Saturday, August 27, 2016

SKANDA UPANISHAD, PURAANA AND SHASHTHI



SKANDA UPANISHAD, SKANDA PURANA & SKANDA SHASHTHI

(Compilation for a discourse by N.R. Srinivasan, Nashville, TN, August 2016)
Skanda Upanishad
 “Upanishads point out that the vision of the Infinite Truth alone can set us free.  Seeing the unbounded truth and letting go of all false identification go together like the two sides of the same coin. The latter part is conveyed by the double negation   not this, not this (neti, neti)—in Brihadaranyaka Upanishad” says swami Chidanada.

Deep in Upanishads hidden is the wisdom of certain practical aspects to life. Those who have come across his Daily Bites, know that Swami Chidananda comes out regularly with such implied wisdoms which I have been forwarding to my readers often with my own understanding.  “True wisdom is when we see absence of division everywhere; meditation is when your mind is not pursuing objects as you infer from the mantra 11 of Skanda  Upanishad ” says Swami Chidananda.

Skandopanishad is one of the 108 Upanishads perhaps the last one compiled by Vedavyasa! This Upanishad is believed to be from Krishna Yajurveda. The author and the date of composition of Skanda Upanishad are not known. The text emphasizes there is no difference between Siva and Vishnu and that they are Vyahritis (emanations) of Brahman alone. While this has been the thought from the Upanishads, the same concept has been extended to all mythological divinities (upadevatas) created by  Puranas encouraged by Bhagavad Gita paying no heed to the results projected by it. Tvam  Yajnastvam, Vashatkaarastvam, Indrastvam, Rudrastvam,  Vishnustvam, Brahma tvam Prajapatih is the message of MNU.   In all sectarian oriented Puranas are hidden few rare mantras proclaiming equality of Siva and Vishnu and also equating them with Brahman. I have been circulating them from time to time sent by Muralidharan Iyengar from Singapore. This Upanishad, unlike Ganapati Atharva-seershopanishad dedicated to his brother, does not dwell on long list of Phalasrutis (benefits derived by mere reading) and therefore joins the bandwagon of 108 Upanishads presumed to be compiled by Vedvyaasa.  Today there are more than 200 Upanishads. 108 is a mystic number and also considered a holy number. It is rather strange Skanda so celebrated in Adikaavya, Ramayana and glorified in an Upanishad among 108 Upanishads is least known in the North while  Upa-devata  Ganesha has been pushed to the forefront and is the most popular deity worshipped by all Hindus.  Myths and beliefs play a key role in Modern Hindu Worship as could be seen in the popularity of Navagraha worship also to the utter neglect of spiritual focus! We focus on deities that are supposed to solve our day-to- day problems.  It is no surprise   that Skanda Upanishad is not included among Mantrapushpas published by Ramakrishna Math while Ganapati Athavarva-seershopanishat is included along with Navagraha Sookta playing to the gallery to satisfy the thirst of religious Hindus to-day! It is therefore not known to many though his worship is very popular with Tamils who resort to Thiruppugazh.

Skanda Upanishad is narrated by Skanda himself, the son of Siva, just like “Bhagawaanuvacha”   of Bhagavad Gita.   It contains only 15 hymns.   Skanda addresses his father Siva as the Great God (Mahadeva) and says that he is a Deva due to Siva's grace. He declares himself as Vijnana (knowledge, Guruguha) and Siva (auspicious) himself. This is in style resemble Bhagavad Gita or Yogopanishad where Bhagawan is the narrator.  Internal organs conceal the Truth and after their destruction, the god Vishnu emerges from the Samvit.   All inert things, except the Aatman (soul), are destroyers. The "imperishable" (Achyuta, a name of Vishnu) who discerns between consciousness and inertness is identified with Jnaana (knowledge), Siva-Vishnu-Parameswara (the Supreme God), the Light of Lights and Supreme Spirit (Brahman, Absolute Reality).  Skanda declares he is that Brahman and is indestructible.

Skanda says that Jeeva (a living entity) is Siva. Just as before husking, it is paddy and after de-husking the grain it is rice; similarly bound by Karma it is a Jeeva and when liberated from karma, it becomes Shiva. Skanda then pays his respects to Siva, who is a form of Vishnu and Vishnu, who is a form of Shiva. Further, Vishnu is said to dwell in the heart of Shiva and vice versa. Shiva and Vishnu are the one and the same.

A prayer in first person follows. Obeisance is offered to the Supreme Light, wishing for prosperity and longevity. Vishnu as Nrisimha and Siva as Mahadeva are addressed. The hymn declares that by their grace, people realize the incomprehensible Brahman, which transcends thoughts, is un-manifest and infinite and indestructible, but takes the form of the deities, Brahma(Creator aspect) , Vishnu (Sustasiner aspect) and Siva (dissolution aspect). In Narasimha Tapaneeya Upanishad Lord Narasimha is  addressed with the  same Panchaanana epithets  of Lord Siva like Sadyojata, Ghoraaghora etc., conveying thereby that both Siva and Narasimha are none other than Parabrahman alone (MNU).                                                         --Source: Wikipedia

The Skanda Upanishad ends with the hymn:
And the greatest step of Vishnu ; 
The sages see forever;
Like an eye, stationed in heaven.
And wondering over this  greatest step of Vishnu;
 The sages, wide-awake; 
Enkindle the sacrificial fire.

This hymn is the same as ‘tad vishnoh paramam padam’ and so originates from the Rigveda and appears in many other Upanishadic texts also.  

We come across many references to Lord Kartikeya from various purans over the last few years - including the one prescription by Varaaha Puraanam to pray to Lord Vishnu in the form of Shad-vaktra (6-faced) with the 6 most important names of Lord Kartikeya, underlying the universal truth of Sanatana Dharma that the forms are many but Lord is One. The same Varaaha Puraana, a Vaishnavite Manual, dismisses perceived differences between Vishnu and Shiva and tags those who harbor such differences as "Adhama". Though such endeavors may be the past time of wicked dis-sectionists   they try to keep peeling the onion and end up at naught.  It may be wise to leave such wasteful endeavors in the good hands of those who have nothing better to do in life. The same message is conveyed in Skanda Upanishad.

