The Gods and devtas were also in a hurry for them to marry, because they were being greatly harassed by a terrible demon named ‘Tarak’—, who had succeeded in pleasing Lord Brahma in granting him great powers, by his single-minded devotion to the easily pleased Lord of Creation. The powers that this demon mastered could not be overcome by anyone not even Brahma Himself.
This Tarak started to disturb the rhythm of the seasons and scattered the offering meant for the demi Gods and devtas. This was very disturbing for the three worlds. The devtas went to Brahmaji who declared his inability to do anything to one to whom He himself has given unconquerable powers, but he declared that when Shiva and Parvati marry and have a son, he will destroy this demon. Hence the hurry to get Shiva out of His unhappy state and get Him married quickly.
They then took the help of Kamdev, the God of love, but the poor chap got burnt in the process by Shiva’s third eye — therefore, although he lives because Rati — his wife — pleaded with Shiva so much, still he has lost his body for all times and is invisible.
Shivji in the meantime was being persuaded by Vishnu and Narad to get married for the good of the world and seeing the devotion of Parvati and after testing her love for Him, he eventually married her. They were very much in love. After even a thousand years of ‘love play’ as the scriptures call their honeymoon, they were unable to have a child.
The devtas got very panicky, and asked Shiva for His seed, so that they could plant it in another womb. Agni agreed to take it and in the shape of a pigeon took it into herself, but due to its great power she could not retain it and threw it in the Ganges. It got dissolved into the water and entered the body of six women — the wives of six rishis — who were bathing in the Ganga.
Their husbands turned them out on the charge of adultery and they had to go and live in the mountains, where in due course they gave birth each to a part of a baby. They didn’t know what to do with the six parts and threw them back into the Ganga but the Ganga could not bear the load and went to Vishnu, who advised her to throw them on the reed grass on its bank.
There the six parts came together on the 6th day of the ‘Sukul Paksh’ in the month of Margashira (September-October) and Lord Shiva’s son was born of six women — a very handsome child but he had six faces. A divine being named ‘Karthika’ took him under her wing and thus he became known as Kartikeya.
Uma one day asked Shiva as to what had happened to the seed which He had given to Agni? On realising that they had no information about it, they both got worried, as the seed of one of the Holy ‘Trinity’ cannot be wasted. They soon found out from the demi-Gods how the seed was instrumental in bringing forth a child, named Kartikeya and this child was being brought up by a divine woman.
Both Shiva and Parvati in great happiness went and fetched their son to Mt. Kailash. It is said that Parvati was really very unhappy about not being able to bear a child herself and was angry with the Gods for having implanted Shiva’s seed into another woman’s womb, so she cursed all the other two divine wives that they also will never be able to have children.
That is why both Saraswati and Laxmi have no children of their very own. Kartikeya came to be known as Shadanand or Shadarupa (the six faced one). In the South of India he is called lovingly as Murugan or Subramanyan, the first meaning one who rides a peacock (which is his vahan) and the second because he had a very good and lovely fair complexion. He was a very good- looking child and grew up to be a very handsome young man.
Because Agni had first tried to bear him, he is also known as Agnibhooshank. Skand is another popular name for him earned when he fought and defeated Inder — the chief of the devtas. He was also in the reeds on the banks of the Ganga. Therefore, some call him ‘Saravanabhoo’ or ‘Sarojanman’ synonymous with the name of the ‘grass Saravana’ — which giew on the banks of the sacred river.
The devtas came to Shiva and asked the Lord for the loan of his elder son to kill the demon Tarak. The demon was soon vanquished by Kartik and he was appointed the Commander- in-Chief of the army of all the devtas for all times.
His fame spread far and wide and reached the king of Kronch (Heron), who wanted him to kill ‘Banasur’, great destructive demon. He killed ‘Banasur’, a demon who lived on ‘Krauncha Mountain’. He liked the place so much that he settled there in the deep south and later made it his home after his tiff with his parents.
He became so famous as a warlord that he was equated to the planet Mars — the one that is the warlord amongst planets.
Kartikeya and Ganesh lived very happily together with their parents and were very fond of each other, but there seems to have cropped up a problem, the result of which some scriptures say was that Ganesh was married off earlier while Kartikeya was away taking a round of the world along with other Gods so as to be appointed the first amongst the gods to be worshipped if he stood first.
Ganesh in the meantime won the race by taking a round of his parents who were the world to him! And that annoyed Kartikeya so much that he refused to stay with his parents any more, and left for the south and made his home on the Kraunch mountain beyond the river Narbada and there became a favourite ‘God’ of the South.
In South he is referred to as the younger son of Shiva and Parvati and is shown as married to a woman known as Kumari or Devasena or VaIli, but in the North he is shown as never been married. Perhaps his anger with his parents while he was in the North — left the North Indians believing that he never did marry! — But he seems to have thawed when in the South and got married.
In the North it is reputed that he does not like women and hence women were not allowed in his temple. In any case, there are no temples dedicated to him in the North of India. He never came back to Kailash or Kashi, the abode of Lord Shiva and Parvati but they still go to visit him — Parvati on the full moon night of every month and Shiva on the new moon night.
As said before Kartik is one of the most popular Gods of the South. He is worshipped with much fervour on ‘Skand Shasthi’ in the Tamil month of Tulam (October-November). He is seen holding an arrow in one hand and a bow in the other. Here he is also known as Kumar — Mahasena — Senapati — Sidda — Sena, Siddha Swami — Yudha-dhara, Guhya (the mysterious one) Shakti-dara — Dwaadas Kakasha (twelve-eyed).
He has a lot of temples dedicated to him in the South of India. On ‘Skand Shasthi’ the devotees rush from one temple to another in their effort to reach as many as possible and please the Lord. This day is observed as the day he killed the demon ‘Tarak’ for whose destruction he was born and became also known as Tarakjit. Even in the South his image is always shown along with other Gods although he occupies the middle spot.
In Bengal also Kartik is worshipped and recognised as the handsomest of the demi Gods. On Durga Puja — he has to be worshipped along with Ganesh and Durga Ma.
Kartik can be shown holding a bow, an arrow — a conch — a rose and even a sword in one hand, the other hand is always shown as of giving a blessing and is held with the palm up in a gesture of giving a boon. His vehicle is a peacock.