(I-DISCOURSE BY N. R. SRINIVASAN, FEBRUARY 2012)
This festival celebrated on February 6 this year according to North American Panchangam is dedicated to the worship of Lord Subrahmanya who is popularly known as Murugan to Tamilians and the few North Indians as Kartikeya. This festival derives its name from the Tamil month of Thai and the Nakshatra (asterism) Poosam in Tamil corresponding to Pushya nakshatra in the month of Maagha. This festival is celebrated in Tamil Nadu and wherever Tamils are settled in places such as Malaysia, Singapore USA, UK and Australia etc.
To those who do not know Murugan or Subrahmanya Lord Krishna reminds in Bhagvadgeetaa "Senaaneenaam
aham Skandah" among Generals I am Skanda. Also Sage Valmiki has describes his birth and role elaborately in one complete chapter of Ramayana, singing exclusively about Kartikeya, yet another name by which he is known. Kalidasa has dealt at length on Kartikeya in Kumaara-sambhava. This is the day on which the little boy Murugan was appointed as "Deva Senaapati" supreme commander of the Army of the Divines to eradicate the evil force Surapada and others. Paarvati presented him with the "Vel", a Tamil word meaning lance, a Sakti weapon with which he became invincible. He was also as sharp in Intelligence as the tip of the lance and was called Guru Guha. Puranas glorify that he even defeated his father Siva in arguments on spiritual matters and was accepted as Guru by him. It also beats the imagination of the religious persons why Lord Krishna has made no reference to his famous brother Ganesha who is so popular with all Hindus. Probably Skanda was his equal in intelligence, valor and protection of Dharma and not so Ganesha.
How do we justify the appointment of a General presented with a powerful destructive weapon in the hands of the Lord celebrated in Puraanas and celebrated by many as a Memorable Day fit for worship and calls for celebration? Why did Krishna glorify this aspect of Kartikeya in his Bhagvadgeeta, Song of the Celestial? The enlightened understand, the ignorant criticize and the wicked and arrogant say that even gods wanted weapon for destruction and it is the sign of stregth where might is right.
Lord Krishna said in Bhagvadgeetaa whenever Dharma declines in the world beyond certain tolerable limit which the earth can bear, he will incarnate to preserve Dharma for destroying the evil and protecting the innocent and helpless. That is why he is in all support and praise for Skanda in his book whose creation is for preservation and propagation of Dharma and spread of supreme knowledge.
Chanakya well known exponent of Neeti-saastra advocates four Upaayaas (golden rules) to a ruler to wisely govern the subjects and to establish orderliness in society. These are Saama (compromise), Daana (charity), Bheda (tactful diplomacy) and Danda (punishment). Lord Krishna resorted to his powerful weapon Sudarsana Chakra (wheel) as a last resort to subdue the evil. So, Siva had to create Lord Subrahmanya, as he himself was powerless due to his generosity moved by the compassion for his devotees whom he made invincible, not thinking about the consequences, as Puranas say. Danda should be the lost resort when all other means fail. So we see Murugan with his Vel. When you see Murugan you do not see any sign of anger in his facial expression with his powerful weapon in hand. He is all smiling. His intentions are not vengeance but eradication of the evil for the larger benefit of humanity. Therefore he is seen in pleasant mood even while engaged in a fierce battle.
Lord Subrahmanya is least known in the North, in spite of his being celebrated in Ramayana and Bhagvadgeetaa except in some parts like Bengal and Orissa. Some years back a big group of Hindu religious devotees with great difficulty got permission to visit and worship the famous shrine of Lord Kartikeya in a lone Hindu Temple in Pakistan on Kartik Poornima Day. Some in the North believe that Kartik Poornima is his Birth Day. Even among Tamils a large number believe that Thai Poosam is his birth day. Murugan's Birthday is celebrated in the Tamil Month of Vaikaasi on the day of Visakha Nakshatra form which star the Tamil Month Vaikaasi derives its name. Puranas and Panchangas confuse a lot as to such important religious days. When is Lord Subhramanya really born? It does not matter. He is always there with us and we need not wait for Shashti or Visakha of any particular month to worship him?
To a spiritual thinker "Vel" the spear symbolizes the weapon to destroy the ego in people. Kartikeya is the embodiment of "Apara Vidya", Supreme Knowledge. That is why he is called "Guru Guha", Guru of Deep or hidden knowledge. His intelligence is as sharp as the spear head with which he kills all egos as he does with his spear all enemies. Kaartikeya to North Indians is known as Shadaanana (Shat=six and Aaanana=face) or Shan-mukaha with six faces. Supreme Principle expresses itself in all human beings through five sense organs and mind which are necessary for humans to function. These are represented by six faces in the iconic figure.
Om Sarravan bhavaaya namah! Vetrivel Muruganukku aro haara (Hail unto the great Murugan with his victorious spear)!