Son of Shiva and Parvati, worshipped through various other names also such as Kumaraswami, Shanmukha, Subrahmanya. He resurrected the path of virtue by killing Tarakasura and Shurapadma who were harassing the world.
In Bharat, Ganesha is a very popular deity.
The young and the old alike worship him. Like Ganesha, the other beloved son of Parvati is Kartikeya. He is a hero who even as a very young boy, became the commander of the army of the angels and killed wicked Rakshasas (demons) like Taraka.
Kartikeya has several names. As he was breastfed by six Krittika deities, he is called ‘Kartikeya’. Since he has six faces, he is ‘Shanmukha’. Because of his omniscience, he is ‘Subrahmanya’. As he gathered a huge army to kill the demons, he is also called ‘Mahasena’. Since he captained the army of the angels in the fight with the Rakshasas, he was given the title of ‘Senani’ or ‘Commander’.
Since he was born out of the life-source that slipped (‘Skanda) from Shiva, he is named ‘Skanda’. With the peacock as his mode of transport, he is ‘Shikhivahana’. And he is always a young boy because of which he is ‘Kumara’. This term also means that he is one who kills evil persons.
And he is more handsome than Manmatha, the Gods of Love. He is worshipped as ‘Guha’ too since he protects his devotees from enemies. He thus has a large number of names.
For those who do great and good deeds for the welfare of the world and are considered Gods, it is no wonder that there are a hundred or even a thousand such names.
“Brahma, You Don’t Know”
Once in Kailasa Lord Shiva was in the divine assembly. All his angelic devotees had gathered there. There were divine music and the sound of musical instruments along with singing.
Bhringi was dancing. Brahma, Indra, and many others were all there. Kartikeya stood in front of Shiva. Shiva merely raised his eyebrows to stop the dance, looked at Kumara once and then at Brahma. The latter stood up. Everyone was looking at him and Brahma said, “O Lord, you asked me to start the education of your son. And accordingly in the early hours of the dawn tried to teach him the sacred ‘Omkara’. All at once he held my hand and asked, ‘What is the meaning of Om?’. ‘Even before learning to write, you should not ask for the meaning,’ I said.
“Then, Lord Shiva, he scolded me and was about to beat me. He who killed Tarakasura on the seventh day after his birth certainly will not care for me! I was afraid and said I would explain the meaning. I explained the spiritual significance of the word ‘Om’ in twelve thousand verses. Still, he was not satisfied and said, ‘Brahmadeva, you don’t know.’ He is standing before you. You may explain the meaning of ‘Omkara’ which is the Pranava. I do not know more than what I have already explained.”
What of Shiva?
Hearing from Brahma’s words, Shiva nodded his head admiring his son’s intelligence. He explained its significance in twelve lakh verses and then Kartikeya said, ‘Father, it is wrong on my part to have said that Brahma did not know.’
Shiva understood Kumar’s sarcasm. He also felt a little angry that Kumara implied that he, Shiva, was also ignorant. Yet affection and pride welled up in him because the son was so intelligent.
‘Then how many meanings are there for this Pranava?’, asked Shiva.
‘Twelve crores’, Kumara replied.
Shiva was wonder-struck at the wealth of knowledge Kumara possessed. With the feeling that this wealth of knowledge should result in the welfare of the world, he replied,
“Beloved Kumara, take birth on the earth, and by teaching the significance of Omkara to the humans, help them become higher beings.”
Kartikeya, as many believe, was born in a place called Shrikashi in Tamilnadu with the name of Tirujnanasambandhi. He preached the pursuit of higher knowledge, devotion to God, and the path of virtue.
Shiva had married Dakshayani whose father, Daksha, hated him. Because of this dislike, Daksha did not invite his daughter and son-in-Law to a sacrifice (yajna) which he performed. When Dakshayani went to the yajna by herself, he did not treat her with love and respect. Dakshayani, who felt humiliated, jumped into the fire and died. Later, she was born a daughter to Parvataraja. She had the name of Parvati.
Parvati was determined to marry Shiva. But Shiva was performing severe penance at that time. Just then a wicked Rakshasa by name Taraka was causing a lot of trouble to the world.
