|God of war and victory,
Commander of the Gods
Kartikeya with his wives by Raja Ravi Varma
|Abode||Arupadaiveedu (Six Abodes of Murugan)|
|Mantra||Om Saravana Bhava|
|Weapon||Vel, Bow and Arrow|
|Consort||Devasena and Valli|
Murugan is often referred to as "Tamil Kadavul" (meaning "God of Tamils") and is worshiped primarily in areas with Tamil influences, especially South India, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Malaysia, Singapore and Reunion Island. His six most important shrines in India are the Arupadaiveedu temples, located in Tamil Nadu. In Sri Lanka, Hindus as well as Buddhists revere the sacred historical Nallur Kandaswamy temple in Jaffna and Katirkāmam Temple situated deep south. Hindus in Malaysia also pray to Lord Murugan at the Batu Caves and various temples where Thaipusam is celebrated with grandeur.
In Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, Kartikeya is known as Subrahmanya with a temple at Kukke Subramanya known for Sarpa shanti rites dedicated to Him and another famous temple at Ghati Subramanya also in Karnataka. In Bengal and Odisha, he is popularly known as Kartikeya (meaning 'son of Krittika').
- 1 Other names
- 2 Historical development
- 3 Symbolism
- 4 Worship through ages
- 5 Malaysia
- 6 Temples
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Like most Hindu deities, Subrahmanya is known by many other names, including Senthil, Vēlaṇ, Kumāran (meaning 'prince or child or young one'), Swaminatha (meaning 'smart' or 'clever'), Saravaṇa, Arumugam or Shanmuga (meaning 'one with six faces'), Dhandapani (meaning God with a Club), Guhan or Guruguha (meaning 'cave-dweller'), Subrahmanya, Kartikeya and Skanda (meaning 'that which is spilled or oozed). He was also known as Mahasena and the Kadamba Dynasty kings worshiped him by this name.
The Atharva Veda describes Kumaran as 'Agnibhuh' because he is form of 'Agni' (Fire God) & Agni hold in his hand when kumaran born. The Satapatha Brahmana refers to him as the son of Rudra and the six faces of Rudra. The Taittiriya Aranyaka contains the Gayatri mantra for Shanmukha. The Chandogya Upanishad refers to Skanda as the "way that leads to wisdom". The Baudhayana Dharmasutra mentions Skanda as 'Mahasena' and 'Subrahmanya.' The Aranya Parva canto of the Mahabharata relates the legend of Kartikeya Skanda in considerable detail. The Skanda Purana is devoted to the narrative of Kartikeya. The Upanishads also constantly make a reference to a Supreme Being called Guha, the indweller.
The first elaborate account of Kartikeya's origin occurs in the Mahabharata. In a complicated story, he is said to have been born from Agni and Svaha, after the latter impersonated the six of the seven wives of the Saptarishi (Seven Sages). The actual wives then become the Pleiades. Kartikeya is said to have been born to destroy the Asura Mahisha. (In later mythology, Mahisha became the adversary of Durga.) Indra attacks Kartikeya as he sees the latter as a threat, until Shiva intervenes and makes Kartikeya the commander-in-chief of the army of the Devas. He is also married to Devasena, Indra's daughter. The origin of this marriage lies probably in the punning of 'Deva-sena-pati'. It can mean either lord of Devasena or Lord of the army (sena) of Devas. But according to Shrii Shrii Anandamurti, in his master work on Shiva and other works, Kartikeya was married to Devasenā and that is on the ground of his name as Devasena's husband, Devasenāpati, misinterpreted as Deva-senāpati (Deva's general) that he was granted the title general and made the Deva's army general.
The Ramayana version is closer to the stories told in the Puranas discussed below.
Sangam Tamil literature
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Tolkappiyam, possibly the most ancient of the Tamil literature mentions him as "Seyon", the three other gods referred in Tolkappiyam are "Maayon", "Indhiran" and "Kotravai. Extant Sangam works, dated between the 3rd century BCE and 5th century CE glorified Murugan, "the red god seated on the blue peacock, who is ever young and resplendent," as "the favoured god of the Tamils." The Sangam poetry divided space and Tamil land into five allegorical areas (tinai) and according to the Tirumurugarruppatai ( c. 400–450 AD) attributed to the great Sangam poet Nakkiirar, Murugan was the presiding deity the Kurinci region (hilly area). (Tirumurugaruppatai is a deeply devotional poem included in the ten idylls (Pattupattu) of the age of the third Sangam). The other Sangam era works in Tamil that refer to Murugan in detail include the Paripaatal, the Akananuru and the Purananuru. One poem in the Paripaatal describes the veneration of Murugan thus:
But for thy grace beatific, love and virtuous deeds."
