The Birth of Lord Murugan
There are many legends on the birth of Lord Murugan and are often in variance with one another. In one such legend, the Devas (divine beings) came to Kailash requesting Lord Shiva to save them from the Demon Tarakasura. A boon was given to Tarakasura by Lord Brahma that he will only be killed by a son of Lord Shiva.
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Lord Shiva heard the plight and promised the Devas, a child will be born to rescue them from this situation. It is believed that Lord Murugan was born out the six sparks that emanated from the third eye of Lord Shiva. It is said that Agni (Fire God) carried these sparks and placed them in a pond called Saravana, where six babies were born on a lotus each. Six Kritikas, the stars of the constellation Pleiades, nursed and raised the babies. This is the reason why Lord Murugan is also known as Kartikeya (“Son of Krittikas”). When Parvathi and Shiva came, Parvati took all six babies and hugged them into one being with six heads.
The Devas rejoiced at the birth of this child and when the child was grown he was appointed as the commander-in-chief of the Devas.
The Story of the Golden Mango
One day Lord Shiva was relaxing in Mount Kailash with his wife Goddess Parvathi and sons, Lord Ganesha and Lord Murugan. Suddenly, Sage Narada appeared and offered a gift of a golden mango to Lord Shiva. Narada said “This is no ordinary mango. This is the golden mango of knowledge and whoever eats this mango will be granted with eternal knowledge and wisdom.”
As a loving husband, Lord Shiva gave it to Parvathi and requested her to eat. As a loving mother, she wanted to give the fruit to her children. As there was only one fruit and it should not be cut, they announced a contest and whoever completes three rounds of the world first will receive the fruit.
Lord Murugan mounted His peacock to go around the world. In the meantime, Lord Ganesha slowly made his way to his parents and started circling his parents three times. Shiva and Parvathi were perplexed and asked Ganesha, “Child, you were supposed to circle the world, so why are you circling us instead?”. Ganesha replied, “You, my parents are my universe and my whole world. So, if I circle you, it means that I have circled the entire world”. Saying this, He finished His third circle just as Lord Murugan reached Mount Kailash after finishing His third trip across the world.
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On return, Lord Murugan learned that Lord Ganesha has won the competition and felt cheated. In anger, He renounced his family and came to a spot, which is now known as Palani Hill to settle. Lord Shiva and Parvathi came to pacify Him. They said, "Pazham Nee" ('You are the Fruit') and the hill was called Palani, a name made out of the two words.
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"Sutta pazham" or "Sudaatha pazham"?
Once Saint Avvaiyaar was traveling by foot, she got tired and sat under a java plum (Naaval) tree. By now, she had written plenty of poems and had developed a huge ego. Lord Murugan wanted to challenge her and appeared as a shepherd sitting on top of the tree.
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He then said, "Grandma, you look so tired; do you want some Naaval fruits?" When she answered yes, He asked, "Do you want 'Sutta pazham' or 'Sudatha pazham'?" (Sutta has two meanings: one cooked and the other hot.) Avvaiyar thought that the kid was blabbering something as she considered him to be illiterate, told him she wanted "Sudatha Pazham" (fruit that is not hot/cooked).
When the boy shook the tree, the fruits fell all over the ground. Avvaiyar started picking those fruits. She started to blow away the sand in the fruit before eating it. The boy then exclaimed, "Is the fruit, hot?".
The gesture of blowing the sand in the fruit appeared as if the fruit was hot. It also meant that the fruit that fell to the ground is heated up by the earth's heat and the one that is caught before it falls to the ground is not.
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Avvaiyar had a realisation, she thought the boy to be illiterate, but he has taught her a big lesson. Moreover, she had a momentary pride and neglect in her mind thinking that the boy is illiterate and she was more knowledgeable. This incident made her realise that nobody should be underestimated. She also felt that this should be the act of the divine and requested the boy to reveal his true self. Then, the boy revealed that he was Lord Murugan and she worshipped him with joy.
