Murugan

Murugan also known as Kartikeya, Skanda and Subramaniyan, is the Hindu god of war. He is the commander-in-chief of the army of the devas (gods) and the son of Shiva and Parvati.

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 Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, Murugan 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').

Other names

Like most Hindu deities, Murugan 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').

Historical development

Vedas

The Atharva Veda describes Kumaran as 'Agnibhuh' because he is form of 'Agni' (Fire God) & Agni hold in his hand when Kumaran was 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.

Hindu epics

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.

Sangam Tamil literature

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:

"We implore thee not for boons of enjoyment or wealth,
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;

His face shines a myriad rays light and removes the darkness from this world.

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.

Puranas

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 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")

Legends

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.

Symbolism

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.
His six heads represent the six siddhis bestowed upon yogis over the course of their spiritual development. This corresponds to his role as the bestower of siddhis.

Temples

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.

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.

Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kartikeya

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