The Hindu genius has the peculiar virtue of reconciling the irreconcilable  like the host of   puranic mythological upa-devatas as Brahman itself. At a time the Saiva and Vaishnava were at logger heads, the story in Bhagavata of Siva being enraptured by the voluptuous beauty of Vishnu as Mohini, the enchantress has come in very handy. By its logical conclusion it produced the wonderful deity Hariharaputa known as Ayyappan so popularly worshiped by devotees of all traditions in India in  general  and Kerala in particular. Please find below the original text of Skanda Upanishad and its translation from a well-known scholar.

 The Text of Skanda Upanishad

Om! May He protect us both together; may He nourish us both together; May we work conjointly with great energy, May our study be vigorous and effective; May we not mutually dispute (or May we not hate any).
Om! Let there be Peace in me! Let there be Peace in my environment! Let there be Peace in the forces that act on me!
  Om sahanaavaavatu  sahnau bhunaktu sahveeryam  karavaavahai | tejasvi
naavaadheetam-astu maa vidvishaavahai  | Om   saantih saantih saantih ||

1-5. (Skanda says): Great God! Owing to an iota of your compassion I am the lapse-less being (not lapsing from the identity). I am a mass of knowledge! I am also the Good – what more (can I need)?

Owing to the waxing of the internal organ, what is not spiritual appears as such; by its warning, this is nothing but pure knowledge or Hari. I am knowledge alone, unborn – what more? All that is other (than) It (Brahman) is inert and perishes like a dream.

He who discerns the consciousness as distinct from the inert is the unswerving mass of knowledge. Only he is Shiva, Hari, luminary of luminaries, the supreme god, the Brahman – I am that Brahman surely.

Yatra asambhavataa(ga)m yaati svaatiriktabhidhaatatih |
Sa (g)m vinmaatram param brahma tatsvamaatra(ga)m vijrimbhate ||

Achyuto asmi mahaadeva tava kaarunyalesatah |
vij~naanaghana evaasmi shivo asmi kimatah parama(ga) m|| 1 ||

Na nija(ga)m nijavadbhaati antahkarana jrimbhanaat |
Antahkarana naasena sa(g)vinmaatrasthito harih || 2 ||

Sa vinmaatrasthitaschaaham ajo asmi kimatah param  |
Vyatirikta(ga)m jada(ga)m sarva(ga)m svapnavachcha vinasyati  || 3 ||

Chijjadaanaan tu yo drashhthaa so achyuto jnaanavigrahah |
sa eva hi mahaadevah sa eva hi mahaaharih || 4 ||

sa eva hi jyotishaa(ga)m  jyotih sa eva parameshvarah |
sa eva hi param brahma tadbrahmaaha(ga)m na samsayah || 5 ||

6-7. Jiva is Shiva and Shiva is Jiva; when bound by husk it is paddy, unbound of is rice. Thus the bound one is Jiva, released from karma he is eternal Shiva. Bound by ropes, he is Jiva, unbound,
Shiva Jeevah shivah shivo jeevah sa jeevah kevalah shivah
Tushena baddho vreehih syaattusaabhaavena tandulah || 6 ||

Evam baddhastathaa jeevah karmanaase sadaashivah |

 paasabaddhastathaa jeevah paasamuktah sadaashivah || 7 ||


 8-9. (I bow) to Shiva of the form of Vishnu and Vishnu who is Shiva; Vishnu is Shiva’s heart and Shiva, Vishnu’s. Just as Vishnu is full of Shiva, so is Shiva full of Vishnu. As I see no difference, I am well all my life.

Shivaaya vishhnuroopaaya shivaroopaaya vishhnave |
Shivasya hridayan vishhnuh vishnoshcha hriidaya(ga)m  shivah || 8 ||

Yathaa shivamayo vishhnureva(ga)m vishhnumayah shivah |
Yathaantaran na pasyaami tathaa me svastiraayushi  || 9 ||
10-15. Our body is said to be the temple, the deity Shiva in it is Jiva; one should throw away the flowers after worship and worship with the sense of identity. Perception of non-difference is knowledge, meditation the objectless mind. The bath is removal of mental impurity; cleanliness is control of the senses. One should drink the nectar of Brahma, take alms for sustenance, live by oneself devoid of duality. Such a person of wisdom will get liberation.
I bow to the supreme, sacred seat of power, to secure well-being and long life. They know themselves to be Brahman, Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, beyond thought, un-manifest, endless, non-decaying, by your grace, Nrisimha.
That high place of Vishnu the wise ones always behold like an eye extended in heaven. The sages, praising and awake exalt that supreme status of Vishnu. This is the doctrine of liberation according to the Vedas.
yathaantaran na bhedaah syuh shivakesavayostathaa |
deho devaalayahproktah sa jeevah kevalah shivah || 10 ||

tyajedajnaananirmaalya(ga)m  so ahambhaavena poojayet  |
abhedadarshana  jnaana  dhyaana  nirvishayam manah |
snaanam manomalatyaagah  sauchamindriyanigrah ah|
brahmaamritam pibed bhaikshyamaachared deharakshane || 11 ||

vasedekaantiko bhootvaa chaikaante dvaitavarjite |
ityevamaachared dheemaan sa evam muktimaapnuyaat  || 12 ||

sreeparamadhaamne svasti chiraayushyonnama iti|
virinchinaaraayana sankaraatmaka  nriisimha devesa tava prasaadatah |
achintyamavyaktamanantamavyayam  vedaatmakam brahma nijan vijaanate || 13||

tadvishhnoh paramam padam sadaa pasyanti soorayah |diveeva chakshuraatatam |    
tadvipraaso vipanyavo jaagrivaa(ga)m sah samindhate | vishhnor yat paramam padam || 14 ||

