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Sons of Shiva

Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 11:57 PM

The cosmic couple south Indian Bronze.

Terror of Taraka 

Every cosmic event begins with the triumph of demons and ends with the triumph of gods. Neither remains undefeated forever.

Prajapati Kashyapa, patriarch of the celestial race fathered both the devas and the asuras.

Kashyapa made the devas, the gods of light. The asuras were to be the demons of darkness. By granting them mutually antagonistic roles he ensured their eternal enmity. The gods and demons stood on opposite poles of the cosmos. Everything the gods did, the demons opposed. The gods fought for the day; the demons for the night. The gods favored summer; the demons favored winter. The gods helped the moon to wax; the demons caused it to wane. These eternal squabbles, these cosmic wars, with alternating triumphs and tragedies, provided the dynamism on which the cosmos sustained itself.

Often the gods, strengthened by sacrifices and offerings, the yagnas, managed to fight the demons on their own. But there were times when reinforcements had to be called for. Such a time arose when Taraka became commander of the asuras. The devas found it near impossible to defeat him. They went to Brahma for help.

"He can only be killed by a seven day old child," revealed Brahma, creator of life, master of destiny.

Kartik, commander of the gods; calendar print."Where will we find such a powerful infant capable of leading the gods?" they asked.

"With Shiva,' of course" replied Vishnu. 

Shiva's Divine Spark 

Shiva and Parvati had isolated themselves in their cave, away from all interruptions. Entry was forbidden even to the gods.

So the devas stood outside and, in a very loud voice, began discussing the chaos caused by the demons, especially Taraka. They began to howl and cry, lamenting their inability to deal with this terrible situation. Disturbed by the din and feeling sorry for the gods, the cosmic couple stepped out of their cave. "How can I help you?" Shiva asked.

"Give us a child capable of fighting demons on the seventh day of his life," the gods begged.

Shiva agreed. "Take the essence of my austerities. From it will rise my son, the greatest warlord in the cosmos."

Shiva cast his spiritual energies into a fire. But Agni, the fire-god, could not bear its radiance for long. He cast it into the river Ganga, causing its cool waters to boil. The terrible heat thus generated set fire to the reeds on the river banks. In that great blaze, Shiva's energy transformed into a radiant child, a boy with six heads and twelve arms.

Shiva with Parvati and Ganapati; painting by Jamini RoyWhen the fire died out, six wandering nymphs called the Krittikas, found the baby beneath the embers and smoldering ash, within the petals of a splendid lotus. They nursed him and took him to Shiva.

The sight of this extraordinary child filled the gods with awe. He was given many names in keeping with his status Skanda, the energetic emission; Mahasena, the great leader; Guha, the mysterious one; Shanmukha, the six faced boy; Pavaki, son of fire; Gangeya, son of Ganga; Sarabhu, born amidst reeds; Kumar, the boy and Kartik, son of the Krittika maidens. Shiva gave him a powerful lance, vel, as a weapon; a rooster for his insignia; a peacock for his vehicle, his vahana. He became Velan, the lance-bearer.

On the seventh day of his life the child let out a shrill war-cry and challenged the demons to a fight. It was a splendid battle, one that shook the foundations of the cosmos. Kartik killed not only the demon Taraka but also the demons Banukopan, Soorpadam and Simukha. The gods rejoiced and thanked Shiva for his son. 

Birth of Ganapati 

Shiva bearing his trident, trishula; South Indian statuette.Parvati wanted a child, someone to keep her company when she was alone in Kailas, when Shiva chose to meditate in isolation. Mount Kailas, without its lord, was a desolate place: all snow and stones, filled with an oppressive silence.

Shiva refused to be burdened with a family. In her loneliness, Parvati decided to produce a child on her own. She was after all the mother-goddess!

The next time Shiva disappeared into the deodar forest seeking a respite from married life, Parvati went to lake Manasarovar. There she scrubbed her body till it was red. She collected the dirt and dead skin, mixed it with sandal paste and clay and molded out of it a doll, a cute little boy. Parvati fell in love with her creation and quickly breathed life into it.

She called him Vinayaka, the leader, and spent days talking and playing with him. In his company she forgot all about Shiva. Days passed.

One day, Parvati told Vinayaka, "I don't wish to be disturbed. Don't let anyone into my cave."

"I won't," he promised.

Shiva and his family on a cold winter’s night; Pahari Miniature.
Sometime later, having finished his long penance, Shiva returned to Kailas. He found that the entrance to his cave Was blocked by a boy, one he had never seen before.

"Stop!" said the boy as Shiva approached the cave, "You cannot enter this cave." Shiva ignored the boy and tried to walk past him. "Stop! I say," the boy snarled, pointing his lance at Shiva, "One more step and I will have to use force."

"Listen boy, don't you know who I am?" said Shiva.

"No, I don't. You may be Brahma himself, but I will not let you enter the cave."

"How dare you talk to me in that tone?" said Shiva, his temper rising, "Step aside before I am forced to hit you." Shiva tried to push the boy aside and enter the cave by force, only to have a lance pushed against his throat.