Who is Taraka?
Brahma’s son was Marichi who had a son named Kashyapa. Of the two wives, Kashyapa had, Aditi who gave birth to Indra and other angels.
They lived in heaven. Kashyapa’s other wife Diti gave birth to Daityas or Rakshasas (Demons).
These were wicked persons and hated the angels.
Vairanga was one of the sons of Diti. His wife was Varangi who bore him a son, Tarakasura.
Another Rakshasa who was born to Diti married Surasa, also known as Maya. Their children were Shurapadma, Simhamukha, and Ajamukhi.
When Taraka was born, it appears, there were many terrible omens as if to indicate that he would cause a lot of trouble to the world. The whole earth trembled. A storm arose. The oceans were disturbed and the very mountains shook.
Wild beasts made terrible sounds. These bad omens plunged all good men into grief.
Taraka and Shurapadma grew up. They were very courageous and strong. Tarak became the Rakshasa Emperor in Shonitapura and similarly Shurapadma in Veeramahendra.
‘If I Should Die?’
Taraka was determined to conquer the Devas (angels). It was not an easy task. It was a very difficult, even for an extraordinarily strong person like Taraka. So he resolved to propitiate Brahma, get a boon from him that there would be no death for him, and then challenge the Devas.
So he began his tapas (penance) in the Madhuvana forest. For some days he took only water as food. Later only the air was his sustenance. He continued his vigorous meditation in different ways. He stood in water. He stood only on the thumb of his foot. Later he supported himself on his hands on the ground and continued the penance with his feet upwards. The more delay there was in Brahma’s appearance before him, the more rigorous did Taraka’s tapas become.
The flames generated by his tapas began to burn the worlds. Then Brahma manifested himself before Taraka.
“Tarakasura, arise. I am pleased with your penance. What do you want? Ask for the boon,” Brahma said.
Tarakasura opened his eyes. Right in front of him was Brahma standing. Taraka bent his head low and saluted him. “O Lord, bless me that I will have no death,” he asked.
Tarakasura, you should not ask for the impossible. Anyone born must die. A boon against this rule can never be given. Ask for anything else.” Tarakasura began to reflect. If he asked that he should not die at all, Brahma would not give him that boon. But if he should ask that his death must come only in a particular way, it might be granted. Therefore I should ask that this death must happen under conditions that would be impossible. Then Brahma would surely grant it.
And he, Taraka, would be an immortal.
At that time Shiva was engrossed in severe penance. For none would it be possible to disturb or distract his mind from the tapas. Hence, Shiva’s marriage was an impossibility. Therefore, if he, Taraka, should now ask that his death should come about only by a son of Shiva, that would be a very clever way.
And Tarakasura thought further – I must be safe even if he marries and a son is born. Just an infant, even if it is Shiva’s son, cannot do anything to me. So it would be very clever indeed to ask that my death should come about only by a child seven days old.”
Tarakasura prostrated again before Brahma and asked –
“Lord, if then I must die, let me die from a son of Shiva, and when he is seven days old as a child.”
Brahma smiled. “So be it”, he said, and with that blessing disappeared from the scene. Taraka was immensely happy that he had got a boon making him immortal. And now with his unbearable arrogance, Taraka threw all the three worlds into a fright.
Indra was afraid of him and gave him his elephant Airavata. Kubera made over all his wealth. Wherever there were good things, all of them became Taraka’s property. He drove out the angels from Heaven and appointed demons (Rakshasas) in their place. Everywhere thefts, murders, and looting increased. The very deities of the Cardinal Directions became slaves and the Apsara damsels of Heaven became his maidservants.
The angels were unable to bear the rampaging of Taraka and prayed to Brahma. Brahma knew that only a son born to Shiva could stop the wickedness of Tarakasura and till then none would be able to control or punish him. Yet he appeared before Taraka.
Tarakasura saluted Brahma and said, “Lord, you are so kind as to come to me. What is your command?”
“Taraka, you are unequal in courage and in strength. But the’ angels are in agony because of you. It is not possible for them even to live in their own world of Devaloka. Don’t harass them.