Ityetannirvaanaanushaasanamiti vedaanushaasanamiti
Vedaanushaasanamit-yupanishat  || 15 ||

Om! May He protect us both together; may He nourish us both together; May we work conjointly with great energy, May our study be vigorous and effective; May we not mutually dispute (or May we not hate any).
Om! Let there be Peace in me! Let there be Peace in my environment! Let there be Peace in the forces that act on me
Om sahanaa vaavatu | sahnau bhunaktu | sahaveeryam karavaavahai | tejasvinaavadheetamastu maa vidvishaavahai | Om   saantih saantih saantih ||
Here ends the Skandopanishad belonging to the Krishna-Yajur-Veda.
(Translated by Dr. A. G. Krishna Warrier; Published by   Theosophical Publishing House, Chennai)

 Skanda Gayatri:

Tatpurushaaya vidmahe mahaasenaaya dheemahi tannashanmukhah prachoedayaat || (MNU)

May we know that Divine Person! For that, we meditate upon Mahaasena. May Shanmukha impel us towardsit!



Shadaananam Kumkuma Raktha Varnam,
 Mahaa Mathim Divya Mayura Vaahanam,
Rudrasya Soonum Surasainya Naatham,
Guham Sadaa Sharanam Aham Baje—(Adi Shanikara)

Message of Skanda Upanishad:

Filling is important at times; emptying is "the need" at other times! Fill your mind with knowledge from a Guru after discussions and full understanding and also empty them to benefit others (sahaveeryam karavaavahai….).

Skanda Upanishad (mantra 11) says:

अभेददर्शनं ज्ञानं
ध्यानं निर्विषयं मनः
स्नानं मनोमलत्यागः शौचमिन्द्रियनिग्रहः

Abhedadarsanam  Jnaanam  dhyaanam nirvishayam manah | 
Snaanam mano-mala-tyaagah saucham-indrya-nigrahah ||

Note the second quarter here says - dhyanam nirvishayam manah.

Meditation is when your mind is not (occupied by or) pursuing any (sense objects or) images!
Ordinary knowledge is much to do with filling.
Upanishads recognize the place of acquisitive knowledge but excel in giving us insights into "letting go" of names and forms. They can help us inquire, "Who am I?" and give up our notions of who we are.
What do we further learn from the Upanishads?--They want us to be alert with these two.

The words we speak and the thoughts we entertain - have been given great importance in the Vedas, including Upanishads.

May these two (speech and mind) shine; May they grow (mature). - Such is the prayer of the Aitareya Upanishad in the very peace invocation.

A lot of damage to our relationships takes place when a few wrong words slip from our tongue; can anyone deny this?

These wrong words have their source in wrong thoughts. 

What is more, words and thoughts influence each other too. We therefore need to be very vigilant about both these precious faculties that we possess.

Look before you leap, they say. Watch before you think, we may say; think before you speak, we may add

Basis: Aitareya Upanishad (Rigveda) shānti mantra as well as Shaanti mantra of this Upanishad:

Let these (word and thought) shine and shine; let these grow.

āvir-āveer- ma edhi ||

आविर् - आवीर् - एधि ||

--Swami Chidananda,Mumbai.

Skanda Purana

Why Vedavyasa thought about this Purana, not Ganesha Purana   and made it the largest. Earlier he had introduced one full chapter on the birth of Lord Kartikeya and praising him in Valmiki Ramayana. Though he made Ganesha his scriber for Mahabharata he never thought about a Purana for him or an Upanishad among 108 Upanishads with which he has been associated as the compiler. It   is   therefore worth saying few words about Skanda Purana which is the largest among the 18 Puranas and is the most famous. This largest Purana is divided into two groups. It contains 6 Samhitas and 50 divisions. The first Samhita is Sanatkumara Samhita and the second one is Sutasamhita.  Suta Samhita talks about Dharma, religion and spirituality. 

Dharma has been taken in its eternal, universal and humanitarian form In Sutasamhita.  In its twentieth chapter called Yajnavaibhava, religion has been discussed in detail and in spiritual terms. This Purana divides religion into two types: 1. Samoola—with roots   2. Nirmoola.  It says: Religion that is performed according to individual knowledge and feelings with devotion and dedication, is said to be rootless. The religion that is followed according to scriptures and is dedicated to Gods is religion with root. Of the two second one is better. 

Swa-maneeshikaayotpanno nirmoolo dharmasmhitah |
Sraddhayaa sahito yastu so api dharma uddhrita |
Nirmoolo api swabuddhaiwa kalpito api mahardhayah |
Devata-aaraadhanokaaro dhartmah poorvoditaaddhaarah ||

It talks about purely austerity oriented meditation as in Vedic culture with no focus on any deity as well as religion focused on a deity with spiritual focus. It prefers the second one to the first one. It a sort of Vedanta Religion that Swami Vivekananda propagated to the world Forum in his Chicago address.  Katha Upanishad also talks about Samsaara Vriksha, The Tree of the World   that is an upside-down tree, with the root above and the branches below. This root is Brahman.  There is no contradiction if we look at Symbolism of Skanda.  Skanda means one who has taken shape by the shedding (skannam) of the generative energy of Siva.  Skanda   is addressed as Guru Guha and Subhramanya.  Etymologically,   Subrahmanya is one who tends spiritual growth.  Guha literally means a cave, but is interpreted as signifying Self or Aatman who is the indweller of the human spiritual heart often quoted in Vedas (guhyam viswamoortih).  The six head of Shanmukha represent the five senses and mind and when all these function harmoniously Self in human beings becomes one with Brahman. The number six is also interpreted as the Shad-chakras or the six plexus of the body through which Kundalini Power is said to pass into Yoga.  It is also interesting to note that the more popular Ganesaha is popular as Puranic deity as his names indicate with religious people ceremoniously and ritualistically inclined while Skanda is focused as Parabrahman by the religious who are spiritually inclined.  Skanda Purana recommends   strongly latter type of religious following.





