Kartikeya, The God of War

Kartikeya, the god of war and general of the army of the gods, is known for his extraordinary strength. He is yellow skinned and usually has six heads. Depending on the number of arms depicted, he holds in his hands, a spear, a bow, an arrow, a noose, a discus, a cock, a shield, a conch-shell, a plough and a sword. He has one hand in a charitable and the other in a protective pose. In many idols found in the Southern part of India, he is shown as having twelve arms. His vehicle is the peacock.

His origin may have resulted from the assimilation of a deity from the Southern parts of India. In ancient times his worship was very widespread and there are references about his images in homes and temples.

With the advent of Shiva, Kartikeya started losing his importance in Northern India where he was sometimes relegated to the position of a guardian deity in Shaivite temples. In the South he is still popular, and is also associated with deities like Murugan, Velam and Seyyan. In some texts he is regarded as the son of Shiva and Parvati and is therefore the brother of Ganesha. The reason for his having six heads can be found in one of the stories relating to his birth. A passage in the Mahabharata mentions Agni’s adulterous relationship with six wives of the Rishis (ascetics), who represent the six stars that form the Indian Pleidaes in the constellation of Taurus. The relationship resulted in the birth of Kartikeya. Because of his having six heads, all his six mothers were able to suckle him at the same time.

In the Hindu month of Kartik (October-November), the clay image of Kartikeya is worshipped and then immersed in the river. At the festival associated with the goddess Durga, his image is set up by her side. Many women worship Kartikeya so that they may be blessed with a male offspring.

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