Allow them to live in peace in Devaloka,”
“Your wish will be obeyed,” Tarakasura acquiesced. He left the Devaloka, for the angels and returned to Shonitapura. But his wickedness did not subside. He was proud that there was none to restrain him. The angels continued to be troubled by him and continued to be in fear.
Brahma told them,
“There is only one way in which you can escape the trouble of Tarakasura.
Only the son of Parameshwara can kill him. So Shiva must marry Parvati. You must so manage that Parameshwara sees Parvati and marries her.”
Kartikeya is born
The angels were successful even in that difficult task. They so managed that Shiva set his eyes upon Parvati and was pleased with the penance and devotion of Parvati.
He married her. Over time, on the sixth day of the first half of the month of Margashira, Parvati gave birth to a son. Hence, that day is known as ‘Skanda Shashti’. Even at birth, Kartikeya had the divine weapons of Shakti, Shoola, and Mahastra in his hands. Hearing of his birth, the Krittika angels came and fondled him. They nourished him with their breastfeeding.
Kartikeya was after all the son of Shiva. So it did not take long for him to become strong and powerful. His body developed rugged strength in a few days. There was a remarkable brightness about him. His intelligence was immense. Valor and virtue were combined in him. All knowledge and the power of expression came to him very soon. Everyone who saw him felt a thrill and a delight.
There was a festival every day in Kailasa, the abode of Shiva and Parvati. God Brahma himself performed the early rituals like Jatakarma to Kumara. Shiva and Parvati blessed Kumara saying that he should kill the wicked and protect Dharma and righteousness. Shiva made Kumara sit on a throne studded with gems, and, anointing him with the sacred waters of holy rivers declared him the commander of the army of angels.
On that occasion, the different deities and angels made gifts of various powerful weapons and mystic powers to Kartikeya. The Sun God presented him with a chariot, which had the speed of thought. Yama, the Lord of the Nether-world, gave him Danda. Agni the Fire God gave him the Mahashakti and Aruna gave Kartikeya the Kukkuta bird symbolizing the eternity of time. The Kukkuta or the cock became Kartikeya’s pennant also. And he rode on the peacock.
Shiva sent Kartikeya with all other angels to kill Tarakasura. They all started from Kailasa.
Meanwhile, the divine architect Tvashta had built a city near the silver mountain Rajatadri for Kartikeya. The city had in it a palace, which contained a big assembly hall and a throne in it.
Mahavishnu made Kartikeya sit on that throne and in a grand festival declared him the master of the entire universe. Kumara now became the Protector of the Universe.
A Warning to Tarakasura
A huge army of the angels was formed under the command of Kartikeya for the elimination of Tarakasura. The war cries of the soldiers and the thundering sounds of drums and other war-like instruments echoed from all directions. Before declaring war, it is an accepted convention to send messages asking the enemy to follow moral principles and come to terms for peace.
Likewise, Indra sent a messenger to Tarakasura.
The messenger told Tarakasura,
“You have done great injustice to the world. Indra, the Lord of all three worlds, is coming now to kill you. If you have a love of life, Then make your peace with him. Or else, you must get ready to face the war.”
Taraka’s anger knew no bounds. “Fool, get out of my presence,” scolded Taraka and made him run away.
Has Shiva’s Son Come?
Taraka was surprised that a messenger like that should come and irritate him. So he thought within himself, I have seen this fellow, Indra’s strength so many times. He has so often been beaten by me, so often fallen and eaten the dirt on that ground, fallen so heavily that even grass could not grow there later.
Because of my great-grandfather Brahma’s words and out of pity, I had left the Devaloka to him. And now he exhibits such pride! But how could he get this courage? Of late I have also had a series of ill omens. My left eye has been fluttering. And so much of dirt rises in the sky. And there are the ugly shouts of wild beasts. Blood has rained from the skies. These ill omens must mean something. A son must have been born to Shiva. It must be only because of that, that Indra shows something like courage.
Engrossed in thought, Tarakasura went up the steps and from the high terrace of his palace, looked around scanning the far-off horizon.
