Skanda Purana, the longest of the 18 Puranas, says the Devas, or the Gods, faced terrible cruelty and oppression at the hands of the Asuras, the demon Surapadma and his brothers Tarakasura and Simhamukha.

The Devas went to Brahma, who said, “The son of Shiva & Parvati, Lord Kartikeya, will be born to destroy the Asuras”.

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When Lord Muruga was born, the Goddess Parvati handed her son a spear, saying, “This shall be your weapon, my son: the Vel.”

It marked the beginning of the battle against the Asuras.

The demon Tarakasura

A fierce battle was fought between Veerabahu, commander-in-chief of Lord Kartikeya’s army and Tarakasura. As time went by, Tarakasura’s army began losing. The demon resorted to using magic to trap Veerabahu in the Krauncha mountain. Knowing this, Sage Narada quickly made his way and told Lord Kartikeya what happened.

Lord Kartikeya hurled his Vel, which moved with the speed of light, destroyed Krauncha mountain and pierced Taraka’s chest - just as light prevailed over darkness.

Simhamukha, the reluctant demon

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. Veerabahu on another side, vanquished all Simhamukha’s sons.

Devastated, Simhamukha faced Veerabahu and bound his hand and feet. With their chief in captive, more soldiers were slaughtered by Simhamukha.

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When the news reached Lord Kartikeya, 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.

"Rise, Simhamukha, the brave one among your people. Your devotion in the face of death is of the highest praise. May you serve the Goddess as her vehicle - the Lion of Durga," Lord Kartikeya exclaimed. Demon Simhamukha perished and was granted a boon to turn into Goddess Sakthi’s lion.

Surapadma, the demon lord

Veerabahu was sent as a diplomatic envoy to offer Surapadma peace as a solution. However, the demon king ignored him and did not offer him a seat. He didn’t feel humiliated, but instead thought of Lord Kartikeya and, miraculously, a bejewelled seat appeared. Blinded by fury, Surapadma refused to accept the offer and said, “Go and tell him I will crush all my enemies”.

And thus, the battle began. Each side wielded their weapons, skulls were crushed, and blood was shed. The Kailash army of Lord Murugan fought with the ferocity of lions. Lord Kartikeya appeared and killed the close attendants of the demon lord. The sixth and final day of the battle was an intense one. Surapadma used all his evil powers, which failed at the sight of Lord Kartikeya’s shining Vel.

Furious and unable to accept defeat, Surapadma then took the form of a monstrous mango tree. Lord Kartikeya hurled his Vel and the tree split into half, one part becoming a peacock and the other a cock. Lord Kartikeya took the peacock as his vehicle and the cock as his flag.

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Such was Lord Kartikeya's mercy even to his enemies. Surapadma in his previous life had been Sura and Padma, two bhootas, who had prayed to him to become his flag and vahana or vehicle, the cock and peacock. Their prayer was now answered.

Take a look at our mini documentary series 'Heroes of Thaipusam' to get a glimpse of the real champions behind the celebration every year:

Source: Astroved, Murugan, Hindu Online
Photo Credit: Murugan, Pinterest, ZetaBoards, Artha Channel, Shivshankar India, Kauai's Hindu Monastery