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April - June 2024

Skanda, the Lord of infinite grace

Skanda Purana, authored by sage Vyasa, is one among the 18 scriptures which constitute the essence of spirituality. While it deals with many aspects like cosmology, mythology, moral values, Dharma etc., it describes Skanda elaborately, about the purpose, origin and nature of his manifestation. Skanda was not born in the usual sense of the term. His appearance was just an incident and Kalidasa termed it as ‘Kumara Sambhavam’. Kandha Purana written by Sri Kachiappa Sivacharyar traces the origin of Kandha’s descent on earth. After his intense Tapas, Soorapadman, the demon, got a boon from Lord Siva that no power on earth and no one who has taken natural birth, could harm him. Aspiring for supremacy over the whole universe, he started oppressing the Devas and their head, Indra in the celestial world. When they appealed to Lord Siva for protection, a powerful flame appeared from the third eye of Siva, while he sat looking at Parvathi. Siva developed six faces and there were six sparks of fire. Carried by Lord of Air, (Vayu) and Lord of Fire, (Agni), the flame was deposited in Ganga from where it reached Saravana Poigai (Pond) in the South. The flame was transformed into 6 beautiful babies. The wives of sages shining as stars came down and nursed the babies. As Goddess Parvati came, embraced the babies and merged them into one, the child came to be known as Skandha. Parvati held him in her lap and fed him with milk which served like a milk of knowledge (Jnana Pal). As the child grew up like a handsome youth, the mother gave him another gift, the Vel (lance) to remind him that the purpose of his appearance in the world was to put an end to evil  forces  represented  by Soorapadman and his brothers. Sooran was adept at taking different forms. He took the form of a tree and tried to deceive the solders of Muruga. Muruga as Commander in Chief fought the war and brought victory. Lord Krishna describes Skanda as the brave solder (Senaninam Aham Skandha). The Vel pierced through the tree dividing it into two parts. When these two parts fell at the feet of Muruga, signifying Sooran’s surrender, the ever- merciful Lord accepted him and gave him the privilege of serving the Lord as vehicle (peacock) and banner (rooster).

The Vel is not a mere weapon of destruction. Because it was given by Mother Parvati, the embodiment of Sakti, it signifies the power; the power of knowledge (Jnana Sakti). The Vel does many wonders. It removes the stains of impurities from the mind. It removes the illusion arising out of Maya and enlightens the devotees. Arunagirinathar the author of Thiruppugazh describes the infinite qualities of Vel, the lance, the peacock, the transport and rooster, the ensign. Arunagirinathar described the Vel as ‘Vinai Theerkkum Kadir Vel’ the spear which is powerful enough to ward off Karmas (theevinai). The Vel comes as a guardian while one takes the last journey. “As one walks alone, the Vel remains as an eternal guard, day and night and from all directions.” (Thanithu Vazhi….. Vel Vakuppu 3). The Vel removes the fear of death. It guides the devotees to cross the ocean of Samsara (material life) and attain liberation from the cycle of repeated birth and death.

The lower part of the Vel that runs long shows the depth of knowledge. The wider portion at the center represents the vastness of the knowledge and the pointed edge signifies the sharpness of Jnana. The Vel has the inherent power to succeed. The word “Vel’ is derived from the Tamil word, ‘Velluthal’, which means victory. The various qualities of Vel, Mayil (Peacock) and Seval ( Rooster) are mentioned i n Arunagirinathar’s Thiruvakuppu. An integral part of Muruga is peacock which defies description in its beauty and power. While peacock is His Vahana (transport), the rooster is His ensign. It is the rooster that sounds the Omkara Mantra in the morning.

