- Karttikeya is the younger son of SHIVA and PARVATI; GANESHA is the elder son. There are many versions of his life story, as is usual in Hindu tradition. In the best known version, from the PURANAS, Shiva accidentally spills his semen into fire (AGNI). The fire is distressed because of the semen’s incred-ible power and asks the GANGES River for help. She agrees and the semen is thrown into her cool waters.The Ganges waits 5,000 years for the seed to gestate and produce a child, but none comes forth. She goes to BRAHMA to ask for advice. He tells her to leave the seed in a vast grove of reeds for 10,000 more years. After that long period a child is indeed born in the reeds. As he cries out, the six krittika goddesses (the Pleides) vie with each other to be the first to nurse him. Because of their quarreling he develops six faces around his head to look at all of them at once. As he is reared by these six goddesses, he receives the name Kart-tikeya, from their names.Once the word spreads that this child is born, the god of fire suddenly renews his interest and wants to claim him. The Ganges also wants him. They go to Shiva and Parvati to settle the dispute, but this only creates complications, as the couple also want the child. They all agree to ask the child and to accept his choice. The boy, loving them all, becomes four versions of himself. The one named Karttikeya became son of Shiva, the one named Kumara becomes son of the Ganges, the one named Skanda becomes son of Parvati, and the one named Guha becomes the son of fire.Karttikeya is depicted iconographically with a peacock vehicle, some sort of weapon in his hand, and a rooster on his banner. At times he is considered unmarried, while other stories give him a wife named Devasena; in South India he has a second wife, Valli. Karttikeya is very popular in South India, where he takes the name Murugan along with his other traditional names.Further reading: Cornelia Dimmitt and J. A. B. van Buitenen, Classical Hindu Mythology: A Reader in the Sanskrit Puranas (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1978); E. Washburn Hopkins, Epic Mythology (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1986); W. J. Wilkins, Hindu Mythology, Vedic and Puranic, 2d ed. (Calcutta: Rupa, 1973).
Encyclopedia of Hinduism. A. Jones and James D. Ryan. 2007.