About the Book
In an age where wars were frequent, whether to subdue an enemy or to conquer new lands, the emergence of a God of War was inevitable. This god, full of youth and vigour, outshining the luminosity of the Sun, was Karttikeya, the Son of Shiva; Murugan for devotees of the South.
According to one story, Karttikeya's birth took place under unusual circumstances. Indra was sitting deep in thought on the mountains, pondering on the problem who should be the commander of his armed forces, when suddenly he heard the cries of beautiful young girl on the verge of being kidnapped by a demon. Indra rescued the girl and she said that if she had a husband to protect her, she would be free from the dangers of demons. Devasena, the girl, wanted a husband who was invincible, famous and a devotee of Brahma, one who could conquer the daityas and the devatas. For her was produced Karttikeya who grew up very fast and by the second and the third day had 6 heads, 12 eye, 12 years and 12 arms.
So go on the stories about the birth of Karttikeya. Legends constantly merge with imagination to pour forth hundreds of stories. The basic attempt is to protect the pure, how to make the wicked suffer for their misdeeds.
Dr. Shakti Gupta traces in her book the various aspects and legends which are built over the time around Karttikeya. She has collected invaluable material from history, literature and foklore to present to the reader an image of Karttikeya which has for centuries received veneration, respect and devotion from Hindus in this vast subcontinent.
C. Sivaramamurti, Indologist and Archeologist of International fame in his Foreword says. "This theme so interesting, Karttikeya, the son of Shiva has been chosen by Dr. Shakti Gupta for her book in which she has discussed the various aspects of Skanda. I am sure this woud he welcomed as an addition to our knowledge on one of the numerous deities of the Hindu pantheon that deserves to be better known than as in our knowledge today." Photographic illustrations add luster to the book and makes it a worthwhile possession for anyone interested in religious folklore.
About the Author
Born and brought up in pre-partition Lahore (Pakistan). Dr. Shakti M. Gupta did her Ph.D. in Botany from the Delhi University and her Ph.D. in oriental Archeology from Martin-Luther University, Halle-wittenberg. German Democratic Republic. Her published works include, Plant Myths & Tradition in Mythology, Loves of Hindu Gods & Sages, Surya the Sun-god, Legends around Shiva, Woman on Men, a novel Biography of Birbal Sahni, a Paleobotanist. Her work under publication is: Fair and Festivals of India.
Shakti M.Gupta is an established author having written on varied subjects. A Botanist by profession, she taught Botanist by Botanyat Dyal Singh College, University of Delhi and retired in 1992 as a Reader. Dr. Gupta obtained her Ph.D. in Botany for her work on Physiological and Biochemical Studies sin the Pre-sowing Hardening Treatment of Crop Seeds. In 1972, Dr. Gupta got her second Ph.D. from the Faculty of Oriental Archaeology, Martin Luther University, Wittenberg halle, Germany for her thesis on Plant Myths and Tradition in India. This qualified her as an Ethnobotanist. Her other books are: From Daityas to Devatas in Hindu Mythology; An illustrated Dictionary; Vishnu and His Incarnations; Legends around Shiva; Surya, the Sun God; Karttikeya, the Son of Shiva; a Short Biography of the Renowned Palaeobotanist, Professor Birbal Sahni; A Comprehensive Volume on Festivals, Fairs and Fasts of the India. Her most recent book, Plants in Indian Temple Art, is based on a survey of plants sculpted on Hindu, Buddhist and Jaina temples, including the myths, legends and folklore associated with these plants. Te Association of Plant Taxonomy awarded her the Jnan Chandra Memorial Medal for the year 2000 for the book Plants in Indian Temple Art.
Skanda is, as Kalidasa has rightly put in his Meghaduta, the lustre of Siva,
whose crest is ornamented by the baby moon, far outshining the luminosity of
even the solar deity, which he placed on the lap of the flaming fire to protect the
vast armies of the celestials under Indra: rakshahetor navasasibhrita vasavinam
chamunam atyadityam hutavahamukhe sambhritam taddhi tejah, Meghaduta 1,43.
This is a theme of which one can never tire. As a baby he is most beautiful and
powerful to kill even Taraka. Between his parents, he is the singled out one for
bestowing their entire affection which strangely enough increased mutually in
both of them so much more in proportion as they gave freely to the child:
vibhaktam apyekasutena tat tayoh parasparasyopari paryachiyata. Raghuvamsa
3, 24. The prince of poets never tires, and sees the beauty of Skanda as he is en-
throned on the back of his peacook, mayuraprishthasrayina guhena, Raghuvamsa,
or as the beautiful young bridegroom with the personified army as his charming
bride, devasena, skandena sakshat iva hevasenam, Reghuvamsa 7, 1.
This theme interesting Karttikeya. the son of Siva, has been chosen by Dr. Shakti
M. Gupta for her book in which she discussed the various aspects of Skanda. She
has collected together evidence from history, literature, coins and inscriptions from
the epics and puranas, and from other points of view. She has gone into the cult
of Skanda, his iconography, his symbolism. She has discussed how Skanda is
known under 'other names also in one or other parts of India. If Khandoba is
peculiar to Maharashtra, Desika Subrahmanya is special in South India. The
Brahmasasta form is not at all known in North India, though there are several
representations in the South.
Dr. Gupta has got together a number of photographs to illustrate various
forms of Skanda and make the book quite interesting. She has added a useful
bibliography and glossary also.
I am sure this would be welcomed as an addition to our knowledge of one of
the numerous deities of the Hindu pantheon that deserves to be better known
than as in our knowledge today.
The names and epithets of Karttikeya are many. They also differ from area
to area. For instance, the deity is popular in South India by the name Subrah-
manya and Murugan and by the name Khandoba in Maharashtra, while in North
India it is more popular by the name Skanda, Kumara or Karttikeya. I have tried
to use the popular name of the deity - popular in a particular area while writing
about its cult in that area, and also the name under which it is mentioned in a
The spellings of names and places with diacritical marks have been made
phonetic, even in quotations, to conform to the spellings in the rest of the text,
as phonetic spellings are easy to read for those not familiar with diacritical marks
The word Devata, though commonly translated as a god, really means a divine
being or a demi-god. Daityas, Asuras, Rakshasas, Nagas, etc., are names of tribes
inhabiting the country.
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