Skanda is also known as Muruga. The name ‘Muruga’ is derived from the root Tamil word ‘Murugu’, the term associated with beauty, divinity and youth. He is known as ‘Su Brahmanya’, ‘Su’ signifying sacredness and ‘Brahmanya’ signifying the eternal reality, Brahman. He is known by the knowledge he symbolizes, Jnana Pandita; by his qualities of love and compassion, Karunakara ; by the spear he wields, Velayudha; by the peacock he travels, Mayilvahana; by his ensign of rooster, Seval Kodiyon; by the garland he wears, Kadamba; by the staff he holds at Palani, Dhandayudhapani; by the place he resides like Vayaloora and by his six sacred faces, Shanmukha. Since he was carried by Ganga, he is known as Gangeya and since nursed by stars from the galaxy, he is known as Karthikeya. As Parvati integrated the six babies into one, he came to be known as Skanda. Since he came to remove the sorrows of the age of Kali, he came to be known as Kaliyuga Varada. Since he came up among the sacred bush of reeds in the river Saravana Poigai, he came to be known as Saravanabhava. Since he gave the advice on the purport of Pranava to his father, Lord Siva, he came to be known as Swaminatha. He is known as Thambiran, the leader, as Andi, the renounced saint and as Guha who resides in the cave of the heart of devotees and as Kumara who is ever in youth. Atharvana Veda describes him as the son of Agni. As already said, in Bhagawad Gita, Lord Krishna says: “Among the warriors, I am Skanda”. Poet Nakkeerar described him as one who has six sacred abodes; as conqueror in Tiruchendur, having family in Tiruthani and Tiruparamkundram, as a youth in Swamimalai and Tiruavinangudi and as a matured old man in Pazhamudir Solai.

Muruga is always flanked by Valli on his side, who belongs to the hunter community. She got her name from the tuber crop which she was guarding. Valli, who hails from a simple background is known for her simplicity, humility, innocence, contentment and ever in happiness, doing her job sincerely. According to legend, having heard about the qualities of Valli from saint Narada, Lord Muruga went in search of her. On arrival at Valli Malai, the Lord took the form of a tribesman, went straight to the field she was guarding. At an appropriate time, he approached her and expressed his love, but Valli rejected him and asked him to go away. Muruga then adopted different methods to win her over; first taking the form of a tree and then an old man. When he found her stubborn, he sought the help of his brother, Ganesha. Ganesha took the form of an elephant, his original form and went near Valli. The terrified Valli fell into the hands of the old man. Finally, when Muruga appeared in his real form, Valli realized that she was right in front of her lover. Valli felt jubilant that she at last found the companion she had aspired for.

In case of Deivayanai (Devasena), Lord Indira, her father, offered her in marriage to Muruga for having protected them from demons. The marriage with Deivayanai took place in a very spectacular manner when even Lord Siva and Parvati were present. While Deivayanai was offered to Muruga in marriage, In case of Valli, In case of Deivayanai (Devasena), Lord Indira, her father, offered her in marriage to Muruga for having protected them from demons. The marriage with Deivayanai took place in a very spectacular manner when even Lord Siva and Parvati were present. While Deivayanai was offered to Muruga in marriage, In case of Valli, Muruga went after her, sought her company and ultimately united with her. Generally, when a devotee seeks unity with God, it is compared with the love exchanged between a lover and his beloved (Nayaka Nayaki approach). When expressed towards another human, it is pure love and when expressed towards the God, it becomes devotion. The true devotee (Jivatma) aspires to be united with God ( Paramatma). Here, instead of the individual J iva, seeking unity with Paramatma, the Paramatma (Muruga) himself was seeking unity with the individual ( Valli). This is the unique phenomenon where the Supreme Power, most revered, most adored, most loved kneels down to seek an individual like Valli. This unique phenomenon brought out by Sri Arunagirinathar is hailed by pundits and scholars as ‘Valli Sanmarga” the ideal way of unity. When a devotee like Valli, who has no aspiration of her own and surrenders before God, the devotee ceases his individuality and becomes one with God. Valli Sanmargam gives us the lesson that one who is pure, humble and devoted needs to make only the first move towards God and God would come and grace him.

Many saints like Nakkeerar, Kachiappa Sivacharyar, Avvayar, Thiruporur Chidambara Swamigal, Vannacharapam Thandapani Swamigal, Pakazhi Koothar, Muthuswamy Deekshitar, Pamban Swamigal, Ramalinga Adigal, Krupananda Variyar etc. have composed beautiful garland of verses; Sri Arunagirinathar’s Thiruppugazh remains as an outstanding work of devotion towards Muruga. The auspicious day for Muruga is Kanda Shashti, the day which marks the elimination of destructive forces and triumph of truth which is celebrated on a grand scale at Tiruchendur. The other important day is Thaipusam which falls in the month of Thai (January-February). It was on the day of Thaipusam, Goddess Parvati gave Muruga the all-powerful Vel. On the day of Thaipusam, Pazhani hill would witness a mass congregation of devotees. Panguni Uthram falls in the 12th month of the Tamil calendar (March-April) when the moon shines in full. It is on this day that the wedding of Muruga with Deivayanai took place. Adi Krithigai which falls in the month of August-September and Visakam star on the Vykasi month (May-June) are other important and auspicious days for Muruga.