Kartikeya became the Guru
When Kartikeya was a young child, His father, Lord Shiva asked Him to go and receive education from Lord Brahma. So, Lord Murugan went to Lord Brahma and asked him, ‘Please tell me the meaning of Aum.’ Lord Brahma said, ‘First learn the alphabets! You are directly asking for the meaning of Aum.’ Lord Murugan said, ‘No, I want to know the highest knowledge first - Aum.’
Now, Lord Brahma knew all about the alphabets, but he did not know the meaning of Aum (the primordial sound). Lord Murugan said to Lord Brahma, ‘You do not know the meaning of Aum, how will you teach me? I will not study under you.’ And Lord Murugan went back to his father, Lord Shiva.
Lord Brahma told Lord Shiva, ‘You alone can handle your son. I can’t handle him. Whatever I say, he says the exact opposite of that. I won’t be able to teach him. Hearing this, Lord Shiva asked Lord Murugan, ‘What happened, son? Lord Brahma is the Creator of the entire universe. You must learn from him.’
To this, Lord Murugan replied, ‘Then you tell me, what is the meaning of Aum?’ Hearing this, Lord Shiva smiled and said, ‘Even I don’t know.’
Lord Murugan then said, ‘Then, I will tell you because I know the meaning of Aum.’
‘But, I can’t tell you like this. You have to give me the place of the Guru. Only if you put me on the pedestal of the Guru, can I tell you’, said Lord Murugan. Guru means he has to be on a higher position or platform. The teacher has to sit at a higher place and the student has to sit down and listen to him.
So Lord Shiva lifted the young Lord Murugan on to His shoulders. And then in the ear of Lord Shiva, He explained the meaning of the Pranava Mantra (Aum). Lord Murugan explained that the entire Creation is contained in Aum. The Trinity – Lord Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva are contained in Aum. Aum means that everything is love – unbroken and unshakeable love is Aum. This is the essence and also the secret of Aum that Lord Murugan narrated to Lord Shiva.
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The Battles of Lord Kartikeya
Tarakasura was a Daitya and the son of Vajranaga. He had a boon that he could only be killed by a son of Shiva. The purpose of his life was to defeat Indra ( King of Heavens) and the Devas (divine beings). The Devas knew about Tarakasura’s boon, so they convinced Shiva to marry Parvathi, the daughter of Himavat and Lord Murugan was born. (Another version of Lord Murugan's birth)
Since Lord Murugan was born, the Devas attacked Tarakasura and his asura army. While they were proceeding, a heavenly voice from the sky said that the devas could only win if Kartikeya was their commander. The devas requested Lord Murugan to become their commander and He accepted.
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The battle started and the asuras were dominating. Even Indra was wounded by the enemy’s might. A fierce battle was fought between Veerabahu, commander-in-chief of Lord Murugan’s army and Tarakasura. As time went by, Tarakasura’s army began losing. The demon resorted to using magic to trap Veerabahu into the Krauncha mountain. Knowing this, Sage Narada quickly made his way and told Lord Kartikeya what happened.
Lord Murugan hurled his Vel, which moved with the speed of light, destroyed Krauncha mountain and pierced Taraka’s chest - just as light prevails over darkness.
Grieved by his brother’s death, Surapadma summoned Simhamukha to win the war. Simhamukha, who earlier advised his brother not to wage war and instead accept an offer of peace, had no choice but to oblige. He appeared at the battlefield and, like a raging tornado, vanquished the devas’ army.
When the news reached Lord Murugan, He made for the battlefield and took on Simhamukha in combat. The demon immediately responded by prostrating himself before the Lord and sang praises of Goddess Sakthi. It is then the Lord gave him a boon to serve as Goddess Sakthi’s lion.
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The battle between the army of Surapadman and the Devas were intense. Each side wielded their weapons, skulls were crushed, and blood was shed. Lord Murugan appeared and killed the close attendants of the Demon Lord. After six days of battle, Surapadma used all his evil powers, which failed at the sight of Lord Murugan’s shining Vel.
Furious and unable to accept defeat, Surapadma then took the form of a monstrous mango tree. Lord Murugan hurled his Vel and the tree split into half, one part becoming a peacock and the other a cock. Lord Murugan took the peacock as his vehicle and the cock as his flag.
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