According to the Tamil devotional work, Thiruppugazh, "Murugan never hesitates to come to the aid of a devotee when called upon in piety or distress". In another work, Thirumurukkarrupatai, he is described as a god of eternal youth;
The references to Murugan can be traced back to the first millennium BCE. There are references to Murugan in Kautilya's Arthashastra, in the works of Patanjali, in Kalidasa's epic poem the Kumarasambhavam. The Kushanas, who governed from what is today Peshawar, and the Yaudheyas, a republican clan in the Punjab, struck coins bearing the image of Skanda. The deity was venerated also by the Ikshvakus, an Andhra dynasty, and the Guptas. The worship of Kumāra was one of the six principal sects of Hinduism at the time of Adi Shankara. The Shanmata system propagated by him included this sect. In many Shiva and Devi temples of Tamil Nadu, Murugan is installed on the left of the main deity. The story of His birth goes as follows:
- Sati immolated herself in a pyre as her father King Daksha had insulted Shiva, her Lord. She was reborn as Parvathi or Uma, daughter of the King of Himalayas, Himavan. She then married her Lord Shiva. The Devas were under onslaught from the Asuras whose leader was Soorapadman. He had been granted boons that only Lord Shiva or his seed could kill him. Fearless he vanquished the Devas and made them his slaves. The Devas ran to Vishnu for help who told them that it was merely their fault for attending Daksha's yagna, without the presence of Lord Shiva. After this, they ran to Shiva for help. Shiva decided to take action against Soorapadman's increasing conceit. He frowned and his third eye- the eye of knowledge- started releasing sparks. These were six sparks in total. Agni had the responsibility to take them to Saravana Lake. As he was carrying them, the sparks were growing hotter and hotter that even the Lord of Fire could not withstand the heat. Soon after Murugan was born on a lotus in the Saravana Lake with six faces, giving him the name Arumukhan. Lord Shiva and Parvati visited and tears of joy started flowing as they witnessed the most handsome child. Shiva and Parvathi gave the responsibility of taking care of Muruga to the six Krittika sisters. Muruga grew up to be a handsome, intelligent, powerful, clever youth. All the Devas applauded at their saviour, who had finally come to release them from their woes. Murugan became the supreme general of the demi-gods, then escorted the devas and led the army of the devas to victory against the asuras.
Though slightly varying versions occur in the Puranas, they broadly follow the same pattern. By this period, the identification of Shiva/Rudra with Agni, that can be traced back to the Vedas and Brahmanas, had clearly made Kartikeya the son of Shiva.
The Skanda Purana narrates that Shiva first wed Dakshayani (also named Sati), the first incarnation of Adi Shakthi the granddaughter of Brahma, and the daughter of Daksha. Daksha a Vishnu devotee never liked Shiva, who, symbolizing destruction of evil, detachment, who lives a simple life . Daksha publicly insults Shiva in a Yagna ceremony, and Dakshayani immolates herself. The Yagna is destroyed although protected by all the other Gods and the rishis. Taraka believed that, because Shiva is an ascetic and his earlier marriage was conducted with great difficulty, his remarriage was out of the question, hence his boon of being killed by Shiva's son alone would give him invincibility.
The Devas manage to get Shiva married to Parvati (who was Dakshayani, reborn), by making Manmatha (also known as Kama), the God of love awaken him from his penance, but Manmatha incurred the Lord's wrath indicated by the opening his third eye – "Netri Kann", and being destroyed and resurrected. Shiva hands over his effulgence of the third eye used to destroy Manmatha to Agni, as he alone is capable of handling it until it becomes the desired offspring. But even Agni, tortured by its heat, hands it over to Ganga who in turn deposits it in a lake in a forest of reeds (sharavanam). Then Goddess Parvati, took the form of this water body as she alone is capable of taming the Tejas of Shiva, her consort. . The child is finally born in this forest (vana) with six faces: eesanam, sathpurusham, vamadevam, agoram, sathyojatham and adhomugam. He is first spotted and cared for by six women representing the Pleiades — Kritika in Sanskrit. He thus gets named Kartikeya. As a young lad, he destroys Tarakasur. He is also called Kumara (Sanskrit for "youth").