Then he heard the war cries of the army of the angels, like distant thunder. He saw a huge army marching on him with all its four divisions, namely, the elephant bore wing, the chariots, the cavalry, and the Infantry. Martial music with different types of drums and trumpets could be heard from a distance.
Right in the middle of the marching army, the great hero Kartikeya sat in a bright chariot covered in a white canopy and equipped with all weapons. A saffron pennant with the symbol of a cock fluttered atop the advancing chariot.
Taraka now knew that it was the son of Shiva coming to confront him. He remembered the boon he had asked of Brahma and obtained.
He was shaken, thinking that his end was near.
But he did not want to show any fear before his men and pretended to be unaffected. He sent for the commanders of his army and asked them to make all preparations for the war. The Rakshasa army marched forward like the surging waves of the ocean.
Who Should Stop Taraka?
The Angels and the Demons stood prepared for the war, with their armies indefinite formations. The fight began. Spears and swords, bows and arrows, clubs, axes and rope-slings were all employed as well as many other varieties of weapons.
Duels, wrestling, fight with army formations at close quarters – all such methods were used in the terrific battle. Thousands lay dead on the battlefield and several thousand others were wounded. The field was crisscrossed with streams of blood. Indra, the king of the angels, fought with Taraka and was defeated.
Veerabhadra engaged Taraka in a severe encounter for a long time. Then with determination to defeat the enemy, Mahavishnu himself fought with Taraka. But he fell unconscious, hit by the ‘Shakti’ weapon of Taraka. Recovering quickly yet, he roared like a lion and felled Taraka with his ‘Chakra’ or the wheel-weapon. Taraka stood up again and it seemed an unending fight between equals.
Taraka is killed
Brahma, the creator, was watching the terrible fight. Seeing the defeat and the distress of the angels, he told Kartikeya, “O son of Shiva, Taraka cannot be killed by any but you. You must at once dispatch him.” All the angels joined Brahma in that prayer.
Now Kartikeya himself marched on the foe.
Small in size, he yet appeared fearless and frightening to the enemies. He confronted Taraka who brandishing a sword, shouted to the angels, “You cowards! You have brought this tender boy to face me. Are you not ashamed?
Where is your entire valor? Are even Indra, Vishnu and Shiva so naive? Unable themselves to do anything, they have sent this child to fight with me, like pushing a calf into the tiger’s mouth! I am certain to kill this boy. But like a great demon like me, this is certainly a sinful deed.
Taraka then turned to Kartikeya and said –
“Look here, boy, you are still so young. If you want the pleasure of a fight, get it from your friends in a game or by wrestling. Go back, and if you wish, send your father to fight me.” Kartikeya replied –
“Listen, Taraka. True, I am young. But my valor is not young. Can darkness persist before even the morning sun?
A small spark can destroy the vast forest. The mysterious and spiritual sound ‘OM’ is just one letter, but its significance is immense. The quality of heroes is to fight on the battlefield with weapons. But you are talking like a mad man. Stop your prattle.”
The two then engaged in a terrible fight. Both now took up the ‘Shakti’ weapon.
The boy divine also called Shanmukha because of his six faces, fell once, with Taraka’s ferocious blow. But he rose at once and like an angry lion attacked Taraka, bringing him flat on the ground. When Taraka got up again, all the angels trembled in fear.
When again they began the fight, the very air was stilled. The sun became dull and the earth had tremors. Even the mountain-gods like Himavanta, who had come to see Kartikeya in action, were afraid. But Kumara gave them courage.
He offered his obeisance to his parents, Shiva and Parvathi, in his mind and as everyone was gazing, he lifted the trident transferring all strength and power to his little hands and hit Taraka on the chest with it. Blood spread out like a stream, the demon’s chest getting split. Taraka, the powerful Rakshasa, of whom all were in fear, fell dead.
Rakshasa Army is razed
Now the angels were in high spirits. With renewed courage, they killed many of the Rakshasas. Some Rakshasas fled, and some others begged to be spared.
The angels in joy brought down a rain of flowers. Learning that Kumara had killed Taraka, Shiva went there with Parvati, and both blessed and caressed the son. The women of heaven came down to perform ‘Aarati’ to Kumara. There was divine music and the sages chanted Vedic hymns in blessing.
