God of War and Victory
Commander of the Gods
Statue of Kartikeya in
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Kartikeya is an ancient god, traceable to the
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
Kartikeya is found as a primary deity in temples wherever communities of the Tamil people live worldwide, particularly in
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"), Dandapani ("wielder of the mace", from -pani hand), Guha (cave, secret) or Guruguha (cave-teacher), Kadhirvelan, Kandhan, Vishakha and Mahasena. In ancient coins where the inscription has survived along with his images, his names appear as Kumara, Brahmanya or Brahmanyadeva. On some ancient Indo-Scythian coins, his names appear in Greek script as Skanda, Kumara and Vishaka. In ancient statues, he appears as Mahasena, Skanda and Vishakha.
Skanda is derived from skanḍr-, which means "leaper or attacker". 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.
Kartikeya means "of the Krittikas". 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