Myth & Legends of India: The Birth of Skanda

Here is a tale of the Hindu War god, Skanda (A.k.A) Kartikeya. From Myths and Legends of India


Skanda aka Kartikeya Skanda Legends in the Puranas


Sometimes also known as Murugan (Bachelor god). The six heads represent the The six sites at which Karthikeya sojourned while leading his armies against Surapadman are Tiruttanikai, Swamimalai, Tiruvavinankudi (Palani), Pazhamudirsolai, Tirupparamkunram and Tiruchendur. All these sites have ancient temples glorified by the Tamil poems of Tirumurugaatruppadai of the Sangam period (c. the third century C.E.). These six sites collectively came to be known as “Arupadai Veedu” meaning the six battle camps of the Lord.  New World Encyclopedia

The Birth of Skanda

Pg. 85 – 89

After Siva revived Kama, thereby restoring himself to full virility and energy, he and his wife Parvati engaged in such vigorous and protracted love-making that the whole universe was agitated. For thousands of years they hid themselves away in Parvati’s private chamber, and although no one knew exactly what they were getting up to, the heaving and shaking and cyclones and earthquakes that there ardor caused spread panic throughout the three worlds. A turbulent universe is a burdensome one, and despite the agitation the surrounding air became sluggish and compressed, which greatly added to the weight on the back of the tortoise that supports the earth.

Moreover, the demon Taraka seized his opportunity to add to the mayhem, and his violence and cruelty so distressed and alarmed the gods that they went to Lord Vishnu, and begged him to intercede with Siva.

Vishnu took all the gods to Mount Kailasa, but when they got there Siva was nowhere to be seen. They only found his army, keeping guard on his palace and refusing to allow anyone to enter it. When Vishnu asked for access to the god, even he was told that Siva was immured with Parvati; that so expert was he in science of love-making that thousands of years had not exhausted his amorous repertoire, and there was no knowing when he would emerge.

Vishnu grew angry at this. He broke through the army and marched right up to Siva’s door, where he called out: ‘Supreme you may be, and unparalleled in your love for your wife, but your unceasing pleasures have caused great perturbation in the universe, and have given the demon Taraka the chance to run riot. The distress of men, gods and all creatures is intense, and I implore you to come out and restore the universe to order.’

When Siva heard this, along with the moans and wails of the gods accompanying Vishnu, he was at last distracted from his love-making. Indeed, he quickly lost all further desire, but felt compelled to go through the motions for a while longer, so as not to leave his wife annoyed and unsatisfied. At last she too was content to pause. Leaving her to rest, he appeared at the gate of his palace.

Vishnu and the assembled gods looked so dejected, that Siva was forced to take note of what they told him. With compassion and concern in his voice, he said, ‘I hear what you say, and I feel for those who have suffered, though nothing can be done now about past sufferings that – carried away by my rapture – I knew not of. As for the shaking of the universe, I am happy to let that cease. The air too will move freely again, now that the worst burden has been lifted. But as regards the malevolence of Taraka, a hero is needed to fight him – a new son of mine. Take, then, my seed, and let it beget that hero in whoever is willing to be fertilized by it.’

Even thousands of years of love-making cannot exhaust the seed of Siva. He split some of it on the ground; and at the request of the other gods, Agni, the god of fire, turned himself into a dove and perkily pecked up the seed.

But by this time, Parvati had had her rest, and was ready to start making love again. Watching from afar, she was furious to see that her husband had been distracted by the gods’ appeals, and that dejection and anxiety had dampened his desire. She was even more furious to see how he had wasted his seed, spilling it on the ground for Agni to eat up. Storming out of the palace, blazing with all the anger of her thwarted passion, she shouted at Vishnu, ‘How dare you all come and invade our joy and our privacy, dragging my husband away from our bed, and unmanning him with worries. You have destroyed my own pleasure, and have cast doubt on whether I shall now conceive; and for this I curse you all, and condemn by my curse all your wives to barrenness and sterility!’

Then she turned to Agni and said, ‘You were a fool to eat up the fallen seed. That is not a proper thing to do; it was theft of what should be given only to me. I curse you to be afflicted by feverish, torturous burning from the seed within you; and any others who receive that seed will be similarly afflicted.’

And with that, she stomped back into the palace, dragging her sheepish husband behind her.