SKANDA SHASHTHI
Orthodox Saiva religious followers in  South India particularly Tamils regularly observe Skanda Shasti every month on the sixth day of   Hindu Calendar every fortnight  directed to the worship of Skanda and Pradosham  worship on the thirteenth day of every fortnight directed to Lord Siva.  Orthodox   religious Vishnu followers similarly observe Ekaadasi Vrata ((fasting ritual) on the eleventh day of every fortnight.  In the present context please listen to the story of Skanda Shashthi.

The Story behind Skanda Shashthi
As usual, Devendra, the King of Devas was once again in trouble. When Indra killed Vritraasura he also killed his minister Namoochi accidentally. Taraka, Namuchi’s son was very sad; he was furious with Indra and the Devas. He wanted to get super-powers for the total annihilation of Devas. He went to severe penance with which Brahma was very pleased. Taraka sought immortality which Brahma refused. Instead he asked for a boon that there should be no living being in the three worlds (earth, heaven and netherworlds, Paataala) equal to him in might in battle which he happily granted. He started menacing Devas then on.

Devas appealed to Brahma for help. Brahma pleaded his inability but suggested that they should approach Siva to ask for a powerful son to lead the army of Devas as Indra was ineffective. He was still a bachelor. But   who can disturb Siva in his solitude and deep penance? They sought the help of Vishnu. Vishnu suggested the name of Parvati. They approached Parvati, the daughter of Himavan and Menaka. She at once agreed as she worshipped Siva and also had developed deep love for him. She also went into penance by his side to gain her ends. Devas sent Manmatha, the God of love to help her in her endeavor. With love and devotion as well as support from Manmatha it was a sure shot for Devas to realize their objectives!

Siva’s penance got disturbed by the flower shot from the arrow of Manmatha. When Siva opened his eyes in anger, Manmatha was reduced to ashes. Later, merciful Siva granted him the boon to continue his function bodiless and invisible. During the process Siva established eye contact with Parvati and also touched her hand accidentally while in the act of catching the flower that disturbed his penance. Parvati’s devotion and love overpowered and Siva subdued. He married Parvati and retired to privacy to enjoy life with her for some time to come.

Then, there was the next question. If Siva and Parvati get a child out of the wed-lock the earth will not be able to bear the mighty energy of his off-spring. Devas were caught between the devil and the deep sea. They pleaded to Siva and Parvati to stop the birth for the benefit of mankind. Siva and Parvati reluctantly withheld their energies but by then a drop of energy of Siva had trickled down.  Devas were frightened. Agni tried to consume it, but failed. He then took the help from Vayu entered into the energy and carried the same to Udaya mountains as mother earth was afraid to receive it.  There arose the divine Saravana, a thicket of reeds, brilliant as the Son God in Udaya Mountains. Parvati was upset as she was once again denied the opportunity to bear the child in her womb. She cursed Devas to have no progeny at any time and Mother Earth to become wives of various kings on earth.

Taraka, the dare devil continued with his atrocities. He even put Indra’s son Jayanta behind the bars. Siva felt the need of the hour. Devas needed a powerful general to defeat Taraka who was bestowed with powerful vows, and to destroy the menacing asuras. Siva has already created a powerful base in the form of Saravana reeds in Udaya Hills to hold the future baby. He needed severe penance on his part and support from Parvati, his Sakti to create a powerful general.  Siva and Parvati therefore went into Tapas again.  Dewas got worried again as to how to approach Siva having learnt a lesson from Manmatha’s fate. They waited and caught him in his happy moment when he was relaxing with Parvati after Tapas (penance). Happily married to Parvati Siva was more compassionate and even more powerful in the company of Parvati.

