The Worship of Lord Kartikeya,
In Tamil lord Kartikeya, is known as lord of nature just as Just as the God of Winds is Vayu, the God of Waters Varuna, In south india Lord Kartikeya,is known for the name o f Murugan,just like the worship of Lord Ganesha is very common in north india similerely The worship of Lord Kartikeya,is very common in South India , Almost every town in the South has its temple dedicated to Lord Shanmukha.
The term Murugan eptomises in tamil undecaying beauty, everlasting youth and Godliness.
Worship of Lord Murugan is tantamount to the worship of Nature. As Nature abounds with soul-stirring and inspiring landscapes and is the source and support of all living beings on earth, the ancients have thought it right to glorify Nature.
To lead a natural life is to live with Nature. This is the life in consonance with the Divine Will. Control of the senses, anger and lust is the way to achieve the higher life. And the most important form of worship that a human being can offer unto the Lord is by not hurting others either by thought or word or deed. Only then life in nature becomes smooth and happy. It is this kind of worship and life that the Skanda Purana teaches us through the worship of the Saguna form of Lord Skanda. Indeed it is the counsel of Christ: “Treat thy neighbour as thy own Self” and “Do unto others as thou wishest to be done by.” And the Essence of all religions is only to abstain from inflicting injury on anyone,—Ahimsa Paramodharmah.
Hence, whenever we worship Lord Murugan, we should have the Bhava ‘I pray unto Him, who is the All-Pervading Beautiful One, the Indweller of all, in the Form of Lord Subrahmanya or Murugan.’ This Saguna form of the Lord is only to give a hold and grasp for the mind to understand the Immortal, the Omnipotent and the Omniscient attributes of the Almighty, who is at once Infinite and the Indweller of every heart.
As in the worship of other Deities, in the Saguna worship of Lord Skanda also, there are some Vratas, or observances. There was once a king, Muchukunda by name. He was a staunch Saivite. He approached Sage Vasishtha to advise him on the importance and methods of observing some Vrata by which he could gain personal success, peace and prosperity. Vasishtha indicated the Vratas of Lord Skanda and detailed their significances.
One of them is the Vrata observed on every Friday. By observing this Vrata of Friday for 3 years, Bhagiratha overcame his enemy Gora. On Friday, after a clean bath, one should do Puja and Archana for the Lord with extreme devotion. He who does this is bound to achieve success in all his undertakings.
Another Vrata is the Karttikai Vrata. On every Karttikai (3rd constellation of the 27 stars) day, this Vrata is to be observed with faith and devotion, and with external purification by a bath, before the Puja, etc. This Vrata was observed by Narada Rishi as per the advice of Lord Ganesa. After a period of 12 years, Narada gained his ambition, viz., the supreme position among the great Sapta Rishis.
The most important of all the Vratas of Lord Shanmukha is the Skanda Shashthi Vrata. It is to be commenced on the Prathama Tithi (the day immediately following Dipavali) of the Sukla Paksha (bright fortnight) in the month of Aippasi (October-November). A complete fast should be observed and the devotee should engage himself solely in the Puja of the Lord, in reading and learning of the glories of Lord Skanda, Bhajan, meditation, etc. If fasting for six days continuously is likely to prove too much of a strain, he may have one meal per day and fast completely on the last day, i.e. the Shashthi Day. This is the day to commemorate the victory of Lord Shanmukha over the Asura king, Surapadman. Persons who observe this Vrata achieve success in all their undertakings and in the end attain Liberation.
Having thus heard all about the Vratas and their importance, king Muchukunda took leave of Sage Vasishtha. With faith and sincerity he observed them and had Darshan of Lord Subrahmanya who blessed His devotee with peace, plenty, prosperity and Kaivalya Moksha.
May Lord Subrahmanya grant you strength to observe such Vratas and may you all be the fortunate recipients of His Blessings!
3. The Previous Birth of the Asuras
The sages who heard the Lilas of Lord Skanda asked Suta Rishi how Surapadma happened to be the Vahana or vehicle of the Lord and killed in the battlefield by the Lord. In reply to this, the Rishi gave a brief account of the lives of the Asuras prior to their births as Surapadma, Simhamukha, Tarakasura and Ajamukhi.
Once the Devas assembled at Kailasa to witness the Tandava dance of Lord Siva. After leaving their Vahanas at the foot of the hill, Brahma, Vishnu and Lord Kartik went up to have the Tandava Darshan. The Swan, the Garuda, the Peacock and the Cock were standing at the foot of the hill.
