According to Padma Purana, there used to live an Asura by the name of Tarakasura who had enslaved the Devas. After pleasing Lord Brahma, he had received a boon that he can only be destroyed by a power equal to Lord Shiva, and not even Shiva himself. He thought that that way he had outsmarted Gods and that way he could be immortal since he believed that there was no one equal to Shiva.
But yet still, somewhere within, he had doubts. He went to Lord Brahma to know who could be equal to Shiva, and Brahma stated that there would be a son born to Shiva who would be equal to Shiva in all aspects, and he had the capacity to destroy Tarakasura. After the loss of Sati, Shiva had gone crazy and become a recluse. So, Tarakasura thought that Shiva would never bear a child. So, it came as a shock to him when Shiva married Parvati, who was Sati reborn.
Then again, Rati, the wife of Kamadeva, had cursed Parvati when her husband was burned down by Shiva. This was when he tried to induce lust in Shiva’s mind for Parvati while she was still serving as a devotee upon the request of the Devas. When Rati was grieving on the loss of her husband, she cursed Parvati that she would never be able to bear any Shiva’s child even though she got married to Shiva.
Tarakasura thought that that curse would protect him too since Shiva would not be able to bear any child with Rati’s curse. But Shiva had his own ways. He acquired a sixth face that looked downward at the suffering of Devas and then became Shanmukha, also known as the six-faced lord.
Kartikeya – The Six-Faced Lord
From the six faces, light emerged that was carried by Agni, the god of fire, and Vayu, the god of the wind to river Ganga. Six of the wives of Saptarishis held them in their wombs and later deposited them on six lotus flowers at shara vana, the forest of reeds. From them, six babies emerged that were nurtured by six Karthigai ladies, a constellation of six stars. Then these babies became the six-faced Lord, Shanmukha, (Kartikeya) also known as Murugan and Muruga in Tamil. (In Tamil, Muruga means handsome or beautiful and Muruga means the one who is very handsome). He was said to be the son of Shiva and Parvati. And he was the one who decided the fate of Tarakasura and his two other brothers – Simamukha and Surapadma. After that, the Devas were freed.
The Logic Behind the Birth of Kartikey (Murugan)
You might be wondering how is it even possible to have a child without the physical union of male and a female. Considering what science we have today, we don’t necessarily need the union of female and male to reproduce a child.
This is said to be the test-tube baby, whereby the ovum of the female can be fertilized with the sperm in water in a separate, artificial environment. The environment needs appropriate temperate, air, and fluid to survive, which in this case, were provided by Agni, Vayu, and the river Ganga respectively. In case the woman cannot bear the embryo, then the produced embryo can be placed in the womb of another female, the concept is known as surrogacy.
And in our case, the wives of saptarishis were the surrogate mothers. If the babies are born prematurely, then the baby is placed in an incubator with the warm environment with necessary air, fluid, and nutrition, which were again provided by shara vana, the incubator; Agni, the warm environment; Vayu, the air; Ganga, the fluid; and mother earth, the nutrition. In today’s case, the nurses take care of the baby meanwhile. And in this case, Karthigai ladies took care of the baby.
If we consider the psychological logic, then Muruga is the alter ego of Shiva. It can be thought of as a second self, the hidden self of a person, that can be liable for another. For instance, the parents live their own lives and dreams through their children. What they couldn’t achieve themselves, they want their children to achieve it and take pleasure in that accomplishment. Likewise, what Shiva could not achieve by not being able to kill Tarakasura, he achieved it via Murugan.
The question now is that why didn’t the scriptures and books talk directly about these logics, why have they been depicted in legends. The thing is the logic cannot be explained to everyone, and it cannot make sense to even a six-year-old. Thus, we need legends, so that in the future, we use our logic to understand what the legend could have actually meant.
The Murugan Is known with six names: Guha, the cave, since he is the secret that lives in the cave in the heart of Shiva; Kumara, son of Parvati; Skanda; Gangeya since he was carried by Ganga; Sharavana, since he was nurtured by sharavana, the forest of reeds; and Kartikeya since he was raised by six Karthigai ladies (Amba, Thula, Nitharthini, Apragenthi, Mehanthi & Varthayendhi).