Siva thought it was time to help Devas with a General (Senapati) who is capable of leading their army and kill Tarakasura who jailed Indra’s son Jayanta and his associates, as well as punishing the menacing Asuras. Siva assumed a powerful form with six faces from which six powerful sparks shot forth. Siva assured that the child born out of these sparks will kill Taraka and slay the Asuras.  Siva then assumed his normal form. Vayu and Agni carried the sparks to Ganga. Ganga carried them to divine Saravana reeds thicket in the Udaaya Mountains as advised by Lord Siva.  As soon as Ganga brought them into the Saravana reeds thicket the six sparks turned into six beautiful babies. At that time six celestial nymphs called Krittikas passed-by that way. Krittikas got attracted to these six lovely babies and began to cuddle them. Devas soon arrived followed by Parvati and Siva. Kritikas handed over these six babies to Parvati, got relieved of their curses and got back to their form of celestial nymphs. They went back to Indraloka.  As Parvati’s son he was named Skanda.  Skanda means a forceful attacker and also means one who has accumulated the power of chastity. As the son of Krittikas he was called Kaartikeya; as Ganga’s son Kumara; as Agni’s son Mahasena; and as son of Siva he was called Guha. He became a universal child but Parvati had to nurture the six babies and bring them up. She was worried. But as soon as she touched them, they all merged into one and she had a normal baby, called Subrahmanya. Subrahmanya means one who loves the holy men. He grew up under the guidance of Siva but soon excelled him in strength and knowledge. He at times became his Guru and was affectionately called Guru Guha, the mysterious Guru. Siva presented him with a Vel, spear, made him Senapati and blessed him with all powers to annihilate Taraka. Subrahmanya crushed the Asuras and killed Tarakasura. Devas were very happy being liberated, and worshipped him.
It was the sixth day in the Hindu month of Kartika (Tula, Aipaasi) of the bright fortnight when Taraka was killed by Lord Subrahmanya. In the same battle Taraka’s two mighty brothers were also defeated. But they were repentant. Merciful Subrahmanya made Surasimha the lion mount of Goddess Kali as his death wish. Surapadma split himself as two and became the peacock, Lord’s mount and the cock, symbol on Lord’s banner, as his death wishes. They were all sons of Maya daughter of Asura King Akhirsen, married to sage Kashyapa. It was a great day for celebration. Indra and Devas rejoiced. Jayanta was freed. It became an annual event then on. All his devotees celebrate it with   keertans, bhahjans, meditation and special pooja at all Murugan temples. Tamilians call him affectionately as Murugan. They also dramatize on stage Lord Subrahmanya’s wedding with Valli, daughter of a village chieftain and Devayani, daughter of Lord Indra. In addition to Skandashashthi on this day ardent devotees do special worship with fasting and prayers on every sixth day of the bright moon of all twelve Tamil months.
Subrahmanya after the defeat of Tarakasura did not want to go back to his family. He did not want to become more famous and carry away all glories of his elder brother Ganesha and his father too which he could have easily done. He wanted to quietly retire in Palani Hills in the South and continue with his scholarly pursuits. But his fame soon spread all over South India particularly Tamil Nadu, though he was little known in the North except in Bengal. Even Muslims started worshipping him as Palani Baba. He became famous as Murugan in Tamil Nadu. They worship him as “Vetri Vel Murugan”, the “Triumphant Murugan with his Vel”. Several temples were built for his worship all over South India. Temples at Tiruvannamalai, Tirucchendur, Palani, Tiruppuramkundram, Tiruttani, and Swamimalai celebrate Skandashashthi on a grand scale and are the holy places for all his devotees. May Lord Subrahmanya shower his grace on all devotees on this auspicious day-- “Om Saravanbhavaaya Namah”
How is Skanda Sashti celebrated?
It is most appropriate to chant Skanda Upanishd on all Shasthi days. For Lord Subhramanya devotees this is also ideal for Nitya Parayana (daily recital). It is also short.
Skanda Sashthi Kavacham composed by Deva Raya Swamigal of 19th century and chanted by Tamils is long but helps one to obtain the grace of Lord Murugan. This is a rare and valuable treasure that helps one to be successful in day-to-day life.
 Kanda Sasti Kavasam composed in Tamil by the author consists of prayers to Lord Muruga (Skanda) to shower His grace.  A devotee hopes that by regular chanting of this kavacham all the predicaments of life are resolved; People without children will enjoy fertility; Prosperity and plenty will abound; Peace will prevail at home; Devotee will enjoy every good fortune under the sun. As a warrior going to battle puts on armor (Kavacham) to protect himself, so Skanda Shasthi Kavacham helps one to be safe in day-to-day life.

Skanda Shashti Ritual is very important to South Indians Particularly Tamils. It is considered meritorious to undertake a six-day fast, known as the Skanda Sashti Vrata, or vow, in empathy for Skanda’s titanic struggle. Many abstain from all foods, while some permit themselves fruits and simple, unsalted foods. This kind of   Shashthi Fasting is an ideal antidote to Diwali festival’s feasting, revelry and over-indulging for the Shashthi that follows Diwali. On the day the fast is broken, families enjoy a sweet pudding called payasam along with fried delicacies. A six-part prayer for protection, called the Skanda Sashti Kavacham, is chanted. Six is a number associated with this God. Another religious discipline calls for six-pointed star and to write “Saravanabhava,” His supreme mantra, standing in the water before doing ablutions. Special decorations adorn home shrines, featuring images of the peacock and the fighting rooster. Devotees go on pilgrimage to Murugan’s temples, especially the temple in Lanham, Maryland, and the seaside sanctuary at Tiruchendur in South India after Diwali to celebrate Shashti immediately falling.

 REFERENCES
1) Mukundan T.K., A Concept of Hinduism, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai, India.
2) Swami Harshananda,   Ten   Cardinal Upanishads, Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, India.
3) Srinivasan N.R., Discourses on Subhramanya and Skanda Shashthi, Hindu Reflections,    Internet <nrsrini.blogspot.com>   
4)  Dr. A. G. Krishna Warrier; Skanda Upanishad,   Theosophical Publishing House, Chennai, India induism, BharatiH
 5) Swami Chidananda, Message of Skanda Upanishad, FOWAI Forum,   E-mail communication.
6) Prof. Shrikant Prasoon, Indian Scriptures, Pustak Mahal, Delhi, India.
7) IndiaDivine.Org & other Internet Sources

[This discourse material is a compilation from the reference above    as well as other sources for a prepared lecture for delivering at Vedanta Class of Sri Ganesha Temple which is gratefully acknowledged. I do not claim anything as original though I have included my explanations and comments elaborately suitably editing. Anybody is free to download partly or fully this discourse, modify and redistribute this as well as other  discourses from the blog Hindu Reflections <nrsrini.blogspot.com> for spreading the wisdom of Vedas and scriptures further.  These  lectures are  posted on the blog for the benefit of those who are not able to attend my lectures  due to personal reasons or due to not living in Nashville or unable to go through the various sources as I have done. ]




SKANDA IN SANSKRIT LITERATURE
 (By Dr. S.S. JANAKI)

