Lord Kartikeya, the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati is known by different names – Swaminatha, Murugan, Muruga, Kumara, Skanda, Shanmukha, etc. Lord Murugan is also popularly known as Subramaniam that is a common name in South India. He seems to have been a popular war god who was also the elder brother of Lord Ganesh. However, excluding the likes of Tamil Nadu and some other places in India, Skanda is not as popular as his brother in other parts of India. Nevertheless, he is a highly decorated and powerful God with many divine qualities.
Thus, here is 10 interesting facts about Lord Kartikeya (Muruga) which everyone should know.
1. The Handsome God
Lord Kartikeya was said to be one of the most beautiful looking and handsome gods. He is often described as exuding boyish charm and yet with a serious face, quite unlike his happy-go-lucky chubby brother Ganesha. Often depicted as a calm and serene character, he had a face that resembled the radiance of the full moon. Thus, many parents keep their son’s name as Kartikeya hoping their son would become very handsome.
2. Born to Kill Tarakasura
A demon named Tarakasura was given a boon by Lord Brahma himself that he would only be killed by someone who is as strong as Lord Shiva which would only be his son. This is soon after Sati’s death, so Tarakasura takes it for granted that Shiva was sad and depressed and would not at all get remarried. Hence, he would not have a son without a wife.
However, it is believed that Lord Murugan manifested for the sole purpose of killing Tarakasura. Tarakasura knew very well that Lord Shiva was an ascetic and he thought he would not marry or have children. Hence, he would be invincible. However, Shiva was not a God who could let injustice prevail.
3. The Shanmukha
Lord Shiva married Goddess Parvati. Lord Shiva took her to a cave and asked her to meditate. As they both meditated, a ball of fire emerged out of their cosmic energies.
In the meantime, the other Gods being insecure from Tarakasura, sent Agni or the God of fire to get hold of the ball of fire. But even Agni couldn’t bear the heat of the energy of Shiva and Parvati. So, He handed over the ball to Goddess Ganga. When even Ganga couldn’t bear the heat, She deposited the fireball into a lake in a forest of reeds.
Kartikeya is also known as Shanmukha or God with six faces. Lord Shiva’s hands his fiery seed fire to Agni who can handle it till the radiance becomes Shiva’s offspring. Unable to bear the heat, Agni gives the radiance to Ganga. Then Goddess Parvati took the form of this water body as she alone could bear the energy of Shiva and Shakti. Finally, the fireball took the form of a baby with six faces – Eesanam, Sathpurusham, Vamadevam, Agoram, Sathyojatham and Adhomugam, and hence the name Shanmuga or Shadanan. Kartikeya was cared for by six women symbolizing Pleiades (Kritika in Sanskrit) and thus got the name Kartikeya.
The Vehicle he rides is a peacock called Paravani. Kartikeya, also known as Lord Murugan in Southern India, is also mounted on a peacock. This peacock was originally an Asura called Surapadma, while the rooster which was called the angel, Krichi. After provoking Lord Murugan in combat, Surapadma repented at the moment his lance descended upon him. He took the form of a tree and began to pray. The tree was cut in two. From one half, Murugan pulled a rooster, which he made his emblem, and from the other, a peacock, which he made his mount.
5. Symbolism of his Idol
If you look at the idol of Kartikeya, on one hand He carries a spear. It is also called Vel. It is not a trident. It is symbolic of the Kundalini Shakti.
In his other hand, he carries a small flag on which there is a rooster. In another version, Tarakasur was defeated by Lord. So, Tarakasur (ego) became a chicken or rooster after being defeated by Kartikeya. After having defeated Taraka (ego) in battle, Kartikeya spared his life and asked him what boon he would desire. Taraka prayed to always be at the feet of the Lord, and so Lord Kartikeya made him the emblem on his flag. This also means that the ego should always be kept subdued. Ego is necessary for life but it should be kept subdued.
6. Swaminatha – The Guru of Shiva
Once Kartikeya asked Lord Brahma to explain the meaning of Om. Brahma explained to him but he was not satisfied. Later on, when asked by Lord Shiva, he explained the whole episode to him. Lord Shiva told that he must learn from Lord Brahma, as he is the supreme creator. To this Kartikeya replied, ‘Then you tell me, what is the meaning of Om?’ Hearing this, Lord Shiva smiled and said, ‘Even I don’t know.’ Kartikeya then said, ‘Then I will tell you because I know the meaning of Om.’
Lord Shiva: ‘Then tell me the meaning since you know it’
Kartikeya: ‘I can’t tell you like this. You have to give me the place of the Guru. Only if you put me on the pedestal of the Guru can I tell you’, said Kartikeya.
Lord Shiva: (Thinking to himself) ‘Guru means he has to be in a higher position or platform. The teacher has to sit at a higher place and the student has to sit down and listen to him. But how can I find a seat higher than him, for he is the highest and greatest of Gods?’