It is part of the ceaseless ritual of the gods to eat the food that is offered to Agni’s sacred fire. It therefore happened that the seed that was within him passed to them too. Brahma, Vishnu and all the gods all found themselves pregnant with Siva’s burning seed, and in accordance with Parvati’s curse the feverish burning that the seed caused them was agonizing, and drove them nearly mad.

So they went back to Siva, and once again Vishnu called out to him from outside his door. ‘Please, great Siva,’ he cried, ‘remove the terrible pain of the seed that you split, and which Agni consumed, and which now has entered us all and made us pregnant with a feverish burning. We were not made to bear children – that is our wives; they have become barren through Parvati’s curse, and we see no future for the universe unless you can have mercy on us.’

This time Siva was so cheerfully and confidently busy with his love-making that their plight merely amused him. However, he had no desire to cause lasting damage to the universe, and he shouted back, ‘You will be instantly relieved of your torment if you simply vomit up the seed. Do that now and I think you will find that things go better for you.’

The gods accepted his command, and abased themselves before him not only by vomiting up his seed, but by praising him and worshiping him. The seed that they vomited turned into a wonderful golden mountain, whose peak touched the sky.

But Agni, god of fire, could not vomit up the seed in the way that the other gods could, and was still tormented by the feverish burning. He cried out in agony to Siva, ‘If I committed an offense by eating up your seed, please forgive me! It was only a request of the gods that I did so. I beg you to release me too from suffering.’

Still unwilling to interrupt his love-making, Siva shouted out merrily, ‘All right. It was indeed sinful and perverted of you to eat up my seed – there were better ways of taking it and making use of it. But it was partly the gods’ fault for requesting you to do so, and I forgive you now. Just make sure it gets into the womb of a good woman, and you will be relieved of it and the agony it is causing you.’

Agni was reassured by this, and he called back, ‘But where is such a woman to be found? Your seed is hard to bear, and only your own wife, Parvati – whose name is also Sakti, the supreme energy of the universe – is fit to bear it!’

But Siva was again too carried away with the passion it to take any notice of this, and it fell to Narada, chief sage of heaven, to encourage Agni by saying, ‘I know a way. Find some women when they are bathing at dawn in summer, and place Siva’s seed in them. That will bring you relief at last, and create the offspring of the seed that our tormented universe so badly needs.’

It so happened that wives of the Seven Celestial Sages – who form the constellation of Ursa Major, – were bathing one summer dawn. The sun was scarcely up, and the water made them cold, so they looked to Agni for warmth. One of their number, Arundhati, knew that to go too close to Agni could be dangerous, and tried to prevent the other six; but they insisted on edging up to him, and the moment that sparks from his flames fell on their hair, the seed of Siva that he bore entered the women through their hair-follicles. Instantly, Agni was relieved of his suffering, and he skipped away happily, back to the nether world where he lives.

But the feverish burning that afflicted both him and the gods who had absorbed the seed earlier now entered the six wives, and their sudden pregnancies caused them horrible pain and sickness. Moreover, their husbands suspected adultery, rebuked them angrily, and threw them out of their supposed transgression.

Nearly mad with the pain, and desperate to be restored to their husbands’ favor, the six wives took advice from a midwife, who induced miscarriages in them all. The product of their wombs coalesced into a single embryo, and they took it to a high peak in the Himalayas, and left it there.

But Himavat, the god of the Himalayas, was now tormented by the same feverish burning that had afflicted Agni, the other gods and the wives of the Seven Sages. He took the embryo and hurtled it down into the Ganges. The Ganges couldn’t bear it either, and spewed it out into a clump of reeds. And there, at last, the seed matured into a boy – handsome, cheerful and energetic.

Thus was Skanda born, offspring of Siva, also known as Kartikeya: the hero who destroyed the demon Taraka, and restored the universe to peace and harmony. When he came into being, Parvati – daughter of Himavat and wife of Siva – turned up to bless him; and though he had not been born of her, milk started to flow from her breasts. She suckled him as her own, and her joy and love spread through the universe, reviving the spirits of Vishnu and the other gods. There was general jubilation, with praise for Siva and Parvati, and blessings on the new-born hero.

One thought on “Myth & Legends of India: The Birth of Skanda

  1. Pingback: Year 4: Life, Reflections, Myths, Psyche | Inside A Soul

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