The religious history of Bhārata Varsa, now called India, has its origin from prehistoric times. The original name of Indian religion, namely, Sanātana Dharma, is significant and indicates its chief characteristics of eternality, continuity and variety. Foreigners have coined the name 'Hinduism' for this unique religion. Whatever be the name, the spirit of Indian religion and spiritual culture has been almost the same throughout Vedic, Vedantic, Epic and Puranic times.
Its form however, has undergone remarkable changes. In the Vedic period cosmic powers were worshipped as divine manifestations. In subsequent times, the two major deities, Śiva and Vishnu, their consorts, family, and incarnations, were and are still being adored externally and internally through yoga, meditation etc. But the fact remains that Indian religious culture satisfies during all times the yearnings and needs of persons endowed with differing capacity (adhikāra) for deeper experience and varying psychological nature (svabhāva).
Kumāra is generally considered as the son of the divine parents Śiva and and Pārvatī. He is known from varied Sanskrit texts from the ancient to the present times under varied names like Kārttikeya, Visākha, Guha, Senāpati, Sanmukha and Śaravanabhava. Some of these like Kārttikeya (son of the Krttikā goddesses) and Saravanabhava (born in a thicket of reeds), clearly describe the god's personal details through their own etymology and simple legends. Amongst the god's names Skanda and Subrahmanya are crucial to understand the symbolism and evolution of the deity's concept and its worship (upāsanā) in diverse ways as suited to a range of devotees.
In the present paper the references to Skanda and Subrahmanya as occurring in the ancient Sanskrit literature, which includes Yajur, Sāma and Atharva Vedas, Chāndogya Upanishads, Rāmāyana, Mahābhārata, and Skanda Purāna, are collected and critically studied. In the final analysis it is shown that this god was and is conceived and meditated upon at different levels, in his iconographical mūrti form (skala), in a form and formless state in the pāñcāyatana worship with distinct symbolism, as also at the pure absolute level with no attributes (nirguna) or parts (niskala).
Firstly, varied information about Skanda in the selected texts is given under distinct categories and explained.
Skanda is a noun derived from the verbal root skand that carries some meanings like 'jumping', 'spurting'/'spilling'/'effusing', 'perishing', 'drying up', and 'gathering together'.
Sandhānam skandanam caiva pācanam dāhanam tathā
Gamanam śosanam skandadhātvarthadarśanāditi
Early Sanskrit texts like the Rāmāyana, Mahābhārata and Skanda Purāna bring out the appropriateness of the name Skanda given to Kumāra, while describing his birth and valorous deeds. Among the meanings of the root skand, that of 'spilling', especially of the semen of Śiva, recurs in the stories about the birth of Kumāra. There are of course, slight variations in them. Three such anecdotes about his birth can be seen now.
Vālmīki's Rāmāyana. In Bāla Kānda (Sargas 36 and 37) of the Rāmāyana, sage Viśvāmitra recounts the details of Kumāra to Rāma and Lakshmana, in order to bring out the unique charm of the deity and his valorous deeds as a child.
In sarga 36 it is said that Śiva and Pārvatī enjoyed sexual union for one hundred divine years. No child was born to them as was expected of such a marriage by the gods who suffered a lot by the misdeeds of the demons. Headed by Brahmā, the gods approached Śiva and Pārvatī and requested them to engage themselves in severe austerities with full control of sexual instincts for the benefit of the three worlds (verse 11).
Lord Karttikeya (18571 bytes)
Lord Kārttikeya