Kartikeya later came to know that Krauncha and Banasura, two Rakshasa followers of Taraka, who had both, run away after the war, were troubling people near the mountains. Even from where he was, Kartikeya shot arrows and killed them.
Another demon Pralamba was teasing Adishesha’s son Kumuda, who prayed to Kartikeya in his pain. Kartikeya meditated on Shiva and sent his ‘Shakti’ weapon. The invincible weapon killed Pralamba destroyed his army also and returned to Kartikeya.
Thus Kartikeya destroyed the wicked Rakshasas who troubled the world. All good people admired and worshipped him. He helped the angels to remain in their place happily. Then he returned to his city near Kailasa.
One More Evil
Though the angels were freed from a lot of harassment with the death of Taraka, their happiness and peace were short-lived. There was that other Rakshasa, Shurapadma, as strong as Taraka himself. He lived in the city called Veeramahendra.
He had married Padmakomala, the daughter of Vishwakarma, the architect of the angels. He had sons by name Bhanukopa, Agnimukha, Hiranyaka, Vajrabahu and others who were all valiant and wicked. He had brought for them brides from among the Devas, Rakshasas, Gandharvas, Siddhas, Vidyadharas, humans and Nagas and made the Rakshasa group increases and multiplies. And all those members of the community were harassing good men, doing wicked deeds and spreading injustice and vice.
Even as people felt a little relieved that at last Tarakasura had died and they had escaped his oppression, the torture by Shurapadma and his clan began. Who could put an end to this now?
The sage Narada thought that Kartikeya, who had killed the wicked Taraka, should himself destroy Shurapadma too.
So Narada, singing the praise of the Lord, as usual, went to the city of Veeramahendra. He told Shurapadma-
“Indra’s wife Shachidevi is a gem among women. If you are able to bring her and keep her with you for yourself, then you would also have avenged the death of your brother Taraka at the hands of Kartikeya, as planned by Indra.”
Narada knew that tendering good advice to the wicked Rakshasas was useless. Such Rakshasas had to be provoked into further evil deeds so that they would be destroyed by their sins. This was the method followed by Narada.
Shurapadma with his Rakshasa qualities felt that the advice of the sage was a favor to him. He began efforts to capture Shachidevi.
Assault on Indra’s Heaven
Shurapadma resolved to march on Indra’s Heaven with his Rakshasa army. His son Bhanukopa came and said,
“Father, please permit me to go to Heaven with the army. I will crush the opposing angels and fetch Shachi.”
Shurapadma agreed and the Rakshasa hordes marched on Devaloka, the Heaven of the angels under Indra was afraid because he already had a taste of the prowess of Tarakasura. He had heard that Shurapadma was mightier than Tarakasura. He consulted his minister and priest, Brihaspathi, as to what he should do. Unknown to any, Indra, with his consort Shachi, came to a forest called Shrikashi near Chidambaram.
The angels were distraught because they could not see their king Indra and did not know where he had gone. Brihaspati consoled them and made Jayanta, the son of Indra, the leader of the angels. He also ordered that preparations be started, for the angels to confront Shurapadma and fight.
Angels are Defeated
The Rakshasa army attacked the kingdom of the angels. The wicked Rakshasas forcibly entered every home, dragged and molested the women and snatched their jewels. They mercilessly killed the children. They beat everyone they saw, shouting, “Show us your Indra.” “Where is Shachi?” they shouted and beat up the angels further. They rampaged and spoiled the beautiful gardens of Heaven and set fire to houses.
The army of the angels opposed the Rakshasa hordes. Commanders like Bhanuka and Renuka fought and were defeated. Jayanta came to the battlefield and fought bravely. But Bhanukopa vanquished him and took him captive.
Though the angels’ kingdom of Heaven was searched thoroughly, Indra and Shachi could nowhere be found. Bhanukopa looted great wealth from Heaven and having it carried by the captive angels, returned to the capital city of Veeramahendra.
