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Skanda Purana (Kartika Purana)
THE ARRIVAL OF ‘SAPTARISHIS’
Later on Lord Shiva sent the Saptarishis with the proposal of marriage to Himalaya. Himalaya received his distinguished guests with respect and enquired about the purpose of their visit. The Saptarishis replied–’We have come to request you to give your daughter’s hand in marriage to Shiva.’After consulting his wife, Mena and other mountains, Himalaya agreed to accept Shiva as his son-in-law. The Saptarishis then returned and conveyed the good news to Shiva.The preparation for marriage ceremony started being made. Finally the marriage procession proceeded towards the bride’s home. The marriage procession consisted of all the deities, apsaras, gandharvas even spirits and ghosts.
Sage Garg Supervised the rituals of marriage ceremony. Vishwakarma constructed the canopy, where marriage ceremony was supposed to take place.After the marriage was over, Himalaya performed the ritual of Kanyadan and this way Shiva returned with his consort.
BIRTH OF KARTIKEYA
Lord Shiva and Parvati lived happily at Gandhamadan Mountain enjoying every bit of their conjugal life. Once it so happened that a small quantity of Shiva’s sperm fell on the ground while he was enjoying intimate moments with Parvati. As a result, tremendous amount of heat was generated and the whole world started burning.Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu instructed Agni to employ some means so that the destruction caused by Shiva’s over flowing sperms could come to an end.Agni went to Gandhamadan mountain in the guise of a hermit. He requested Parvati by saying—’O Mother! Please give me something as alms. I have nothing but my hands as a begging bowl’
Parvati kept Shiva’s sperms on his palm, which was eaten up by Agni. Parvati was enraged to see this and cursed Agni–”You have shown disrespect to me. From today onwards you would become omnivorous. The sperms which you have devoured would cause unbearable inflammation in your body.”
As the result of Parvati’s curse, Agni really started experiencing unbearable inflammation in his body. He requested Lord Shiva to reveal the means by which his pain would come to an end. Lord Shiva instructed Agni to implant those sperms in any woman’s womb to get rid of the unbearable inflammation.Thus, Agni, who was suffering from extreme heat that generated in his body, sat at a lonely place waiting eagerly for a woman to arrive there.He did not have to wait for too long, as six Kritikas, shivering with cold arrived there to warm themselves. The sperms of Shiva entered into their bodies through the pores. These six Kritikas became pregnant.
When their respective husbands learnt about their pregnancy they cursed them. As a result they got transformed into ‘Nakshatras’ and established themselves in the sky. But, they aborted their respective foetus at Himalaya mountain before getting transformed into six constellations. The holy Ganges carried that foetus to a secluded place, which was covered with dense bushes of reeds.In course of time, Lord Kartikeya manifested from those reed bushes. He had six heads. The deities were delighted at the birth of Kartikeya. Lord Shiva along with Parvati went to the place where Kartikeya had incarnated. Parvati took young Kartikeya in her embrace.
KARTIKEYA KILLS TARAKASUR
Lord Shiva assured the deities, who were also present there that Tarakasur’s days were numbered. The deities’s army then proceeded towards the battlefield.On their way, the deities heard a heavenly voice–’You can defeat the demons only if you fight under the leadership of Kartikeya.’
Now all the deities requested Kartikeya to become their leader. Menawhile, Devasena–the daughter of Mrityu arrived there and requested Kartikeya to become her husband. Kartikeya accepted Devasena as his wife. This is the reason why he is also known as Deva senapati.Karitkeya was leading the deities’ army, mounted on an elephant. The army had all the deities in its rank- Indra, Varun, Vayu, Kuber, Dharma Raj, etc.Both the rival armies met at an island situated between Ganga and Yamuna. Tarakasur had come with a large army, which boasted of many brave and mighty warriors.