Trailokyahitakāmārtham tejastejasi dhāraya
While agreeing to do so, Śiva asked the gods, when by some chance, his instincts were stirred up, who would be able to receive and retain his powerful semen. As suggested by the gods, after some years Śiva discharged his seminal fluid on to the Mother Earth. The latter was able to carry and retain Śiva's luster only due to it being carried to the entire earth by Agni the Fire-god. When Śiva's fiery luster spread over the worlds, silvery mountains and a divine thicket of reeds (śaravana) appeared on earth. In that forest was born Kumāra.
Lord Saravanabhavanar
Lord Śaravanabhavana
Pārvatī was however disappointed at the gods not allowing her to hear the "fire of Śiva". Thereupon she cursed both the gods and Earth, that thenceforward the gods would not be able to impregnate their consorts, and that the Earth also would be enjoyed by many husbands. So saying Śiva and Pārvatī go to the Himalayas to perform severe penance.
The first effort of the gods was thus unsuccessful due to the displeasure caused to Pārvatī. No god could impregnate his consort on account of Pārvatī's curse. Hence Brahmā suggested to Indra and others that Śiva's 'seminal luster' held by Agni could be transmitted to the Gangā flowing in the divine regions (Ākāśa Gangā). Besides not being the consort of any divinity, Gangā, as arising from the Himalayan ranges, was the elder sister of Pārvatī. Hence Pārvatī would be quite delighted if Gangā would bear and retain 'Śiva's lustere' and deliver it as a son for the benefit of the three worlds (Sarga 37 verse 8).
Accordingly, Śiva's tejas was transferred to Gangā by Agni with the help of Vāyu. She bore it with great difficulty and deposited it in the Himalayan range. At that time there was a brilliant glow all around. Bright dazzling metals like gold, silver and copper appeared. Kumāra was born in that atmosphere. Immediately Indra and other gods arranged for the six Krittikā stars, who represent a star cluster in the third mansion having Agni as its regent, to nurse the child with their milk. They did so in the form of nymphs. Concluding the birth-story of Kumāra, Vālmīki says that the gods called the child Skanda, being born from the spilling of Śiva's tejas through Agni (verse 27).
Mahābhārata (Vana 183-4, Śalya 39) narrates the birth of Kumāra as the son of Agni and Svābhā. But the significance of his name 'Skanda' is explained (Vana 184.18; Salya 39.6) as in the Rāmāyana.
The birth-story of Kumāra in the Skanda Purāna (chapters 25,26) is different. As narrated here, Śiva listens to the troubles of the gods created by the demons against them, and the necessity for Śiva procreating a son soon to overcome their problems. According to their wishes, Śiva took up a beautiful form with six faces and looked at Pārvatī lovingly. At that time, a dazzling luster similar to numerous suns arose from the eye in his forehead. This was so, because Śiva is greatly self-controlled that his semen can have only an upward movement. Hence he is called Ūrdhva-retas.
The six-faced luster spread out in the whole world. People, not being able to put up with it, ran in all directions. At Śiva's suggestion, the Fire and Wind gods carry the luster to a forest of reeds near Ganges, who united it with a lotus that was in a pond nearby. There a charming child with six faces and twelve arms was born. In the next moment the infant was transformed into a normal but extremely beautiful child (26.16-17).
Again, when at the bidding of Vishnu, the six Krttikās came near, the child again became sextuple in order to allow each of them to feed it with milk (tāsām anugrahārthāya sodhā mūrtir abhūt kshanāt). In another context it is said that when Pārvatī embraced the children, they all converged into one form.
In this account there is the emission of the luster of Śiva through his eye(s) in his forehead. We also have the appearance of Kumāra as a baby in six forms or their merger into a single personality as needed in the context. Hence both the meanings of the root skand, namely, 'emitting' and 'merging into one' are applicable here.
II.v. In yet another context the Skanda Purāna (35.11) applies the third meaning of skand as 'drying' or 'scorching' (śosana). Does he not attack and scorch the power of his enemies in the three worlds and win over them?
ākramya ca yato śkandaddhikramena jagattrayam
tena skando yamākhyātah sutaste girisambhave.
In section II, in the context of explaining the etymological significance of the term Skanda as applied to Kumāra, a few versions of his birth were noted. The variations in them are quite interesting and need to be critically studied and analysed. There are, for example, different persons like Śiva, Brahmā, Agni, Indra, Pārvatī, Svāhā, and Gangā who are considered as Kumāra's parents. Also, he is considered as one person, a person with six faces, one with six forms, or, as seen in II. iv., he is born as single and transformed into six different babies for being fed by the Krttikās, only to become single again when embraced by Pārvatī. In fact, the Mahābhārata (Śalya 41.85-7) refers to Kumāra's varied parentage and his being considered as one, two or four or even as hundred or thousand:
kevidenam vyvasyanti pitāmtasutam vibhum
sanatkumāram sarvesām brahmayotim tamagrajam
kecinmaheśvarasutam kecitputram vibhā vasoh
umāyāh krttikāyāśca gangāyāśca vadantyut
ekadhā ca dvidhā caiva caturdhā ca mahābalam
yogināmīśvaram devam śatadhā ca sahasradhā.
Having seen Kumāra in II. iv. as one or six in appearance, we can see now an account of him taking four forms on a special occasion, as narrated in the Mahābhārata (Śalya. 39).
The story starts here, after the birth of Kumāra to Gangā when Brhaspati performs the divine child's purificatory rites (jātakarma). Immediately thereafter, due to the grace of goddess Sarasvati, Dhanur Veda with its accessories of missiles (astra), weapons (śastra) etc. attend on the body. It became powerful, internally and externally (mahāyogabalānvitah).
His parents eagerly approached the unique baby with great affection. As they all wanted to meet him at the same time, Kumāra took four similar and resplendent forms, (samarūpinah, bhāsvara-dehāh) and went to them with a spear in hand. Thus he approached and saluted Rudra as Skanda, Umā as Viśakha., Agni as Śākha, and Gangā as Naigameśa.
It is to be noted that of these four, Skanda and Viśākha are well known as Kumāra's names. Dazed by the unique powers of Kumāra, the divinities requested Brahmā to anoint him as their commander-in-chief. Brahmā acceded to their wishes. As a mere child, Kumāra then performed miracles like killing powerful demons like Tāraka and Sūrapadma, and splitting the Krauñca mountain  with his Śakti.
Regarding Skanda and Visakha there is interesting information in some ancient texts. According to the Sāmavidhāna Brāhmana (I. 20. p. 59) Skanda is one of the deities to be propitiated with the chanting of specific Sāma Vedic hymns (like I.246, I.533 and I.565).
iti dve esā skandasya samhitā, etām prayuñjan skandam prīnati
The Vamśa Brāhmana is a minor treatise associated with the Sāma Veda. It is concerned with the deities, the Samhitās or their musical renderings of specific hymns among them, and the long line of sages through which the Sāma Veda has come down. The introductory part of Vamśa Brāhmana entitled Sāmatarpana enumerates the list of deities, to whom water-libations are to be offered. Amongst them figure the twin-gods Skanda-Viśākhau, (p. 217, Vamśa Brāhmana).
The Atharva Pariśistas are a collection/compilation delating with elaborate ritualistic and procedures details of important Atharva rites as related to many deities. The 20th section in this text is titled Skandayāga or Dhūrtakalpa, 'dhūrta' (literally, 'rogue') being a synonym of Skanda.
