Shiva Purana: The Birth of Kartikeya (Sanskrit)

  • Ruth Vanita


Kartikeya, the son of Shiva, is the god of war, leader of the army of the gods, and, in some traditions, patron of wisdom and learning. Represented as a handsome youth riding on a peacock, he is usually considered a bachelor and is widely worshiped in south India as Subrahmanya and Murugan. He is also called Kumara (which means both “unmarried” and “slayer of the demon Mara”) and Guha (from “cave,” suggesting also “hidden,” “secret”). In several ancient texts, we are told that women were not permitted to enter his shrines. Even today, women cannot enter his ancient temple at Sandur near Mysore. In one aspect, he is worshiped by women to obtain a son, as he is the protector of children and youth. This protective role is a benevolent inversion of his hostility to procreation and childbirth, an aspect evident in his leading troops of underworld beings, including eight planets who cause children’s diseases.2 As the Tamil Murugan, he is the god of love and revelry, often erotically associated with a tribal woman Valli.3 Although sometimes represented courting and marrying, he is most frequently represented flanked by both wives but touching neither, holding on to his lance instead.4 It would appear that the Murugan cult developed from the merging of an early hunter and fertility god with the Sanskritic Kartikeya. However, in most other parts of the country as well as at the Palani temple in Madras, he is represented as celibate.5


Burning Sensation Ancient Text Tribal Woman Sanskrit Epic Sacrificial Fire 
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  1. 3.
    Fred W. Clothey, The Many Faces of Murukan: The History and Meaning of a South Indian God (The Hague: Mouton Publishers, 1978)Google Scholar

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© Ruth Vanita and Saleem Kidwai 2000

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  • Ruth Vanita

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