The battle commenced and the first phase was dominated by the demons. The deities could not stand up to the might of demons. Even Indra was severely wounded when Tarakasur attacked him with his deadly weapon- ‘Shakti’. On seeing the level of destruction caused in the deities’ army, King Muchkunda, who was on the side of the deities’ attacked Tarakasur. In the ensuing battle Muchkunda got injured and fell down on the ground. He got up furiously and tried to kill Tarakasur with his Brahmashtra. Sage Narad told him that Brahmashtra would be of no use as Tarakasur had been blessed with invincibility against mortals. Narad said–’Only Kartikeya is capable of killing Tarakasur. So, you all need to have patience till Kartikeya accomplishes his mission.’
Meanwhile Veerabhadra was fighting a dual bought against Tarakasur. He had already caused indescribable losses to the demons. While the fight was going on, Tarakasur realized that it was not easy to defeat him. So, he decided to use his illusionary powers, which helped him in acquiring ten thousand hands. The deities ran away from the battle field, when they saw ferocious Tarakasur approaching them.Lord Vishnu instructed Kartikeya to kill Tarakasur before it was too late. Kartikeya chased Tarakasur with his deadly weapon- Shakti in his hand. A fierce fight took place between both of them. Kartikeya attacked Tarakasur with his Shakti. Tarakasur retaliated by hitting him with his own Shakti. The assault was so severe that Karikeya lost his consciousness for few moments.
When Kartikeya regained his consciousness, he got up quickly to fight against Tarakasur. Once again a fierce battle commenced. Kartikeya remembered his parents in reverence and released his Shakti in the direction of Tarakasur.Tarakasur died instantly. The deities were delighted at the death of their tormentor.
VIRTUES OF OBSERVING FAST ON ‘SHIVARATRI’
Sage Lomesh eulogizes the virtues of Shivaratri in the following words–’The fourteenth day of the dark half of a month is dedicated to the worship of Lord Shiva and is famously known as ‘Shivaratri’. It destroys all the sins committed by a man.Sage Lomesh then narrated a tale, which emphasized the greatness of Shivaratri–
Once upon a time a brahmin widow developed an illicit relationship with a ‘Chandal’ (a low caste man). Later on she gave birth to a son who was named Dussah. Her son had all the bad qualities one can think of– a gambler, a drunker, a thief, a murderer, etc.
One day, Dussah went to a Shiva temple with the intention of committing robbery. It was the festive night of Shivaratri and people had thronged the temple in a large number. So, he did not get an opportunity to steal temple property. He remained awakened for the whole night waiting for an opportune moment but his wishes remained unfulfilled. He spent his time listening to the divine tales of Lord Shiva that was being narrated by the temple priest. Though he was a sinner yet he took his next birth in a royal family on account of his two virtuous deeds–he had remained awakened for the whole night of Shivaratri and he had listened to the tales of Shiva. In his next birth, he was born to a king named Chitrangad and he himself was named Vichitraveerya.Vichitraveerya was a great devotee of Lord Shiva. He ultimately united with lord Shiva and manifested as Veerabhadra at the time when Lord Shiva had shaken his head violently after hearing the sad news of Sati’s demise.There are numerous instances of people attaining salvation by observing a fast on Shivaratri. The names of some great devotees to do so are King Bharat, Mandhata, Dhundhumar, Harishchandra etc.
While the deities hailed the glory of Kartikeya for having killed Tarakasur, Kartikeya himself was saddened by his act. He told the deities–’I regret for having killed Tarakasur because he was a great devotee of Lord Shiva. Is there any way to atone for my sin?’
Lord Vishnu consoled him—’Killing a wicked person, who nourishes himself on the blood of innocent people, is not a sinful deed. But, still, if you feel guilty then there is no better way to atone for your sin than worshipping Lord Shiva. Install Shivalingas and worship them with deep devotion.’Kartikeya instructed Vishnukarma to make three divine Shivalingas. Later on Kartikeya installed these Shivalingas at three different places and worshipped them with appropriate rituals. In course of time these three holy places came to be known as Pratigyeshwar, Kapaleshwar and Kumareshwar. Kartikeya, while worshipping at Kapaleshwar sprinkled holy water on the Shivalinga and prayed so that Tarakasur’s soul rested in peace. He also offered sesame seeds to lord Kapaleshwar and prayed –
‘May my offerings made in the form of sesame seeds reach Tarak–the descendant of Sage Kashyap.’