This vrata is to be observed on the sixth day after new moon in the months of Phālguna (February-March), Āsādha (June-July) and Kārtika (October-November). The worship of Skanda on the occasion follows the usual routine of invocation (āvāhana), invitation (āhvāna), his entry, offering of pādya to wash his feet, worship with flowers, followed by the cordialities (upacāras), naivedya, offerings in fire, worship and consecration of the thread (pratisara), and tying the same, and allowing the god to leave the place (visarjana).
Skanda is called by his other names including Viśākha in the course of the varied worship. In one context (20.6.4) his diverse parentage as the son of Agni, Krttikās, Paśupati, Rudra and Indra is mentioned.
āgneyam krttikāputiamaindram kechidadhīyate /
kechitpāśupatam raudram yo śi so śi namo stu te // iti //
Importantly in 20.2.9, in the context of inviting Skanda to be present for the worship, Skanda is referred to as a 'brother of Viśākha'.
bhrātra viśakhena ca viśvarūpa
imam balim sānucaram jusasva
The grammatical texts of Pānini and Patañjali also refer to Skanda and Viśākha as twin gods, worshipped in images, under the sūtra "Devatādvandve cha" (Pānini VI. 3. 26). Patañjali (Mahābhāsya on VI. 3. 26) clarifies that these two gods were not offered libations together in the Vedic age:
na chaite vede sahanirvāpanirdistāh
Hence it is clear that the consideration of Skanda and Viśākha as twin gods was only a post-vedic concept. But in the earlier times they may have been considered as brothers.
It is interesting to note that Valmiki in his Rāmāyana, compares Rāmā and Laksmana to Skanda-Kumāra, the twin sons of Agni, in youthful charm and prowess (Kumārāviva Pāvakī).
It is clear from these references that Viśākha is not a mere synonym of Skanda because he was born in the particular star (Viśākhāsu jātah). But in some later Vedic texts and in the Rāmāyana they are considered as brothers or even twins.
As seen above in sections II to IV, the Vedic, Epic and Puranic literature use the term 'Skanda' meaningfully. True to the different etymologies of the term, the texts provide information of the god like his birth, parentage, concept and rituals. In a retrospective such details are:
  1. He was born from the 'spilling' or 'emission' of the semen or luster of Śiva that got spread out through the gods of Fire and Wind.
  2. At birth he was a person with six faces of six separate individuals, but was subsequently 'lumped into one' by the embrace of Pārvatī.
  3. He 'scorches' or 'thoroughly destroys' the external enemies or internal vices of his devotees.
  4. Primarily he is the son of Śiva and Śakti (Pārvatī). Others associated with his birth and evolution are Brahmā, Agni, Indra, Svāhā, Gangā and Krttikās.
  5. According to one version, the born child miraculously appeared in four forms, Skanda, Viśākha, Śākha and Naigameśa, respectively to his four parents Rudra, Umā, Agni and Gangā.
  6. He is also considered as the twin deities, Skanda-Viśākha, to whom water-libations are offered. Skanda-yāga to these twins is mentioned in some Atharva texts. Specific Sāma Vedic hymns are also said to be chanted for them.
  7. According to grammatical texts, the concept of Skanda-Viśākha as twin deities is post-Vedic.
The term Skanda also occurs along with names of his parents, as Somāskanda representing the triune aspects of Śiva, Pārvatī and Skanda. It is the most
Somaskanda
Somāskanda Mūrti
common  form of Śiva worshipped in many South Indian temples.
The signification of Somāskanda can be understood in the light of Śiva's explanation of Kumāra's concept of Pārvatī in Skanda Purāna (Sambhava, 35.5-8). Accordingly, the love of the two streams of grace, namely, Śiva and Śakti, unite in Subrahmanya. He represents the eternal union of the Supreme Śiva and Pārvatī of Inexhaustible Energy, that is comparable to the blend of sound and sense. Kumāra is 'six-faced' on account of his representing both Śiva as Sadāsiva with 'five faces' (namely Sadyojāta, Tatpuruśa, Vāmadeva, Aghora and Īśāna) and the many faceted Śakti endowed with one face:
Śivo ham niskalah pūrnaś śaktis tvamanapāyinī /
prakrtipratyayākārāvām śabdārthakau matau //
tvam śabdo rtho smyaham bhadre jagattvam patirasmyaham //
pañcakrtyaparaścāham pañcavaktrassadāśivah /
ekavaktrāsi bahudhā bhinnāpi parameśvarī //
tvanmayo manmayo yasmāt sadvaktrah parikīrtitah /
Thus by invoking the grace of Kumāra, one invokes the grace of Śiva and Śakti. All these ideas are signified through the form of Somāskanda, in which Skanda is placed between his parents. In every temple of Śiva we have these images. It is noteworthy that in Kāñci near Chennai, temples dedicated to these three gods are themselves situated in the same order - the Kumāra Kośta temple of Skanda is located in between the temples of Ekāmranātha and Kāmākshī.
While the term Skanda and the legends based on its etymology highlight mostly the personal details of the deity, the term Subrahmanya is loaded with symbolism at the supreme and absolute levels. This signification is quite in keeping with the two components of the term, namely, the prefix su- (meaning beauty, excellence, joy etc.) and its qualifying noun brahmanya that is related to Vedas, Supreme knowledge, Absolute Reality etc. A few puranic legends and the liturgic formula Subrahmanyom and its many-sided symbolism support the prime status given to Subrahmanya as being on part with the Supreme Śiva. In a few versions he is even considered higher than his father.
The Skanda Purāna (Sambhava., chaps. 34, 35) highlights the supernal qualities of Subrahmanya in the words of Śiva himself. In this context (34.28-30) it is said that both these gods signify the mystical syllable Om. These are evident in the two formulas containing the names of the two gods followed by Pranava. Moreover, the son secretively explains the same to his father Śiva also.
arthamāha sma senānīh pranavasya rahasyatha /
śrutvā śambhuh svarasyārtham evameva na samśayah //
subrahmanyom svarasyārthastvam cāham ca sadāśivom //
iti jānanti ye loke te yānti mama tulyatām //
In more than one context (Sambhava 35,20,26-7) the Purāna refers to Śiva's glorification of his son. Herein Śiva says "At the level beyond formlessness (Niskala) my son represents the Absolute Truth, Consciousness and Joy (Saccidānanda). He is the importable Supreme Luster (Param Jyotih), before which the sun, moon, and stars are dulled". It is also said that while Śiva is the Lord of divinities and of supreme knowledge, his son is their leader in yet a higher degree. Herein a novel derivation of Subrahmanya as sutrām brahmanyah is given.
In the midst of myths and legends, one is constantly reminded of Subrahmanya as the embodiment of BrahmĀ Jñāna, as the expounder of the meaning of Om, and as the upholder and lord of Vedic way of life and rites. 'Subrahmanyom', with the repetition of pranava three items for special reverence ('ādarārtham' as Sāyana explains) in many Vedic sacrifices and rituals, is intended not only for Śiva's son but also for any divinity like Indra and Agni. So much so, that this mantra is to be found in many Vedic texts, especially the Brāhmanas.
In conclusion it can be seen that Skanda/Subrahmanya is a federal deity and an integrator among the divinities. He is endowed with the essential of all divinities. Svāmi is the most common word for 'God' in India. It is significant that 'Svāmi' is primarily the name of Subrahmanya alone. In the lexicons like those by Amara Simha, Svāmi occurs as a name of Kumāra. Other divinities have, so to say, borrowed the name from Kumāra.
Skanda is the son of Śiva and Śakti, younger brother of Vināyaka, son-in-law of Mahāvishnu, and is identified with the rising sun. By worshipping Kumāra we can be the recipient of the bounties conferred by all the other gods.