Given that legends related to Murugan are recounted separately in several Hindu epics, some differences between the various versions are observed. Some Sanskrit epics and puranas indicate that he was the elder son of Shiva. This is suggested by the legend connected to his birth; the wedding of Shiva and Parvati being necessary for the birth of a child who would vanquish the asura named Taraka. Also, Kartikeya is seen helping Shiva fight the newborn Ganesha, Shiva's other son, in the Shiva Purana. In the Ganapati Khandam of the Brahma Vaivarta Purana, he is seen as the elder son of Shiva and Ganesha as the younger. In South India, it is believed that he is the younger of the two. A Puranic story has Ganesha obtain a divine fruit of knowledge from Narada winning a contest with Murugan. While Murugan speeds around the world thrice to win the contest for the fruit, Ganesha circumambulates Shiva and Parvati thrice as an equivalent and is given the fruit. After winning it, he offers to give the fruit to his upset brother. After this event, Ganesha was considered the elder brother owing as a tribute to his wisdom. Many of the major events in Murugan's life take place during his youth, and legends surrounding his birth are popular. This has encouraged the worship of Murugan as a child-God, very similar to the worship of the child Krishna in north India. He is married to two wives, Valli and Devasena. This lead to a very interesting name : Devasenapati viz. Pati (husband) of Devsena and/or Senapati (commander in chief) of Dev (gods).
Kartikeya symbols are based on the weapons – Vel, the Divine Spear or Lance that he carries and his mount the peacock. He is sometimes depicted with many weapons including: a sword, a javelin, a mace, a discus and a bow although more usually he is depicted wielding a sakti or spear. This symbolizes his purification of human ills. His javelin is used to symbolize his far reaching protection, his discus symbolizes his knowledge of the truth, his mace represents his strength and his bow shows his ability to defeat all ills. His peacock mount symbolizes his destruction of the ego.
Worship through ages
In Tamil Nadu, Murugan has continued to be popular with all classes of society right since the Sangam age. This has led to more elaborate accounts of his mythology in the Tamil language, culminating in the Tamil version of Skanda Purana, called Kandha Purānam, written by Kacchiappa Sivachariyar (1350–1420 AD.) of Kumara Kottam in the city of Kanchipuram. (He was a scholar in Tamil literature, and a votary of the Shaiva Siddhanta philosophy.)
He is married to two deities, Valli, a daughter of a tribal chief and Deivayanai (also called Devasena), the daughter of Indhra. During His bachelorhood, Lord Murugan is also regarded as Kumaraswami (or Bachelor God), Kumara meaning a bachelor and Swami meaning God. Muruga rides a peacock and wields a bow in battle. The lance called Vel in Tamil is a weapon closely associated with him. The Vel was given to him by his mother, Parvati, and embodies her energy and power. His army's standard depicts a rooster. In the war, Surapadman was split into two, and each half was granted a boon by Murugan. The halves, thus turned into the peacock (his mount) and the rooster his flag, which also "refers to the sun".
As Muruga is worshipped predominantly in Tamil Nadu, many of his names are of Tamil origin. These include Senthil, the red or formidable one; Arumugam, the six-faced one; Guhan and Maal-Marugan, the son-in-law of Vishnu. Murugan is venerated throughout the Tamil year. There is a six-day period of fast and prayer in the Tamil month of Aippasi known as the Skanda Shasti. He is worshipped at Thaipusam, celebrated by Tamil communities worldwide near the full moon of the Tamil month Thai. This commemorates the day he was given a Vel or lance by his mother in order to vanquish the asuras. Thirukarthigai or the full moon of the Tamil month of Karthigai signifies his birth. Each Tuesday of the Tamil month of Adi is also dedicated to the worship of Murugan. Tuesday in the Hindu tradition connotes Mangala, the god of planet Mars and war.
Other parts of India
Historically, God Kartikeya was immensely popular in the Indian subcontinent. One of the major Puranas, the Skanda Purana is dedicated to him. In the Bhagavad-Gita (Ch.10, Verse 24), Krishna, while explaining his omnipresence, names the most perfect being, mortal or divine, in each of several categories. While doing so, he says: "Among generals, I am Skanda, the lord of war."
Kartikeya's presence in the religious and cultural sphere can be seen at least from the Gupta age. Two of the Gupta kings, Kumaragupta and Skandagupta, were named after him. He is seen in the Gupta sculptures and in the temples of Ellora and Elephanta. As the commander of the divine armies, he became the patron of the ruling classes. His youth, beauty and bravery was much celebrated in Sanskrit works like the Kathasaritsagara. Kalidasa made the birth of Kumara the subject of a lyrical epic, the Kumaarasambhavam. In ancient India, Kartikeya was also regarded as the patron deity of thieves, as may be inferred from the Mrichchakatikam, a Sanskrit play by Shudraka, and in the Vetala-panchvimshati, a medieval collection of tales. This association is linked to the fact that Kartikeya had dug through the Krauncha mountain to kill Taraka and his brothers (in the Mrichchakatikam, Sarivilaka prays to him before tunnelling into the hero's house).