This way, Kartikeya was absolved of his sins.
KILLING OF PRALAMB
A demon named Pralamb had escaped unharmed in the battle fought between the deities and demons. As the deities were busy installing Shivalingas at different places, Pralamb started to torment their families in their absence. The deities got this information from Kumud who appeared at the time when the deities were digging up a reservoir near ‘Siddheshwar’ temple.All the deities requested Kartikeya to do something. Kartikeya released his fiery weapon, Shakti in the direction of Pralamb. Shakti pierced the heart of earth and went right up to Patal loka where Pralamb lived with the surviving demons. All the demons were killed within few moments.
A long tunnel had been created as the impact of Shakti’s penetration of the earth. This tunnel was later on filled up with the water of Patal Ganga and became famous as ‘Siddha-koopa.’
KAALBHITI’S AUSTERE PENANCE
There is an amazing tale related with the birth of Kaalbhiti. During ancient times there lived a sonless brahmin named Manti in Kashi. He did an austere penance to get a son. At last, lord Shiva became pleased by his devotion and appeared. Lord Shiva said–’You will be blessed with an enlightened son who would liberate your whole clan.’
In course of time Manti’s wife became pregnant but amazingly did not deliver a baby even after a long time. Four years passed like this but Manti’s wife did not deliver the child. Manti was perplexed by this unusual event so he asked the baby, who was still in his mother’s womb as to why he was hesitant to come out.The child replied that he feared ‘Kaal’ and this was the reason why he was not taking birth. The child said–’If you can assure me of protection from ‘Kaal’ then I shall certainly take birth.’ How could have Manti given such an assurance. So he took refuge in Lord Shiva.Lord Shiva ordered four of his ganas to go and convince the baby. The names of these five ganas were Dharma, Gyan, Vairagya Aishwarya and Adharma. They assured the baby by saying–’Get rid of your fear. We assure you that each four of us (Dharma, Gyan, Vairagya and Aishwarya) will never abandon you.”
The fifth gana named Adharma on the contrary promised not to caste his evil Shadow on the baby. These assurances were enough for the baby to come out from the womb. But, even after taking birth the child was trembling and wailing in fear.The ganas said–Manti! Your child is still fearful of the Kaal. He is trembling and crying inspite of the best of our efforts to drive away is fears. So he will become famous as Kaalbhiti (one who is fearful of Kaal).
Kaalbhiti grew up to be a virtuous person. He used to engage himself in various kinds of austerities. He was a great devotee of Lord Shiva.One day, as Kaalbhiti was meditating under a ‘bael’ tree (wood apple), he went into his trance. The joy experienced during trance period was something, which he had never experienced before. He decided to regularly meditate under that tree. He did penance for one hundred years standing on his toe.Lord Shiva became pleased by his devotion and appeared in the guise of a human being. Lord Shiva said–’O Great soul Please discontinue with your penance. I have brought some water for you! Please quench your thirst!’
But Kaalbhiti refused to take water from an unknown person. He requested Lord Shiva to reveal his identity. Kaalbhiti also inquired Lord Shiva about his religion and conduct. Lord Shiva told him that he was beyond any religion or conduct.When Kaalbhiti refused to have water, Lord Shiva dug up a large pit and emptied the pot into it. After that he disappeared.Kaalbheeti stood fixed at that place, being stunned by the disappearance of Lord Shiva. Suddenly, an effulgent Shivalinga appeared under that bael (wood apple) tree. Kaalbheeti worshipped that shiva-linga which was radiating light in all directions.Now, lord Shiva appeared and blessed Kaalbheeti to become free from the fear of Kaal(Death). From that day onwards the Shivalinga situated there became famous as Mahakaal. Before disappearing once again, Lord Shiva instructed Kaalbheeti to preach Sage Karandham who was expected to visit him shortly. Kaalbheeti himself became renowned as Mahakaal because he had been successful in conquering death.