Kartikeya

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Coin of the Yaudheyas with depiction of Kartikeya

Kartikeya (कार्तिकेय) was son of Shiva and the brother of Ganesha. He is also known as Skanda. Skanda is believed to give name to the Jat gotra Sheokand and to the region Scandinavia.

He is known by many other names, including Kārttikeya (meaning 'son of Krittika' ), Arumugam or Shanmukha (meaning 'one with six faces'), Kumāra (meaning 'child or son'), Skanda (meaning 'that which is spilled or oozed, namely seed' in Sanskrit.[1]

The Atharva Veda describes Kumaran as 'Agnibhuh' or son of Agni, the fire god. The Satapatha Brahmana refers to him as the son of Rudra and the ninth form of Agni. 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.[2]

History

Historically he is a god of great antiquity. Some of the coins of Kushanas bear the name and image of Skanda-Kumaro-Bizogo (Skanda Kumara Vishakha) and Shiva. They also bear the title of Devaputra, probably as a divine origin of the king and his identification with Skanda.The Yaudheyas who played an important role in decline of Kushanas worshipped Skanda and issued coins bearing image of Skanda and Mayura. The Guptas were also worshippers of Skanda and Shiva as evidenced from the fact that one of the Gupta ru;ers was named Skanda Gupta (455 - 467 AD) and another Kumara Gupta (414 - 455 AD). [3] The Kushanas, who governed from what is today Peshawar, and the Yaudheyas, a Jat republican clan in the Punjab, stuck coins bearing the image of Skanda. The deity was venerated also by the Iskhvakus, and the Guptas. [4]

Skanda in the Vedic period

Skanda was known in the Vedic period also. We find references to him in the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Puranas, the Mahabharata and Ramayana, Patanjali's Yogasutras and even some early Buddhist texts. He is believed to be of the nature of fire god Agni. It is interesting to note that with the spread of Brahmanism and later Saivism, Skanda Kumara became very popular in southern India, where several local deities and nature spirits, mostly worshipped by the local tribes and rural people were gradually identified with him and integrated into Saivism under the generic name Kumara or Kartikeya.[5]

Skanda in the Legends and the Puranas

According to the legend he was born to Siva and Paravathi to destroy the demon Tarakasura. Before he was born, Parvati performed severe austerities so that he would have extraordinary skills and strength. He was born in a forest of (grass that grew like) arrows (sara vana) and there by earned the epithet of Saravanabhava. He was reared by six divine mothers from the constellation of Krittika, which earned him the name of Kartikeya. With six faces he suckled the milk of his six foster mothers and thereby earned the name Shanmukha. When he grew up, he became the commander-in-chief of the divine army which earned him the name of Deva Senapathi. His chief exploits include slaying of Tarakasura, Banasura and Pralambasura, protecting the yagna of Narada, tunneling through the mountain Krauncha, and a debate with Brahma in which he showed his true wisdom. He is considered to be eternal. Hence the name Kumara.

In his iconography he is depicted with one head and two arms or six heads and twelve arms. The six heads symbolically represent the five senses and the mind, the six tattvas and the six chakras. Originally a bachelor god, with the rise of Tantricism he became associated with two principal Shaktis, Valli and Devasena. The former came from a humble background while the latter is the daughter of Indra. His weapon is a lance with which he destroyed the demon Tarakasura.

The Skanda Purana and the Kumara Khanda from the Rudra Samhita of Siva Purana contain details of the birth and legends of Kartikeya. According to the latter, Kartikeya was born under strange circumstances. Agni swallowed the energy of Siva as per the wishes of gods, but much to the annoyance of Parvathi. Unable to bear the intensity of the energy Agni secretly impregnated the six wives of Rishis with it through the pores in their skin. After bearing the energy of Siva they were unable to carry it further. So they dropped it on the Himalayas. Himavant the mountain god was also unable to bear the energy. So he dropped it in the river Ganges. The goddess Ganges also could not bear the intensity of the energy. She managed to carry it for some distance and then left it in the middle of reeds where it eventually materialized into a beautiful baby named Kumara.

According to this legend, the energy of Siva passed through six carriers and six places before becoming Kumara. Hence he is associated with number six and worshipped for six days in the lunar month. After his birth, he was picked by his six mothers who reared him for some time before he was summoned by Lord Siva to undertake an expedition against the demon Tarakasura. All the gods and goddesses equipped him with various weapons and gifts and also accompanied him to the battle field where he slew the demon and saved the worlds from anarchy. After this his fame grew as a god of wisdom and might, protector of the weak and restorer of dharma. The Kumara Khanda also informs that besides Tarakasura, he slew other demons like Tarakasura, Banasura and Pralambasura and helped gods in restoring peace and divine order.