While all the Devas were absent, four of the Bhutaganas of Lord Siva, (Sura, Padma, Simhamukha and Taraka) created a fight amongst the Peacock and the Cock on the one side, and the Swan and the Garuda on the other side. They themselves joined the former and inflicted severe injuries on the Swan and the Garuda.
Vishnu and Brahma complained to Lord Skanda. Lord Skanda cursed the Bhutaganas to be born in the dynasty of the Asuras and torture the Devas and to be themselves finally destroyed by His Vel as punishment for their actions. Thus Surapadma and others took their births in the Asura dynasty and came to be known as Surapadma, Simhamukha and Taraka.
And these Ganas petitioned to the Lord to grant them their request of becoming Vahanas,—the Cock and the Peacock for Him, the Lion for the Devi and the Elephant for Sashta. These boons were granted. In this way, Surapadma became the Vahana and Flag-cock of Lord Skanda. Simhamukha, after his death, became the Vahana of Kali Devi. Tarakasura, as an elephant, served Hari-Hara-Putra as his Vahana.
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Another story is told in the Purana about the previous life of the Asuras. Before he was included in the Bhutaganas of Lord Siva, the Asura, Surapadma had been the just king Prabhakara, ruling over a big kingdom in the island of Sakas. On hearing from Sage Agastiyar about the significance of being a Vahana to Lord Karttikeya in the form of a Cock and a Peacock, he did rigorous Tapas and was granted the privilege of being amongst the Bhutaganas of Lord Siva.
Further, regarding Tarakasura and Simhamukha, it is related that they fervently desired to become the Vahanas of Sri Devi and Maha Shashta, as Lion and Elephant. On learning from Sage Trinabindu how to achieve this, they did Tapas and were made to serve Lord Siva as Bhutaganas along with Sura and Padma.
Once Asurendra sought Lord Siva’s protection against His Bhutaganas under Sura, Padma, Simhamukha and Tarakasura, who in a battle with the Asuras crushed them and inflicted a severe defeat on the Asura dynasty. By the curse of Lord Siva, they were born as Asuras known by the name of Surapadma, Simhamukha and Tarakasura, and, at their request, they were made by Lord Karttikeya the Vahanas of their respective Devas, at the end of their fight with the Lord.
Ajamukhi, the sister of the Asura king Surapadma was, in her previous birth, Chitrarekha. Her husband was Pundarikasarma. Chitrarekha was possessed of an extremely lustful nature and she led a life of sheer debauchery, in spite of the presence of her husband. Still the Brahmin, Pundarikasarma, loved her much. It so happened that once sage Durvasa chanced to come to the house of this Brahmin.
Out of extreme lust she hugged the sage. Rendered furious by her wantonness, the sage turned his wrath in full on her. Unable to withstand the fury of the sage, Chitrarekha went to the street and hid herself amidst a herd of sheep. She was, however, found out by the sage; and one of his disciples tied her to the branches of a banyan tree. The sage cursed her to be born in the Asura dynasty with the face of a goat. And through her lustful cravings, the sage told her, she would have two sons. These sons were Vilvalan and Vatapai.
And Maya, having the same Kasyapa Rishi as her husband in her previous birth, had many sons who were killed and destroyed by the Devas. To avenge the defeat of her sons, Maya avowed to destroy the Devas by her sons born of the same sage in another birth. Her wishes were gratified.
4. Sri Karttikeya and Tarakasura According to Skanda Maha Purana—Mahesvar Khanda
After Bali, Kal Khanja, Maharoudra, Kalakeya, Nivata Kavacha, etc., were born as enemies to Indra. Tarakasura, son of Namuchi, did severe Tapasya or penance. Brahma was pleased. Tarakasura wanted to be Ajar, Amar and Ajeya (imperishable, immortal and invincible). Brahma gave him the boon of Ajayatvam (living invincible or unconquerable). He attacked and conquered the Devas (the gods) again and again.
The gods approached Vishnu. Vishnu asked them to find out some means to get Siva married, who was then in Samadhi; Sati had burnt her body in Daksha’s Yajna and was born by then as daughter to Himavan, the Mountain-King, Parvati by name.
The gods approached Himavan and persuaded him to get his daughter Parvati married to Siva and thus serve the purpose of the Devas, who were oppressed by Tarakasura. Since none but one born of Siva alone could kill Tarakasura, Himavan took his eight-year old daughter Parvati to Siva. He prayed to Siva for permission to come to Him daily for ‘Worship’. Siva granted this boon but desired Himavan not to bring Parvati with him any more. Parvati protested and reminded Him of His divine nature and entreated Him to let her continue her worship to Him. Pleased with her arguments and reasoning, Siva allowed her to do so.
