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Kartikeya, also known as Skanda, Murugan 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 Sri Lanka, Hindus as well as Buddhists revere the sacred historical Nallur Kandaswamy temple in Jaffna and Katirkāmam Temple situated deep south. Hindus in Malaysia also pray to Lord Murugan at the Batu Caves and various temples where Thaipusam is celebrated with grandeur.
In Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, Kartikeya 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’).
The Atharva Veda describes Kumaran as ‘Agnibhuh’ because he is form of ‘Agni’ (Fire God) & Agni hold in his hand when kumaran 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, the indweller.
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. This lead to a very interesting name : Devasenapati viz. Pati (husband) of Devsena and/or Senapati (commander in chief) of Dev (gods).