Kartikeya in Mahabharata

The first elaborate account of Karthikeya'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. Karthikeya is said to have been born to destroy the Asura Mahisha.[5] (In later mythology, Mahisha became the adversary of Durga.) Indra attacks Karthikeya as he sees the latter as a threat, until Shiva intervenes and makes Karthikeya 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.

He has been mentioned in Mahabharata at various places. Here it is worth mentioning about his Ceremony for investing Kartikeya with the status of generalissimo in Shalya Parva of Mahabharata.

Ceremony for investing Kartikeya with the status of generalissimo

Mahabharata Shalya Parva section 45 describes about all the gods and combatants who came to the ceremony for investing Kartikeya with the status of generalissimo.

Vaishampayana said, "Collecting all articles as laid down in the scriptures for the ceremony of investiture, Brihaspati duly poured libations on the blazing fire. Himavat gave a seat which was adorned with many costly gems. Kartikeya was made to sit on that auspicious and best of seats decked with excellent gems. The gods brought thither all kinds of auspicious articles, with due rites and mantras, that were necessary for a ceremony of the kind.

On this occasion out of the diverse gods those with probable Jat clan connections are Dhatri,Gandharvas,Yakshas, Kashyapa, Atri, Hara, Sinivali, Airavat, Vasuki, Garuda, Kala, Mani, Kunda, Kusuma, Kumuda, Damvara, Bala, Ghasa, Kanchana, Meghamalin, Sankukarna etc.


Mahabharata Shalya Parva section 45 further says, "Listen now to the names of those other combatants armed with diverse weapons and clad in diverse kinds of robes and ornaments, that Skanda procured: They were Sankukarna, Nilkumbha, Padmai, Kumud, Ananta, Dwadasabhuja, Krishna, Upakrishnaka, Ghranasravas, Kapiskandha, Kanchanaksha, Jalandhama, Akshasantarjana, Kunadika, Tamobhrakrit, Ekaksha, Dwadasaksha, Eka Jata, Sahasravahu, Vikata, Vyaghraksha, Kshitikampana, Punyanaman, Sunaman, Suvaktra, Priyadarsana, Parisruta, Kokonada, Priyamalyanulepana, Ajodara, Gajasiras, Skandhaksha, Satalochana, Jwalajibha, Karala, Sitakesa, Jati, Hari, Krishnakesa, Jatadhara, Chaturdanshtra, Ashtajihva, Meghananda, Prithusravas, Vidyutaksha, Dhanurvaktra, Jathara, Marutasana, Udaraksha, Rathaksha, Vajranabha, Vasurprabha, Samudravega, Sailakampin, Vrisha, Meshapravaha, Nanda, Upadanka, Dhumra, Sweta, Kalinga, Siddhartha, Varada, Priyaka, Nanda, Gonanda, Ananda, Pramoda, Swastika, Dhruvaka, Kshemavaha, Subala, Siddhapatra, Govraja, Kanakapida, Gayana, Hasana, Vana, Khadga, Vaitali, Atitali, Kathaka, Vatika, Hansaja, Pakshadigdhanga, Samudronmadana, Ranotkata, Prashasa, Swetasiddha, Nandaka, Kalakantha, Prabhasa, Kumbhandaka, Kalakaksha, Sita, Bhutalonmathana, Yajnavaha, Pravaha, Devajali, Somapa, Majjala, Kratha, Tuhara, Chitradeva, Madhura, Suprasada, Kiritin, Vatsala, Madhuvarna, Kalasodara, Dharmada, Manma, Thakara, Suchivaktra, Swetavaktra, Suvaktra, Charuvaktra, Pandura, Dandavahu, Suvahu, Rajas, Kokilaka, Achala, Kanakaksha, Valakarakshaka, Sancharaka, Kokanada, Gridhrapatra, Jamvuka, Lohajvaktra, Javana, Kumbhavaktra, Kumbhaka, Mundagriva, Krishnaujas, Hansavaktra, Candrabha, Panikurchas, Samvuka, Panchavaktra, Sikshaka, Chasavaktra, Jamvuka, Kharvaktra, and Kunchaka.

History

Historically, Kartikeya enjoyed immense popularity 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 the demon 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. 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, where he is worshipped during the Durga Puja festivities alongside Durga.

In Rajatarangini


Rajatarangini[6] tells....Burning of the four queens of King Sussala: Four queens took this opportunity of the enemy's weakness and set out to follow the late king to the next world. Fearing interruption, however, from an attack of the enemy, and deterred also by the exhaustion


[p.124] of their servants, they could not go to the distant Pitrikānana, but were quickly consumed near the temple of Skanda, not far from the palace. Queens Devalekha born at Champa and her mother-in-law Taralalekha, Rupollekha, and the accomplished Jajvalā born at Vallapura, and Rajalakshml daughter of Garga; — all perished in the fire. The Damaras believed that the snow fell on account of the accession of the new king to the the throne, and therefore named him Himarāja.[VIII(i),p.123-124]

Jat connections

We find in the above list that not only Jat but number of Jat clans are there. We try to interpret some of the shlokas in this chapter with sanskrit language quotations with the help of what Jat historians have mentioned.