Assurance to Angels
Brihaspati and the other angels came to the forest near Shrikashi and told Indra of the plundering of Heaven by the Rakshasas. Indra and Shachi were greatly pained. Indra left Shachi in the protection of Shastara, the presiding deity of that forest, and went with Brihaspati and the other angels to Bramha. All of them then went to Shiva.
Shiva gave them his assurance –
“All of you may for the time being be in the safety of the Kakachala Mountain near the Rajatadri Peak. I will see that Shurapadma is killed by Kartikeya, and remove your troubles.”
Accordingly, al the angels went there.
Shurapadma’s sister Ajamukhi declared that she would find out where Shachi was hiding and started with her brother’s permission.
She found it out with her cleverness. Disguising herself as an angel, she talked to Shachi. She told her,
“Come with me, we shall go to Shurapadma’s palace. You will be happy there.”
But Shachi did not agree. Ajamukhi then threatened her. Those who were guarding Shachidevi caught hold of Ajamukhi and cut off her hands. She began to shout and roar in pain and anger, and ran to her brother.
Indra took Shachidevi to Kakachala and left her there in safety. Shurapadma became sorrowful and angry at the fate of his sister. I will teach a lesson to these angels. I will properly avenge your humiliation,” he thundered. He rounded up the angels, beat them and imprisoned them. He then went to the Shrikashi forest and searched for Indra and Shachi. They were nowhere to be seen.
In a rage, he destroyed that forest.
Shiva, after his assurance to the angels, sent for Kartikeya and asked him to destroy the Rakshasas to protect Dharma (righteousness) in the world. In deference to the father’s instruction, and also getting his mother’s blessings, Kartikeya assembled the troops of the angels. Preparations were made to besiege the city of Veeramahendra.
Veerabahu, one of the heroes in Kartikeya’s army, went to Shurapadma to persuade him to come to the path of virtue. He defeated all the Rakshasas who obstructed him and entered the royal court of Shurapadma. “O Rakshasa king”, he said,
“Before Kartikeya, who has killed Taraka, your bravery will not be of any use. If you face him, he will certainly kill you. Therefore release all the angels. Do not indulge in injustice; do not cause cruelty to the world. Promise not to be unrighteous, and be obedient to Kartikeya.”
But can wicked people be reformed by words of morality? Shurapadma was enraged. He sent a thousand of his wicked soldiers to kill Veerabahu.
But Veerabahu killed all those soldiers with his valor. Kartikeya then declared, “Tomorrow I will myself kill Shurapadma.”
The night was over. The next morning Kartikeya marched leading the huge army of the angels for the encounter. The army attacked Veeramahendra City.
Shurapadma was seated in his court. A messenger rushed in and informed him that Kartikeya’s army had laid siege to the city. “Has a flock of sheep come to fall into the mouth of the roaring hungry lion? It’s very good then. Come, March on for the war,” said Shurapadma. All his brothers, sons and other Rakshasa heroes stood up. Each one uttered words of impressive valor, like – “An elephant is not needed to defeat dogs. I can crush all those angels.” Shurapadma gave them his consent, and they marched on the enemy.
Bhanukopa was in the lead. Shanmukha asked Veerabahu to engage him. It was a bitter battle.
Arrows with the mystic power of the ‘mantras’ were used. In the end, Veerabahu pierced Bhanukopa with a spear and killed him. Thousands of Rakshasa heroes including Shurapadma’s other sons and brothers also died.
Finally, Shurapadma himself came to the battlefield with mad courage, thinking that he would kill Kartikeya. The two began a severe fight. Kartikeya cut the arrows of Shurapadma, made his chariot tumble, and snatched away his sword too. Then Shurapadma took his club.
“In a man like you, immoral and desiring another’s wife, no weapon can be effective, Can one who gives up morals secure victory?”
Saying so, Kartikeya shattered his club into pieces.
Then Shurapadma began to fight with his supernatural powers and tricks. He created several types of wild animals and many ugly and terrible spirits and Rakshasas.
Kartikeya was not afraid. Just to see at what level was the mind of Shurapadma, Kartikeya with his divine power showed him the ‘Vishwaroopa,’ his Cosmic Shape. Shurapadma was overawed. But there was in him no righteous mood or devotion to God. He only thought,
“Perhaps that boy also knows a little of magic like me.”
