Sadhguru tells the story of Kartikeya, also referred to as Muruga in Tamil Nadu, Subramanya in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, and Skanda in North India. Sadhguru recounts how Kartikeya was a great experiment of embedding six beings into one body. He also clarifies the connection between sage Agastya and Kartikeya, a conversation between whom makes up the Skanda Purana, one of the major Puranas. Sadhguru also explains why Kartikeya is sometimes seen as the god of war.
Read in Telugu: కార్తికేయుని కథ – ఒక శరీరంలో ఆరు జీవాలు
Kartikeya – A Great Experiment
Sadhguru: The miraculous thing about Shiva’s son Kartikeya is that he was a great experiment where six beings were combined into one body. There have been many experiments like this in the past, where two yogis have shared one body. In the same body, there would be two people. They would speak different languages and exist in different ways. But here, six beings shared one body. There is an elaborate story of how this happened.
Though Shiva is described as the symbol of virility, he never had children. They say no human woman could hold his seed in her womb. Because of this, he spilled his seed into a sacrificial fire. When we say a sacrificial fire, it need not necessarily be a fire. It is a “Homa Kund”. A Homa Kund was like a laboratory for the rishis, where they created many things.
From the Homa Kund, six kritikas took Shiva’s seed into their womb. These kritikas were apsaras or beings who were not human – they were beings who did not belong to this planet and were of a higher level of capability. So Shiva’s seed was implanted into these six kritikas who held it for about three-and-a-half months, and life began to take form – six fetuses developed.
After this period however, the kritikas found the seed was too hot for them and they could not hold it any longer. As these kritikas were essentially moving from one dimension to another, they did not have any sense of responsibility to any one particular form of creation. So when they had to leave, they let these children out from their wombs and dropped them in a much more developed state than when they received the seed. Then they left.
Parvati herself could not have Shiva’s child, so she did not want this to go to waste. She took these six under-developed children and wrapped them in lotus leaves, creating some kind of incubation. She could see that their chances of individual survival were remote because they did not fully develop, but she saw that these six fetuses had six sterling qualities. She thought, “If all these qualities could be in one man, how wonderful he would be!” Through her tantric powers, she merged these six little fetuses into one, embedding six beings in one single body, and Kartikeya was born. Even today, Kartikeya is referred to as “Arumuga” or six-faced. He was a phenomenally capable human being. At the age of 8, he was an unbeatable warrior.
Kartikeya Leaves Shiva
Once, it so happened that Ganapati and Kartikeya got into a small tiff. Kartikeya was very proud of his vehicle, a swift-flying peacock, and an argument broke out between the two. They decided to have a competition to find out who could go around the world the fastest. Whoever won would get a special mango from their parents.
They counted down, 1…2…3 Go! Kartikeya just flew off on his peacock. He went around the whole world but when he returned, to his amazement, Ganapati was in the same place. He had already gotten the prize, and had eaten and enjoyed it. He was now lazily relaxing in the sunshine.
Kartikeya got mad. He asked his parents, “How is this possible? I went around the world and this guy has not even started! Why did you give him the mango?” What Ganapati had done was go around Shiva and Parvati thrice. Ganapati had said, “For me, you are the universe. This is enough for me, let him run.” Shiva saw the significance of the boy’s understanding of what is what, smiled and said, “Here is the mango, son. You deserve this.”
But Kartikeya was furious at what he thought was a great injustice. Parvati tried to explain to him that there is something called “objective” and something called “subjective” and all experience is subjective. Objects are there only to create a subjective experience; by themselves they are nothing. So Ganapati just went around his parents because he was wise enough to understand that, “My parents are my world, so I go around them.” But Kartikeya would not listen to any explanations and left his home because he wanted to get away from his father.
Kartikeya Fights Injustice… Unsuccessfully
He came down to South India in a great fury and became a warrior. In many ways, he was an unmatched warrior. He went about conquering many lands in the south, but he did not conquer to rule. Because he felt his parents had been unjust to him, he wanted to create justice. He was like an activist or a revolutionary. So wherever he thought he saw injustice, he went about waging war. In his great anger, every small thing that he saw felt like a great injustice, and he slaughtered many people. He fought battle after battle and went down south.
One good thing he did was to assist Agastya, as Agastya brought spirituality to the south. Wherever Agastya found resistance, Kartikeya went to war. It was Agastya who taught him the art of warfare, and it was Agastya who also turned this anger into a means for enlightenment.
Kartikeya Sheds His Body
Kartikeya finally found his rest in a place called Subramanya. He became disgusted with battle because he saw that even if you fight for a thousand years, this kind of action is not going to change the world. One solution will breed another ten problems. So, he gave up all violence and, for the last time, washed his sword in what is today called “Ghati Subramanya” in Karnataka. He sat there in meditation for some time, and then moved up the mountain that is today named “Kumara Parvat.” In Karnataka, Subramanya is known as Kumara. Kumara means “son”. Shiva is the main deity and Kumara is the son, so the mountain is known as Kumara Parvat or Kumara’s mountain. He attained Mahasamadhi on the peak in a standing posture.
In the yogic tradition, once yogis have finished with what they have to do with their life, they just drop their body at will. This is not suicide, it is just leaving the body and going away. Most yogis leave their body sitting. In case the body does not permit that for some reason, they do it lying down on the side. But because he was such a warrior, Kartikeya left his body standing.
Usually, people just go to the temple at Subramanya and return. There is nothing much in the temple, but the mountain is a different matter. The peak is a very beautiful place in terms of natural surroundings, and it is a 15-20 kilometer trek to get to the top. Many years ago, me and a group of people went up, and we camped overnight about three-fourths of the way up to the peak. We were to go up to the top the next morning.
The energy of that space is so dominant and powerful, it’s a different world altogether. If you are sensitive, it shakes you from the very roots even today. When we camped, we put a small tent up to sleep in. But I couldn’t even sit down there. My body kept standing up by itself, dismantling the whole tent. The entire night I was just standing – that’s how powerful the place is.
This absolutely incredible event happened more than 15,000 years ago. We do not know the exact date, but the place and what he left there are still vibrantly alive. On this mountain peak, there are small natural pebbles that have all been chiseled to six faces. These pebbles are known as “Shanmukha lingas”. For all these years, his energy has been reverberating, and even the stones have slowly shaped themselves into six faces.
Editor’s Note: Download Sadhguru’s ebook, Shiva – Ultimate Outlaw, along with Vairagya, an album of sacred chants (also available as an Android App). They’re free).