However, Kartikeya's popularity in North India receded from the Middle Ages onwards, and his worship is today virtually unknown except in parts of Haryana. There is a very famous temple dedicated to Him in the town of Pehowa in Haryana and this temple is very well known in the adjoining areas, especially because women are not allowed anywhere close to it. Women stay away from this temple in Pehowa town of Haryana because this shrine celebrates the Brahmachari form of Kartikeya. Reminders of former devotions to him include a temple at Achaleshwar, near Batala in Punjab, and another temple of Skanda atop the Parvati hill in Pune, Maharashtra. Another vestige of his former popularity can be seen in Bengal and Odisha, where he is worshipped during the Durga Puja festivities alongside Durga. Lord Subramanya is the major deity among the Hindus of northern Kerala. Lord Subramanya is worshipped with utmost devotion in districts of Dakshina Kannada and Udupi in the state of Karnataka. Rituals like nagaradhane are unique to this region.
West Bengal and Bangladesh
Kartikeya also known as Kartik or Kartika is also worshipped in West Bengal, and Bangladesh on the last day of the Hindu month of 'Kartik'. However, the popularity of Kartik Puja (worshipping Kartik) is decreasing now, and Lord Kartik is primarily worshipped among those who intend to have a son. In Bengal, traditionally, many people drop images of Kartik inside the boundaries of different households, who all are either newly married, or else, intend to get a son to carry on with their ancestry. Lord Kartik is also associated to the Babu Culture prevailed in historic Kolkata, and hence, many traditional old Bengali paintings still show Kartik dressed in traditional Bengali style. Also, in some parts of West Bengal, Kartik is traditionally worshipped by the ancestors of the past royal families too, as in the district of Malda. Kartik Puja is also popular among the prostitutes. This can probably be linked to the fact that, the prostitutes mostly got clients from the upper class babu-s in old Kolkata, who all, in turn, had been associated to the image of Kartik (as discussed above). In Bansberia (Hooghly district) Kartik Puja festival is celebrated like Durga puja of Kolkata, Jagadhatri puja in Chandannagar for consecutive four days. The festival starts on 17 November every year and on 16 November in case of Leap year. Some of the must see Puja committees are Bansberia Kundugoli Nataraj, Khamarapara Milan Samity RadhaKrishna, Kishor Bahini, Mitali Sangha, Yuva Sangha, Bansberia Pratap Sangha and many more.
Kartikeya is worshiped during Durga Puja in Odisha as well as in various Shiva temples throughout the year. Kartik puja is celebrated in Cuttack along with various other parts of the state during the last phases of Hindu month of Kartik. Kartik purnima is celebrated with much joy and in a grand fashion in Cuttack and other parts in the state.
Murugan is adored by both Tamil Hindus and Sinhalese Buddhists in Sri Lanka. Numerous temples exist throughout the island. He is a favorite deity of the common folk everywhere and it is said he never hesitates to come to the aid of a devotee when called upon. In the deeply Sinhalese south of Sri Lanka, Murugan is worshipped at the temple in Katirkāmam, where he is known as Kathiravel or Katragama Deviyo (Lord of Katragama) . This temple is next to an old Buddhist place of worship. Local legend holds that Lord Murugan alighted in Kataragama and was smitten by Valli, one of the local aboriginal lasses. After a courtship, they were married. This event is taken to signify that Lord Murugan is accessible to all who worship and love him, regardless of their birth or heritage. The Nallur Kandaswamy temple, the Maviddapuram Kandaswamy Temple and the Sella Channithy Temple near Valvettiturai are the three foremost Murugan temples in Jaffna. The Chitravelayutha temple in Verukal on the border between Trincomalee and Batticaloa is also noteworthy as is the Mandur Kandaswamy temple in Batticaloa. The late medieval-era temple of the tooth in Kandy, dedicated to the tooth relic of the Buddha, has a Kataragama deiyo shrine adjacent to it dedicated to the veneration of Skanda in the Sinhalese tradition. Almost all buddhist temples house a shrine room for Kataragama deviyo(Murugan)reflecting the significance of Murugan in Sinhala Buddhism,
Based on archeological evidence found, it is believed that the Kiri Vehera was either renovated to build during the 1st century BCE. There are number of others inscriptions and ruins.