“This Rakshasa has no love of virtue and righteousness,” Kartikeya concluded.
“He has no desire for knowledge. For him, morality is bitter and unwanted. He is incapable of piety and love of God. It is useless to employ a mild method of persuasion. He has to be killed, to make the world safe.”
So resolving, Kartikeya used his all-powerful ‘Shakti’ weapon against Shurapadma. It flew towards him emitting fire, severed his head and returned to Kartikeya. The rest of the Rakshasas ran for life. The angels brought down a rain of flowers.
Kartikeya honored all the angels who helped in the elimination of the Rakshasas. He also released all the angels who had been imprisoned by Shurapadma. Whatever treasure had been looted and brought from different places, was all sent back to those places.
All the buildings, gardens and cities destroyed and burnt by the Rakshasas were got rebuilt by the help of the divine engineer Vishwakarma. Kartikeya seated Indra safely on the throne of Heaven. He also saw to it that everyone lived in peace and happiness, following the path of virtue. Shiva praised the valor of Kumara.
“My Goat is missing”
Once a person by name Narada came to Kartikeya and said,
“O Lord, I was performing the sacred ‘Ajamedha’ sacrifice. But the ‘ajar’ (goat) which is to be killed and offered as the sacrifice has disappeared. I have searched in vain. Some angels or Rakshasas must have taken it away.
The sacrificial rites have come to a halt. You are the protector of all sacrifices and the Lord of the Universe. You are the son of Shiva, the highest deity in any sacrifice. You protect those who are supplicants and fulfill the desires of all virtuous persons. Please get back for me that goat so that my ritual may be completed.”
Kartikeya sent Veerabahu, one of the heroes, to search for Narada’s goat.
There was no sign of that goat anywhere in the world. Then Veerabahu went to Vaikunta, the world of Mahavishnu, and found it there. He learned that as ordered by Vishnu, his men had taken the goat there to protect its life. Veerabahu brought the goat to Kartikeya. But Kartikeya kept quiet, without immediately handing over the goat to Narada.
Yajna with No Killing
Thereupon Narada requested again and said,
“Lord, please get me my goat. I will make a sacrificial offering of it and complete my yajna.”
“Look, the killing of any animal,” Kartikeya told him, “is not correct, for performing any Yajna (sacrifice). The Vedas, which are our ancient religious texts, do not prescribe it. Any yajna has to be performed in a non-violent manner.
The word ‘Aja’, which stands for a goat, also means that which is not born, meaning rice. So ‘Ajamedha’ is the Yajna wherein boiled rice is offered to the fire-god, Agni. So complete your Yajna eschewing violence. Then you will get the full credit and profit from the sacrifice.”
Narada accepted this learned exposition of the Yajna. He took the goat with Kartikeya’s permission, but did not kill it, and brought it up. He performed his Yajna in a non-violent manner and set an ideal for future generations.
For the Well-being of the World Among the boys who displayed extraordinary courage and heroism for the welfare of the world, the very first one was Kartikeya. Even as a child he was an unparalleled hero. He destroyed the wicked, protected the virtuous and upheld ‘Dharma’ or the path of virtue. His learning was unequaled. He also brought into vogue the performance of sacrifices without the killing of animals.
The temples of the deity Subrahmanya are seen in many places in our country. “Subrahmanya Shashti”, or the sixth day of a particular fortnight in the Hindu almanac, is a sacred day for Hindus. A very large number of devotees offer special worship on the “Shashti” days. The great seer Shankaracharya has composed a hymn in the Sanskrit language in praise of Subrahmanya. It is called the “Subrahmanya Bhujanga Stotra”.
By killing the wicked Rakshasas Taraka and Shurapadma, Kartikeya demonstrated that however strong and intelligent the wicked may be, they will finally be punished and vanquished. Tarakasura was so proud thinking that he had obtained a boon from Brahma with such cleverness and there could be no death for him. Evil can prosper for some time and seem to win. But its final defeat and destruction are inevitable. This truth has been upheld in our mythology in various ways and the rise and fall of many personages.