After sometime, Parvati slowly got fixed up in her Tapasya on Siva. In the meanwhile, ‘Cupid’ (Kamadeva) as desired by the gods, approached Siva to distract Him from His Samadhi. Kamadeva was burnt to ashes in the attempt; Siva opened His third eye and Kamadeva was burnt by the Rays emerging from it. At that time Parvati was there to worship Him as usual; and the Devas also approached Siva.
The gods received their desired boon. Kamadeva’s wife, Rati, also performed severe Tapasya to get back Kamadeva, and Siva was pleased to restore Kamadeva to his original position but as Ananga (unembodied or without a body). Rati was taken away by Shambara, a demon, and she was there with Shambara, as Mayavati. According to Skanda Purana, Parvati did Tapasya, for Rati’s sake, and got the desired boon from Siva. Siva was again in deep Samadhi, while by his side, Parvati, too, was performing her severe Tapas.
Again the gods petitioned Siva. And Siva, satisfied with Parvati’s intense devotion to Him, in the guise of a Vatu (a young Brahmachari) gave her the desired boon and, as desired by the Devas, on Gandhamadan, a mountain in Kailasa, Siva’s rays came forth as Pralayagni (the all-devouring fire). The whole of the Universe was on the point of being burnt and the Devas, including Brahma, were perturbed. As desired by the Devas, Agni, the Fire-god, in disguise stole into the presence of Siva unseen by Nandi at the main door and disturbed His privacy. Agni as Pani-Patra or Karapatri begged for alms.
Rudra was enraged and rushed forth to destroy him with His trident but was held back by Parvati. While Parvati came out with Bhiksha, Agni appeared in his own form. Girija got enraged and cursed him and made him Sarvabhakshi (all-devouring) and declared that all of them would reap the consequences of this evil plot.
Agni narrated all this to the Devas. To their great astonishment, all the Devas including Indra were contacted, through Agni, and all became Sagarbhas (pregnant) with excruciating pain. They approached Vishnu for relief. Vishnu could only direct them to Siva. The Devas, including Brahma and Vishnu, approached Siva and prayed to Him. Siva advised them to vomit the Retas (the rays) they were suffering from. They all vomited, and the rays took the form of a mountain of shining gold. They were followed by Agni.
Siva desired Agni to throw the ‘rays’ into the ‘Yonis’ (the womb) of all ladies during their monthly course. Agni, the Fire-god, was burning with full rays, at the Ganga bank, early morning in Brahmamuhurta, when all the Rishipatnis were there for their morning bath (Pratah Snanam) in the month of Karttika. They were shivering with cold and, in order to warm themselves, approached Agni, the Fire, in spite of Arundhati’s warning to them. As soon as the Rishipatnis including Krittika reached the proximity of the fire, they were all ‘contacted’.
The said Retas (rays) of Siva entered every pore of their bodies. Agni was released. These Rishipatnis in turn were cursed by their husbands, the Rishis. The Krittikas were changed into birds (Khecharas); and the Rishipatnis, being ashamed of themselves and very sorry for their conduct (Vyabhichara), vomited the Retas (rays) on the Himalayas. All these rays in turn were thrown into the Ganga by the ‘Kichakas’, and there on the Ganga bank, out of these rays appeared the ‘six-mouthed’ or six-headed Shanmukha as (i) Karttikeya, (ii) Gangeya, (iii) Shaka, (iv) Vishakha, (v) Atibala and (vi) Mahabala.
The gods were overjoyed to hear of Shanmukha’s birth through Ganga. Parvati was taken unawares. She became Prasruta-stani, a mother with milk pouring from her breasts. Immediately Narada came and informed them of Shanmukha having been born on the Ganga bank. Parvati with Siva hastened to the Ganga bank followed and surrounded by all the Devas, Yakshas, Gandharvas, Siddhas, etc. They all prayed to Karttikeya, the child, the Kumara shining gloriously shedding divine rays of bliss. Parvati took ‘Kumara’, the child, in her lap and fed him at her flowing breasts. Karttikeya in Siva’s lap began to play with the snakes round his neck and specially oppressed Vasuki with his many playful tiny hands! Thereafter, as desired by Siva, the gods, led by Brahma, installed Karttikeya as ‘Senapati’ and gave him the power to lead the unconquerable ‘Sena’ (army); also gave Sena, the most beautiful daughter of Mrityu, the Death-god, as his consort. With Sena as his consort, Karttikeya killed in battle Tarakasura, as desired by the gods.