By the 16th century the Kathiravel shrine at Katirkāmam had become synonymous with Skanda-Kumara who was a guardian deity of Sinhala Buddhism. The town was popular as a place of pilgrimage for Hindus from India and Sri Lanka by the 15 the century. The popularity of the deity at the Kataragama temple was also recorded by the Pali chronicles of Thailand such as Jinkalmali in the 16th century. There are number of legends both Buddhist and Hindu that attribute supernatural events to the very locality. Scholars such as Paul Younger and Heinz Bechert speculate that rituals practiced by the native priests of Kataragama temple betray Vedda ideals of propitiation. Hence they believe the area was of Vedda veneration that was taken over by the Buddhist and Hindus in the medieval period.
Lord Murugan is one of the most important deities worshipped by Tamil people in Malaysia and other South-East Asian countries such as Singapore and Indonesia. Thai Poosam is one of the important festivals celebrated. Sri Subramanyar Temple at Batu Caves temple complex in Malaysia is dedicated to Lord Murugan.
The main temples of Murugan are located in Tamil Nadu and other parts of south India. They include the Aru Padaiveedu (six abodes) — Thiruchendur, Swamimalai, Pazhamudircholai, Thirupparangunram, Palani (Pazhani), Thiruthani and other important shrines like Mayilam, Sikkal, Marudamalai, Kundrathur, Vadapalani, Kandakottam, Thiruporur, Vallakottai, Vayalur, Thirumalaikoil, Pachaimalai and Pavalamalai near Gobichettipalayam. Malai Mandir, a prominent and popular temple complex in Delhi, is one of the few dedicated to Murugan in all of North India apart from the Pehowa temple in Haryana.
There are many temples dedicated to Lord Subramanya in Kerala. Amongst them are Atiyambur Sri Subramanya Temple in Kanhangad Kasaragod, Payyannur Subramanya Swamy temple in Payyanur, Panmana Subramanya Swamy temple in Panmana and the Subramanya temple in Haripad. There is a temple in Skandagiri, Secunderabad and one in Bikkavolu, East Godavari district in the state of Andhra Pradesh. In Karnataka there is the Kukke Subramanya Temple where Lord Murugan is worshiped as the Lord of the serpents. Aaslesha Bali, Sarpa Samskara with nagapathista samarpa are major prayers here. There is a temple called Malai Mandir in South Delhi. Malai means hill in Tamil. Mandir means temple in Hindi.
The key temples in Sri Lanka include the sylvan shrine in Kataragama / (Kadirgamam) or Kathirkamam in the deep south, the temple in Tirukovil in the east, the shrine in Embekke in the Kandyan region and the famed Nallur Kandaswamy temple in Jaffna. There are several temples dedicated to Lord Murugan in Malaysia, the most famous being the Batu Caves near Kuala Lumpur. There is a 42.7-m-high statue of Lord Murugan at the entrance to the Batu Caves, which is the largest Lord Murugan statue in the world. Sri Thandayuthapani Temple in Tank Road, Singapore is a major Hindu temple where each year the Thaipusam festival takes place with devotees of Lord Muruga carrying Kavadis seeking penance and blessings of the Lord.
In the United Kingdom, Highgate Hill Murugan temple is one of the oldest and most famous. In London, Sri Murugan Temple in Manor park is a well-known temple. In Midlands, Leicester Shri Siva Murugan Temple is gaining popularity recently. Skanda Vale in West Wales was founded by Guruji, a Tamil devotee of Subramaniam, and its primary deity is Lord Murugan. In Australia, Sydney Murugan temple in Parramatta (Mays Hill), Perth Bala Muruguan temple in Mandogalup and Kundrathu Kumaran temple in Rockbank, Melbourne are major Hindu temples for all Australian Hindus and Murugan devotees. In New Zealand, there is a Thirumurugan Temple in Auckland and a Kurinji Kumaran Temple in Wellington, both dedicated to Lord Murugan. In the USA, Shiva Murugan Temple in Concord, Northern California and Murugan Temple of North America in Maryland, Washington DC region are popular. In Toronto, Canada, Canada Kanthasamy Temple is known amongst many Hindus in Canada. In Dollard-des-Ormeaux, a suburb of the city of Montreal in Canada, there is a monumental temple of Murugan. The Sri Sivasubramaniar Temple, located in the Sihl Valley in Adliswil, is the most famous and largest Hindu temple in Switzerland.
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