According to Hukum Singh Panwar (Pauria)[7], It may not be out of place to mention here, as confirmed by N.S. Chaudhary[8] on the authority of Shiva-Stotra, one of the generals of Kartikeya (Skanda) carried name "Jata (जट)". It is well known fact that in the Deva-Asura war Kartikeya (Skanda) commanded the forces of the former, and it is quite plausible to believe that the warriors (later known to Panini as Ayuddhajivi ganas), led by general called Jata, became famous as Jat in history. We have also reason to believe that Panini, when used the phrase 'Jata jhata sanghate' (denoting union or federation or confederation or binding together, etc.), took his clue from the Jata general's role in fomenting unity in the warriors against Asuras. Jata general is also believed to give name Jutland.

....Akshasantarjana, Kunadika, Tamobhrakrit, Ekaksha, Dwadasaksha, Eka Jata ... Beholding the installation of Kartikeya, These and many other mighty companions, O king, came to the high-souled and illustrious Kartikeya". [9]This has been illustrated in following shlokas in the online edition of Mahabharata in Sanskrit alongwith Devanagari as under:

अक्षसंतर्जनॊ राजन कुनदीकस तमॊ ऽभरकृत akṣasaṃtarjano rājan kunadīkas tamo 'bhrakṛt [10]
एकाक्षॊ द्वादशाक्षश च तदैवैक जटः परभुः ekākṣo dvādaśākṣaś ca tathaivaika jaṭaḥ prabhuḥ [11]


The Jat historian Dharmpal Singh Dudee, has explained the above mahabharata legend, in which Brahma nominated Swami Kartikeya as senapati of all the beings and performs his coronation on this position. On the occasion of coronation, Swami Kartikeya received various offerings from manifold people. One of these was a chief of all the senapatis (generals) named Jat. [12] This shloka reads in Sanskrit as under:

अक्षः सन्तर्जनो राजन् कुन्दीकश्च तमोन्नकृत।
एकाक्षो द्वादशक्षश्च तथैवैक जटः प्रभु ।।

Translation- O Rajan! Akshaḥ santarjana, kundīka, tamonnakrata, ekāksha, dwādashāksha and a 'Jat' the chief lord offered to Swami Kartikeya.

Antiquity of Jat

Thus appearance of Jat name as such in Mahabharata and other Jat clans along with Brahma shows that name of Jat is as antique as Brahma.[13] Not only Jat word existed at that time but also the other Jat clans from which various Jat clans further originated.

Skanda Purana

See main article Skanda Purana

Skanda Purana, one of the major eighteen Puranas, a Hindu religious text, is the largest Purana, and is devoted mainly to the life and deed of Kartikeya (also called Skanda), a son of Shiva and Parvati. It also contains a number of legends about Shiva, and the holy places associated with him. The Puranas was recited by Skanda, and is available in distinct parts, sometimes fragmented too. It also describes the Shaiva tradition in Hemakuta region (near Vijayanagar) of Karnataka, Kashi part describes the Shaiva tradition of Varanasi, and the Utkal part states about Shaiva tradition of Orissa.


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References

  1. Clothey p.49 Skanda is derived from the verb skanḍr meaning "to attack, leap, rise, fall, be spilled, ooze"
  2. Ratna Navaratnam ; Karttikeya, the divine child:the Hindu testament of wisdom published in 1973 by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan
  3. http://www.saivism.net/pantheon/skanda.asp
  4. Ratna Navaratnam ; Karttikeya, the divine child:the Hindu testament of wisdom published in 1973 by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan
  5. http://www.saivism.net/pantheon/skanda.asp
  6. Kings of Kashmira Vol 2 (Rajatarangini of Kalhana)/Book VIII (i)]],p.123-124
  7. Hukum Singh Panwar(Pauria):The Jats - Their Origin, Antiquity & Migrations, Rohtak, 1993, p. 342 ISBN 81-85235-22-8
  8. Niranjan Singh Chaudhary, Jat Prasanottari (Hindi), Jat Hitkari Prakashan, Vrindavan, New Delhi, p. 14
  9. Mahabharata Shalya Parva section 45
  10. Mahabharata in Sanskrit Ch-44/53
  11. Mahabharata in Sanskrit Ch-44/54
  12. Dr Mahendra Singh Arya, Dharmpal Singh Dudee, Kishan Singh Faujdar & Vijendra Singh Narwar: Ādhunik Jat Itihas (The modern history of Jats), Agra 1998 , Page 2
  13. Dr Mahendra Singh Arya, Dharmpal Singh Dudee, Kishan Singh Faujdar & Vijendra Singh Narwar: Ādhunik Jat Itihas (The modern history of Jats), Agra 1998 , Page 2

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