarakasura, which led to Kartikeya being hailed as the "Deva Senapati" or the Commander of the Gods. According to the legend, Tarakasura had obtained a boon from Brahma, which made him virtually invincible. The gods sought Kartikeya's assistance, and he fearlessly confronted the demon in a fierce battle. With his divine powers and strategic brilliance, Kartikeya ultimately triumphed over Tarakasura, freeing the gods from his tyranny.

Another remarkable tale associated with Kartikeya is the episode of his participation in the divine contest known as "Devi Sabha" or the Assembly of the Gods. In this contest, Lord Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva tested the knowledge and wisdom of various deities to determine their supremacy. Kartikeya, despite his young age, emerged as the winner by answering a series of intricate questions posed by the divine assembly. His victory in this contest established him as the embodiment of wisdom and established his reputation as a divine sage.

Kartikeya's devotion to his parents, particularly his mother Parvati, is highlighted in the story of his journey to Mount Kailash, the abode of Lord Shiva. It is said that Kartikeya embarked on a quest to seek knowledge from his father and understand the true meaning of his existence. However, upon reaching Mount Kailash, Shiva pretended to be unaware of his own son's identity and questioned the purpose of Kartikeya's visit. Unfazed by the test, Kartikeya humbly expressed his desire to acquire knowledge and requested Shiva to become his guru (teacher). Shiva, pleased with his son's humility and devotion, accepted his request and imparted the profound teachings of life and spirituality to him.

The story of Kartikeya's marriage to Valli and Devasena also holds immense significance in his mythology. According to the legends, Valli and Devasena were two divine beings who were destined to marry Kartikeya. However, Valli was born in a tribal community, while Devasena belonged to the celestial realm. In order to win Valli's hand in marriage, Kartikeya undertook various trials and tests, demonstrating his love, dedication, and perseverance. This tale is often interpreted metaphorically, representing the union of the individual soul (represented by Kartikeya) with the supreme divine consciousness (symbolized by Valli and Devasena). It emphasizes the idea of transcending societal boundaries and achieving spiritual unity.

The worship of Kartikeya is deeply rooted in the cultural and religious practices of South India. The most significant festival dedicated to him is the "Skanda Sashti," which is celebrated in the Tamil month of Aippasi (October/November). Skanda Sashti commemorates the six-day battle between Kartikeya and the demon Surapadman, another pivotal episode in Kartikeya's mythology. Devotees observe fasts, perform special prayers, and recite hymns to seek Kartikeya's blessings and protection during this auspicious period.

In Tamil Nadu, Kartikeya is also worshipped as the presiding deity in several temples, the most famous of which is the Arulmigu Dhandayuthapani Swamy Temple in Palani. This temple attracts millions of devotees annually, who climb the steps of the hill shrine barefoot as a mark of their devotion and surrender. The pilgrimage to Palani is considered a sacred endeavor, symbolizing the journey of the individual soul towards self-realization and spiritual enlightenment.

The worship of Kartikeya extends beyond South India and finds its place in various other regions as well. In Kerala, he is worshipped as Lord Subrahmanya, and the famous temple at Sabarimala is dedicated to him. In Karnataka, the Kukke Subramanya Temple is a renowned pilgrimage site dedicated to Kartikeya. His presence is also felt in other parts of India, such as Maharashtra, where he is worshipped as Lord Murugan, and in the northeastern state of Assam, where he is known as Manasa.

Kartikeya's significance in Hinduism goes beyond his individual identity as a deity. He embodies the qualities of courage, wisdom, devotion, and victory, which serve as guiding principles for his devotees. The worship of Kartikeya is believed to bestow spiritual strength, protection from evil forces, and success in endeavors. His mythology and legends inspire individuals to face challenges with determination and righteousness, guiding them on the path of righteousness and spiritual evolution.

Kartikeya holds a prominent position in Hindu mythology as the God of War, Victory, and Wisdom. He is revered for his valor, intelligence, and devotion to his parents. Kartikeya's birth, exploits, and teachings are narrated in the ancient scriptures, particularly the Skanda Purana. His symbolism, including his physical attributes and his association with the peacock and the Vel, conveys deeper spiritual meanings. Kartikeya's worship is deeply ingrained in the religious practices of South India, where he is celebrated through festivals and revered in temples. His stories and teachings inspire devotees to cultivate virtues such as courage, wisdom, and devotion, ultimately guiding them on the path of righteousness and spiritual growth.

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