Kartikeya

Kartikeya
God of War and Victory
Commander of the Gods
Kartikeya
Statue of Kartikeya in Batu Caves temple
Other names
  • Murugan
  • Subramanya
  • Kumara
  • Skanda
  • Saravana
  • Shadanana
  • Devasenapati
  • Shanmukha
AffiliationDeva
AbodeMount Kailash
PlanetMangala
Mantra
  • Oṃ Saravaṇa Bhava Om Saravaṇa Bhavāya Namaḥ[1]
  • Kandanukku Arohara Vetrivel Muruganukku Arohara[2]
Weapon
Animals
  • Peacock
  • rooster
  • snake[3]
DayTuesday
ColorRed
MountPeacock
GenderMale
Festivals
Personal information
ConsortDevasena and Valli
Parents
Siblings

Kartikeya (IAST: Kārttikeya), also known as Murugan, Skanda, Kumara,[4] and Subrahmanya, is the Hindu god of war.[5][6][7] He is the son of Parvati and Shiva, brother of Ganesha, and a god whose life story has many versions in Hinduism.[8] An important deity around South Asia since ancient times, Kartikeya is particularly popular and predominantly worshipped in South India, Sri Lanka, Singapore and Malaysia as Murugan.[5][8][6]

Kartikeya is an ancient god, traceable to the Vedic era. Archaeological evidence from 1st-century CE and earlier,[9] where he is found with Hindu god Agni (fire), suggest that he was a significant deity in early Hinduism.[5] He is found in many medieval temples all over India, such as at the Ellora Caves and Elephanta Caves.[10]

The iconography of Kartikeya varies significantly; he is typically represented as an ever-youthful man, riding or near a peacock, dressed with weapons sometimes near a rooster. Most icons show him with one head, but some show him with six heads reflecting the legend surrounding his birth where six mothers symbolizing the six stars of Pleiades cluster who took care of newly born baby Kartikeya.[5][8][6] He grows up quickly into a philosopher-warrior, destroys evil in the form of demon Taraka, teaches the pursuit of ethical life and the theology of Shaiva Siddhanta.[6][7] He has inspired many poet-saints, such as Arunagirinathar.[7][11]

Kartikeya is found as a primary deity in temples wherever communities of the Tamil people live worldwide, particularly in Tamil Nadu state of India, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa and Réunion. Three of the six richest and busiest temples in Tamil Nadu are dedicated to him.[7] The Kataragama temple dedicated to him in Sri Lanka attracts Tamils, Sinhalese people and the Vedda people.[9] He is also found in other parts of India, sometimes as Skanda, but in a secondary role along with Ganesha, Parvati and Shiva.[6]

Etymology and nomenclature

Sculpture of the god Skanda, from Kannauj, North India, circa 8th century.

Kartikeya is known by numerous names in ancient and medieval texts of the Indian culture. Most common among these are Murugan, Kumara, Skanda, and Subrahmanya. Others include Aaiyyan, Cheyyon, Senthil, Vēlaṇ, Swaminatha ("ruler of the gods", from -natha king), śaravaṇabhava ("born amongst the reeds"), Arumugam or ṣaṇmukha ("six-faced"),[12] Dandapani ("wielder of the mace", from -pani hand), Guha (cave, secret) or Guruguha (cave-teacher), Kadhirvelan, Kandhan, Vishakha and Mahasena.[13] In ancient coins where the inscription has survived along with his images, his names appear as Kumara, Brahmanya or Brahmanyadeva.[14] On some ancient Indo-Scythian coins, his names appear in Greek script as Skanda, Kumara and Vishaka.[15] In ancient statues, he appears as Mahasena, Skanda and Vishakha.[16]

Skanda is derived from skanḍr-, which means "leaper or attacker".[17] In Kalidasa’s epic poem Kumarasambhava (“The Birth of the War God”; 5th century CE), as in most versions of the story, the gods wished for Skanda to be born in order to destroy the demon Taraka, who had been granted a boon that he could be killed only by a son of Shiva. They sent Parvati to induce Shiva to marry her. Shiva, however, was lost in meditation and was not attracted to Parvati until he was struck by an arrow from the bow of Kama, the god of love, whom he immediately burned to ashes. After many years of abstinence, Shiva’s seed was so strong that the gods, fearing the result, sent Agni, the god of fire, to interrupt Shiva’s amorous play with Parvati. Agni received the seed and dropped it into the Ganges, where Skanda was born.[18]

Kartikeya means "of the Krittikas".[6] This epithet is also linked to his birth. After he appears on the banks of the River Ganges, he is seen by the six of the seven brightest stars cluster in the night sky called Krittikas in Hindu texts (called Pleiades in Greek texts). These six mothers all want to take care of him and nurse baby Kartikeya. Kartikeya ends the argument by growing five more heads to have a total of six heads so he can look at all six mothers, and let them each nurse one.[6][19]