Shiva lost his temper. He raised his trident, the dreaded trishula and hurled it at the boy. The sharp blades slit Vinayaka's neck. He dropped dead, blood gushing out of his headless body.

Disturbed by the commotion outside, Parvati rushed out of the cave. The sight of Vinayaka's severed head and lifeless body horrified her.

She fell to the ground, beating her breasts, shedding tears of blood. "My son, my son," she cried clutching the mutilated head against her bosom. Inconsolable, she pulled her hair and smeared her body with dirt.

Shiva impaling Andhaka; Stone temple carving Ellora.Shiva realizing the seriousness of the situation, regretted his anger, his lack of restraint. To make amends he decided to resurrect the boy. Otherwise, Parvati would never forgive him.

Shiva told his ganas, "Get me the head of the first living creature you encounter on leaving Kailas."

They did as they were told. They came across a mighty one-tusked elephant and brought its head to Shiva. Shiva placed it on the headless corpse and brought the boy back to life.

Vinayaka, with a body molded by Parvati and a head given by Shiva, came to be known as Ganapati, leader of the ganas. He was given a mouse to serve as his mount. He became guardian of the threshold, the cosmic doorkeeper.

He is the remover of all obstacles, Vighneshvara. Without appeasing him with prayers, no work can be done, no task can be completed, no project will be successful. He keeps watch over every hurdle. 

Andhaka, the Blind Son of Shiva 

Shiva fight Andhaka; North Indian miniature.Once Parvati covered Shiva's eyes in a spirit of play. Her hands started to perspire, for Shiva's eyes contained the energy of the sun. From Shiva's heat and Parvati's sweat arose an emaciated blind boy.

"He is our son," said Shiva. Parvati nursed him until he had developed a powerful sixth sense that made up for his blindness.

Shiva gave his blind son to the demon-king Hiranyaksha, his beloved devotee, who had no children of his own. Under Hiranyaksha's care, the child grew up to be a powerful warrior, dreaded even by the gods. He was called Andhaka, the blind-demon.

One day, Andhaka heard of Parvati, the most beautiful woman on earth. The bards described her beauty with so many superlatives that he decided to make her his queen.

Andhaka entered Kailas the moment he learnt that Shiva and his ganas had left for the lake Manasarovar. Parvati was all alone.

On seeing Andhaka, she sensed his unholy intentions. She could have easily destroyed him but her maternal instincts overruled her sense of outrage.

Ganesha; Painted wood carving from Orissa.
She prayed to Vishnu for help. The cosmic saviour heard her prayers and arrived on Kailas in the form of a hundred thousand damsels, the Mohinis, each one more ravishing than the other. Which one of them was Parvati wondered Andhaka.

Hours went by. Andhaka wandered amongst the beautiful women, totally confused and disoriented.

When Shiva returned, he divined what was happening. Infuriated, he impaled Andhaka with his trident; then, raising him up like a flag, he exposed the blind-demon to the elements. There he remained for a hundred thousand years, paying the price for his base intentions.

Andhaka lost his divine sight. He became emaciated and weak, with just enough strength to apologise to his mother and sing praises of his father.

Shiva, who never bore a grudge for long, was moved by his son's repentance. "I forgive you, Andhaka. You were born in darkness, hence you had a dark personality. But now you are enlightened. You shall now live amongst my ganas, taking your rightful place as my son."

Andhaka, the demon of darkness, became an enlightened follower of Shiva. The lord's grace removed the shadow of lust that had muddled his good sense. 

Ganapati's Marriage 

Kartik; Painted wood carving from Orissa.Parvati could not decide which one of her sons should be married off first: Kartik or Ganesha. Shiva proposed a competition. "Let us celebrate the marriage of the one who returns first after going all round the world," he said.

As soon as the race was announced, Kartik leapt on his peacock and rushed off to circumambulate the cosmos. It was a long journey, but Kartik's determination saw him through.

Ganesha did not bother to move from his seat. When he saw Kartik returning to Kailas he quickly went around his parents.

"I won," declared Kartik.

"No, I did. I went round the world before you did," said Ganesha.

"What do you mean: you went round? You did not take a step out of Kailas! It was I who went round the world on my peacock."

"You went around your world the great cosmos. I went around my world my parents. Since I finished first, I have won."

Parvati said, "You both have won in your own way: Kartik is the victor in a tangible sense. But in a more subtle, a more intellectual sense, Ganesha emerges as the victor."

Ganapati with his consorts; Siddhi and Buddhi; Kalamkari print
Parvati was proud of her sons, the strong Kartik and the wise Ganesha. She declared, "He who worships Kartik will gain strength; he who worships Ganesha will gain wisdom. You two are the two aspects of my power, shakti."

But in the matter of marriage, Shiva decided that Ganesha should get married first. "I think his wit deserves to be rewarded."

Kartik was furious. 

Kartik Leaves Kailas 

Shiva let Ganesha marry first despite Kartik's valid arguments and opposition. The two daughters of the prajapati Vishvaroopa, Siddhi and Buddhi, goddesses of success and intelligence, became Ganesha's consorts, reinforcing his position as lord of wit, wisdom and victory.

