Skanda, the supreme commander!
Skanda is regarded as the supreme commander of the Gods and
the destroyer of evil forces. He is also regarded as the epitome
of knowledge. He is revered as an infant, as a child -
(Balasubramanian), as a handsome and romantic prince (Valli
Manavaalan - Azhagan Murugan), as an invincible warrior - ruler,
and also as a mature renunciate. There is a wealth of literature
centered around Murugan.
Skanda is regarded as the son of Shiva and Parvati and hence
the brother of Ganesha. There is a shrine to Skanda in all
Saivite temples in Tamilnadu, and likewise there are shrines to
Shiva and Parvati in all temples dedicated to Skanda.
Valli - the daughter of a tribal ruler and Deivayanai or
Devasena the daughter of Indra the King of Devas are the consorts
of Skanda. Skanda is also revered as the nephew of Vishnu and is
referred to as Maal Marugan. The rich mythology surrounding
Skanda hence revolves around all of the above mentioned
manifestations of Divinity.
Skanda is one of the most revered forms of Divinity in the
southern state of Tamilnadu. Skanda is known as Murugan - the God
of the Tamils, and as Subramanyan, Balasubramanian, Saravanan,
Kumaran, Guhan, Shanmukhan or Aarumugan (the six faced one),
Velayudhan and Kartikeyan. The name Murugan is synonymous with
the language Tamil and the concept of beauty Azhagu.
This legend narrates the story of the destruction of Kaama by
Shiva and the birth of Skanda.
Sati, the consort of Shiva immolated herself at the site of
the Daksha Yagna, which was later destroyed by Shiva. Sati was
reborn as Uma, or Parvati the daughter of the mountain king
Himavaan (the Himalayas). Shiva withdrew himself from the
universe and engaged himself in yogic meditation in the
In the meanwhile, the demon Surapadma ravaged the earth and
tormented its beings. It was realized by the gods that only the
son born of Shiva and Parvati could lead the gods to victory over
Tarakaasuran, Surapadman and their demon companions. They plotted
with Kaama, the lord of desire, to shoot a flower arrow at Shiva,
as he sat in meditation, so as to make him fall in love with
Parvati. When Kaama aimed his arrow at Shiva, he opened his third
eye and burned him to ashes instantly. Upon hearing the pleas of
Kama's wife Rati, he brought back Kama to life, in flesh and
blood for her sake, and in a formless state for others.
Siva married Parvathi thereafter. At the request of Parvathi
for a son, Siva opened his third eye and the sparks of the fiery
seed of Shiva were unbearable; even the fire God Agni could not
bear them; this fire was then transported by the river Ganga into
the Sara Vana forest, where Sara Vana Bhava was born. He was
raised by the six Kartika damsels.
Parvati combined these six babies into one with six faces, ie.
Shanmukha. Skanda or Kartikeya the supreme general of the devas,
led the army of the devas to victory against the demons. The six
sites at which Kartikeya 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 (prior to the 3rd
Tirukkurukkai, in Tamilnadu near Thanjavur, enshrines Kaamari
Murthy, the destroyer of Kaama, in the Veeratteswarar temple
which is one of the 8 Veeratta stalas celebrating Shiva as the
destroyer of evil.
The Story of Skanda's marriage with Valli
Legend has it that the ghat region of Tamilnadu was ruled by
Nambirajan, the king of the Kuravas or the hill tribes.
Nambirajan worshipped Siva, praying for a daughter; his prayers
were answered and it was revealed to him that he would discover a
baby in the nearby woods and that she would be his daughter.
Accordingly the kurava king discovered 'Vallinayaki´ in
the woods and brought her up as his own.
Valli grew up to be a beautiful maiden and Subramanya - son of
Siva and Parvati sought her hand in marriage. Their courtship is
full of very interesting stories which form the basis of many and
folk and classical performing arts in Tamilnadu.
Murugan assumed the form of an old bangle seller, and sold
bangles to Valli, in return for a local delicacy of honey soaked
corn flour. A conversation ensued between the two, which was
interrupted by the arrival of Valli's brothers, a valiant lot
who were highly possessive and protective of their sister.
Flustered by their sudden appearance, and unwilling to indulge in
battle, Skanda manifested himself as a Vengai maram (a stump of
which is still seen in the Temple at Velimalai in Southern
Skanda appeared again, in the guise of an old tribal king and
sought her hand in marriage. The brothers materialized again, and
Skanda transformed himself into an old ascetic from the
Himalayas, and they left the spot.
Upset by the ongoing hindrance, Skanda sought the help of his
brother Vinayaka - the remover of obstacles, who appeared on the
spot as a wild elephant. The scared Valli, embraced Skanda and
promised to offer him anything in return for protection from the
wild beast. Skanda sought her hand in marriage, and Valli
consented gladly, realizing that her suitor was none other than
Murugan, whom she and her tribe held in great regard.
Valli married Murugan and the marriage was celebrated in great
splendor by Nambirajan, the king of kuravas.
There are several temples to Murugan all over the state of
Tamilnadu (as in Palani, Tiruchendur etc.) and prominent shrines
in Siva temples (as in Sikkal and Vaideeswaran Koyil) and at
least one shrine in all Saivite temples throughout the state.
Prominent shrines to Skanda in the neighboring southern states
include Haripad and Udayanapuram in Kerala, Subrahmanya in
Karnataka and the modern Skandagiri temple in Secundrabad -
Skanda - also known as Murugan, Kartikeya, Subramanya is one
of the most revered deities in the southern state of Tamilnadu.
Of the multitude of temples dedicated to Skanda, the 6 most
important ones are the Aaru Padai Veedu shrines, where it is
believed that Skanda the commander of the Gods, sojourned during
his battle with the demon Soorapadman. These shrines have been
revered in 2000 year old Tamil poetry of the Sangam age.
Skanda rides a peacock called Paravani- surely the perfect
vehicle for a cosmic dandy. His preferred weapon is the Vela or
spear hence the popular name Velayudhan - he whose weapon is a
spear. He is called Yuddharanga or the wisdom of war too. He is
represented with six heads and twelve hands. He is popularly
known as Subramanium too which is a common south Indian name.
Tiru Aavinankudi(Palani} near Madurai enshrines Dhandayutapani
in a hill temple.
Tirupparamkunram near Madurai enshrines Subramanya celebrating
his marriage with Devasena the daughter of Indra. The shrine to
Siva here has been revered by the Tevaram hymns of the
Pazhamudircholai near Alagar Koyil near Madurai is a simple
shrine on the Pazhamudircholai hill enshrining Skanda.
Swamimalai in the Chola Kingdom enshrines Swaminathan in a
temple built on an artificial mound accessed through a flight of
60 steps symbolizing the 60 years that constitute the cycle of
years in the Indian calendar.
Tiruchendur enshrines Subramanyar and Senthilandavar in a vast
temple with a lofty gopuram visible for miles, on the shores of
the ocean in Southern Tamilnadu.
Tiruttani near Tirupati and Chennai enshrines Subramanya in a
hill temple accessed through a flight of 365 steps. It is to be
remembered that whilr the sixty steps of Swamimalai symbolize the
sixty years of Indian calender, the 365 steps of Thiruthani
symbolizes the 365 days of an year.