So then Lord Shiva lifted the young Kartikeya on to His shoulders. And then in the ear of Lord Shiva, Lord Kartikeya explained the meaning of the Pranava Mantra (Om).
Kartikeya: ‘That the entire Creation is contained in Om. The Trinity – Lord Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva are contained in Om. This is the essence and also the secret of Om that Lord Kartikeya narrated to Lord Shiva.’
Upon hearing this, Goddess Parvati (Mother of Lord Kartikeya, and an incarnation of the Mother Divine) was elated and overcome with joy.
Goddess Parvati: ‘You have become a Guru (Swami) to my Lord (Natha)!’
Saying this she addressed her son as Swaminatha, and ever since Lord Kartikeya also came to be known as Swaminatha.
7. His Marriage
Amritavalli and Saundaravalli were two daughters of Lord Vishnu, born from his eyes. They developed an undying love for Skanda and performed severe austerities to obtain him as a husband. At Skanda’s instructions, Amritavalli incarnated as Devasena, a young girl under the guardianship of Indra in Swarga. Saundaravalli took the form of Valli, a lass under the protection of Nambiraja, a hunter near Kanchipuram. ‘Valli’ is a Tamil term for the Sanskrit ‘Lavali’, a kind of a creeper. As she was found among the creepers as a baby, the hunter called her ‘Valli’. After the war with Surapadma was over, the devas were overjoyed. Skanda acceded to Indra’s prayer to accept Devasena as his consort.
The divine wedding was celebrated with great enthusiasm at Tirupparankundram near Madurai in the presence of Parvati and Siva. Indra’s re-coronation in Amaravati in Swarga followed. Devas regained their power and positions. Skanda took his home in Skandagiri. He then proceeded to Tiruttani near Chennai, where Valli was looking after barley fields. After a series of sportive love-pranks, in which his brother Vighneswara also lent a helping hand, he married her. His preferred weapon is the Vel or spear hence the popular name Velayudhan – he whose weapon is a spear.
8. Festivals Honouring Kartikey
Sharad Purnima, also known as Kumara Purnima, which is celebrated on the full moon day after Vijayadashami, is one of the popular festivals dedicated to Kartikeya in Odisha. It is believed that unmarried girls worship Kartikeya on this day to get grooms handsome as Kartikeya.
Another major holiday dedicated to the worship of Lord Kartikeya is Thaipusam. It is believed that on this day, Goddess Parvati presented a lance to Lord Murugan to vanquish the demon army of Tarakasura and combat their evil deeds. Therefore, Thaipusam is a celebration of the victory of good over evil.
In addition, Skanda Sashti is yet another regional festival celebrated mostly by Shaivite Hindus, which is observed in honor of Lord Kartikeya on the sixth day of the bright fortnight of the Tamil month of Aippasi (October – November). It is believed that Kartikeya, on this day, annihilated the mythical demon Taraka. Celebrated in all Shaivite and Subramanya temples in South India, Skanda Sashti commemorates the destruction of evil by the Supreme Being.
9. Dev Senapati – God of War
He is also called ‘Deva Senapati’ and ‘Yuddharanga’. Kartikeya, the god of war and general of the army of the gods, is known for his extraordinary strength and skills. It is said that he was perfection personified, extremely brave and intelligent and highly skillful in the art of war. He is considered as the commander in chief of devas as he was mainly created to destroy demons that symbolize negative human tendencies. Lord Kartikeya was born to kill Tarakasura, thus, he is a born warrior.
10. Buddhism and Jainism
According to Richard Gombrich, Skanda has been an important deity in Theravada Buddhism pantheon, in countries such as Sri Lanka and Thailand. The Nikaya Samgraha describes Skanda Kumara as a guardian deity of the land, along with Upulvan (Vishnu), Saman and Vibhisana.
Similarly, the 16th-century Siamese text Jinakalamali mentions him as a guardian god. There are Buddhist Sinhala shrines such as at Kataragama dedicated to Skanda which have historically been officiated by Hindu priests, which attracted Buddhist devotees and enjoyed royal support. Since the 1950s, Brian Morris states, the Kataragama shrine of Skanda has attracted over half a million devotional pilgrims every year, most being Buddhists.
In Chinese Buddhism, Skanda has been portrayed as Weituo, a young heavenly general, the guardian deity of local monasteries and the protector of the Buddhist dhamma. According to Henrik Sørensen, this representation became common after the Tang period and became well established in the late Song period. Skanda was also adopted by Korean Buddhism, and he appears in its woodblock prints and paintings.
According to Asko Parpola, the Jain deity Naigamesa, who is also referred to as Hari-Naigamesin, is depicted in early Jain texts as riding the peacock and as the leader of the divine army, which are both symbols of Kartikeya.