The event upset Kartik terribly. He felt that his parents did not value him, his qualities or his feelings. But few were willing to listen to him. Everybody was enjoying themselves at Ganesha’s wedding.

Kartik became convinced that he was not wanted. So he left Kailas and moved southwards. When the Krauncha hills tried to block his path, he simply hurled his lance and carved a path right through them.

Kartik riding a peacock accompanied by his two consorts; Devayani and Sundaravalli; South Indian Bronze.
Shiva tried to make peace with his son but Kartik refused to see him, or speak to him. He just wanted to be left alone. 

Kartik's Marriage 

Upset by his parent's apparent favoritism, Kartik moved to the southern hills and lived amongst the tribes there. The locals called him Murugan, the divine youth. He protected them from demons and monsters that plagued the valleys and forest paths. But all the while he remained lonely and miserable.

 Indra, king of the devas, saw the plight of this great warlord. He decided to give him a wife, his own daughter Devayani, also known as Sena. It was the least he could do for his mighty champion. They were married in the presence of the gods according to priestly rites.

Sometime later Kartik, while wandering in the dense jungles of the Tamil lands, came across Valli, a beautiful tribal girl. She stood in the middle of her father's millet field shooing away birds and beasts. Smitten by her beauty, Kartik asked for her hand in marriage. Valli agreed and the two got married by natural rites, inspired by love and in the presence of the elements. 

Agastya Moves South 

Shiva imparting wisdom to sages; Mysore painting.Shiva once gave a discourse on yoga. Every creature in the cosmos gods, demons, sages, sorcerers, kings, merchants, priests, slaves rushed to Kailas to hear him speak. As a result of this mass exodus to the northern mountains, the world started to tilt on one side.

"Wisdom, civilization, knowledge, skill, all this has come north; there is nothing left in the south. The balance of the cosmos is totally lost," exclaimed Brahma.

Shiva realised the seriousness of the situation. He turned to Agastya, his wisest disciple and said, "Go to the south. Take with you all that I have taught you: the skill of communication, the secrets of astronomy and medicine; the art of theatre and music; the science of agriculture and animal herding; the fundamentals of philosophy; the knowledge of warfare; sacred lore; the essentials of sacrifice. Take it all. Help the cosmos regain its balance."

"As you wish," said Agastya, "But give me something that will remind me of the Kailas hills." Shiva gave him two great hills to carry to the south. The demon Ettumba offered to carry them on a ‘kavadi : he tied each of the hills to the ends of a strong pole which he slung over his shoulder and moved to the south.

At Palani, in Tamil Nadu, Ettumba placed the hills on the ground and went to a river nearby to refresh himself. When he returned he found that he could not pick up the hills again. It was as if someone was holding them back.

South Indian calendar print of Shiva’s family, showing Ganapati as the elder son.
He looked around and found a beautiful young boy seated on one of the hills. "Get off the hill, boy," growled Ettumba. But the boy refused. "If you don't, I'll hit you." The boy still refused to budge. Ettumba lost his temper and raised his arm to strike the boy, only to be kicked into submission.

When Agastya arrived on the scene, he instantly knew that this was no ordinary child. "Who are you?" he asked. "I am Kartik, son of Shiva," replied the boy. "These hills remind me of Kailas, my home in the north that I abandoned long ago. I would like to stay here." Agastya let him.

Since then Kartik is said to reside atop the hills of Palani while Agastya resides on the plains. With the two representatives of Shiva in the south, there was no need for anybody to travel all the way to Kailas in the north. The balance of the cosmos was restored. It is said, each year Shiva and Parvati visit their son at his abode in the south, having reconciled their differences. 

Celibate Sons of Shiva 

There is considerable confusion about the marriage of Ganesha and Kartik in Jambudvipa, the rose-apple continent of India.

In the north, Kartik is considered to be the elder son of Shiva and Parvati, born before Ganesha. In the south,

Ganesha is described as the elder brother; Kartik is the younger one.

North Indian miniature of Shiva’s family, showing Kartik as the elder son.
In the north, Kartik is said to be unmarried because he saw his mother in all women. In the south, it is Ganesha who is believed to be the Brahmachari, the son who didn't marry because he found no woman as wonderful as his mother.

In North India, Kartik is described as a celibate warlord, the passionate commander of the gods who cheers men into battle and leads them to a glorious death. In some places where this quality is admired, women worship Kartik, seeking a virile husband like him. But in most places his warlike spirit is frowned upon and women, except a few widows, don't dare worship him. To them he is the god of men, lord of their martial brotherhood.

In the south, flanked by his two wives, Kartik is always seen as the personification of virility and valor. His beauty is legendary. His wives, Sena and Valli, symbolize his army and his weapons. His two marriages thus reinforce his position as the champion of the gods, the god of brawn, the mighty-god.

In the north, Siddhi and Buddhi are the consorts of Ganesha. They are the goddesses of accomplishment and intelligence. This significant alliance makes Ganesha the god of brains, the wise-god.

The two sons of Shiva and Parvati represent two aspects of power, shakti. Perhaps neither is superior nor elder to the other, for no man can be truly powerful unless he has a well balanced measure of strength and wisdom.

Writer Name:- Devdutt Pattanaik
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