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Or Ens BADR, is an avatar, or by some called a son of Siva, produced from the jatra, or plaited locks of that deity, which he cut off and threw on the ground, in a moment of frenzy, on learning the death of Suti, caused by the curse of Daksha. Vira Badra immediately attacked Daksha, and cut off his head, which fell into the fire prepared for a sacrifice, and was burnt. He is armed with various instruments of destruction; and the representations of him are usually seen with the head of a goat (with which that of Daksha was replaced on his body) near them, or accompanied by a human figure with a goat’s head. (See DAKSHA, and fig. 3, plate 3; also VIRA BADRA, fig. 5, plate 15.)
This deity is the son of Siva, produced in an extraordinary manner for an extraordinary purpose; and the leader of the celestial armies. He is sometimes represented with one face, and sometimes with six faces ; possessing two, four, or six arms, holding various instruments in his hands; of a yellow complexion, and riding on a peacock, his vahan or vehicle.
Of the birth of this deity it is not easy to give an account: but, as it was thought proper that he should make his appearance in the Hindu Mythology, for the especial purpose of repairing an error of Brahma, who appears to have been little better than a blundering sort of god who caused incessant trouble to his compeers, I must necessarily describe him in the most becoming terms I can.
Tarika, a giant, in consequence of performing religious penances and austerities, obtained from Brahma a promise that he would grant him any boon he asked. Among his requests was the usual one of universal power and dominion. He then, like others whom I have before described, began to oppress both the gods and men. He robbed the ocean of its riches, plundered the sun of its fire, and bade the moon to stand still. Indra, who appears generally among the greatest sufferers on these melancholy occasions, was deprived of his eight-headed horse, Oochisrava; and others of the gods were treated in the same audacious and unceremonious manner. In this dilemma they, as was their wont when similarly circumstanced, called a council in heaven, at which Indra presided; wherein it was determined to apply immediately to Brahma. The application was accordingly made; and Brahma, who had promised, among other things, that Tarika should be invincible except to a son of Siva, declared his utter inability to revoke his promise. Here then was a case which appeared to portend more evil to the gods than any that had before befallen them, as Siva had no son; nor, from his total abstraction in his religious austerities, was any hope entertained that he would have one. No expedient could, for a long time, be found to overcome this difficulty, till Kamadeo started up, and boasted that he would conquer the mind of even Mahadeo himself. On this Indra flattered the ill-fated boy, and allured him to accompany Parvati to the forest to which Siva had retired, where he was discovered under a tree, wholly absorbed in his devotions. Parvati, by equal austerities and worship of the Linga, round which she wreathed garlands of the brightest flowers, at length attracted the notice of Siva, when Kama, watching the auspicious moment, let fly an arrow, and pierced the terrific deity to the heart. Roused by the wound, Siva ‘cast an indignant glance at Kama, and, with the fire of his‘ eye in the centre of his forehead, consumed the beauteous god of love to ashes. The aim had, however, been sufliciently unerring, and the union of Siva and Parvati was the consequence. Still no issue was the fruit of it; and the gods again assembled to consider what, on such a conjuncture, should be done. At length they hit upon a scheme which, at a critical moment, by the instrumentality ‘of Agni (the regent of fire), in the shape of a dove, was successful. This part of the proceeding is of so mysterious a character, that it will be more prudent to draw over it the veil of concealment than to expose it. Sufiice it, therefore, to say, that the germ of the leader of the celestial armies was nourished in the bosom of
.the majestic Ganges; from whence, one day, arose a boy of transcendent
beauty (Kartikeya), hence called the son of Gunga. He was here discovered
by six females who went to the river to bathe, from each of whom he received the breast.
The excellent work of Major Moor places those ladies in a somewhat dubious position, which may lead to no very high opinion of the chastity of the Hindu nymphs of ancient times, as he describes them as the daughters of as many rajahs. Mr. Ward calls them (as indeed does Major Moor elsewhere), more becomingly, the wives of six of the seven Rishis of the name of Krittika (astronomically the Pleiades). Hence his name of Kartikeya, or he who was nourished by six mothers named Krittika, and hence his being occasionally described with six heads.
We are thus left in considerable perplexity respecting the maternal part of this hero’s origin. He was, however, the son of Siva; and in due time, aftera desperate combat, accomplished the object of his appearance, if not of his birth, by the predicted destruction of Tarika.
Although the leader of the celestial armies, little more is related of the belligerent exploits of Kartikeya than the foregoing incident. In the battle between the gods and Jalandhara, this distinguished warrior appears to have thought that the better part of valour was discretion, and while the battle raged around him, to have deemed it wiser to retire on his peacock to the mountain, because he did not like to continue the contest with Rahu and his mother, as he was disinclined to offend the latter. If we can bestow a proper portion of credit on the account given of Rahu, we shall not be
Of this monster, whose mother so happily interposed, we are told in the third volume of the Asiatic Researches, that “ he had four arms; his lower parts ended in a tail, like that of a dragon; his aspect was grim and gloomy, like the darkness of chaos, whence he had also the name of Tamas. He was the adviser of all mischief among the Daityas, who had a regard for him; but among the Devatas it was his chief delight to sow dissention : and when the gods had produced the amrit (water of immortality) by the
churning of the ocean, he disguised himself like one of them and received a portion of it. But the sun and moon having discovered his fraud, Vishnu severed his head and two of his arms from the rest of his monstrous body. That part of the nectareous fluid that he had time to swallow secured his immortality. His trunk and dragon-like tail fell on the mountain of Malaya, where Mini, a Brahman, carefully preserved them, by the name of Kétu or Cetu; and, as if a complete body had been formed from them, like a dismembered polype, he is even said to have adopted Kétu as his own child. The head with two arms fell on the sands of Barbara, where Prit’henas was walking with Sinhica, by some called his wife. They carried the daitya to their palace and adopted him as their son, whence he acquired the name of Prit’hinasi. This extravagant fable is, no doubt, astronomical.
Kétu often appears as a comet, a whirlwind, a meteor, a water-spout, and a column of sand. Fifty-six comets are said in the Chintamani to have sprung from Kétu; and Rahu had a numerous progeny of grahas and crocodiles.
In this battle Ganesha too proved a degenerate son of his invincible and amazonian mother ; for, on being wounded in the mouth, he cried out lustily on the field, “Oh, my mother! Oh, my father! Oh, my brother! Oh, my dear Rat!”
Kartikeya is worshipped in the month Kartika; on which occasion numerous images are made (Mr. Ward says not less than five thousand in Calcutta alone, some of which are twenty-five feet high), which, after the ceremony of worship, are cast, like those of Durga and Kali, into the river. Images of him are also set up and worshipped, as I have before mentioned, with those of Durga, on the festivals of that goddess. The model by Chit Roy, from which fig. 3, in the frontispiece, is taken, is a correct specimen of the images of Kartikeya on these occasions. Vows and offerings are made to him by Hindu females to obtain children, especially sons.
Kartikeya has many names; among which are Skanda, Subrahmani, Tarikajit, or he who conquered Tarika, &c. Sze.
Fig. 1, plate 17, from a drawing, represents him on a peacock, the tail
of which forms a back to his lotus throne. In one hand he holds a spear, in another a trident, in a third an arrow, and the fourth is held in the act of solicitation. The peacock is treading upon a serpent holding something red in its mouth.
Fig. 2, in the same plate, from the temple of Rama, represents him similarly mounted and armed, except that his fourth hand holds a bow. In the compartment of the temple the tail of the bird is trailing on the ground, which want of room obliged me to alter in the plate.