The Skanda Purana

by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 1,763,776 words

This page describes The story of Skanda’s birth which is appendix 1 of the English translation of the Skanda Purana, the largest of the eighteen Mahapuranas, preserving the ancient Indian society and Hindu traditions in an encyclopedic format, detailling on topics such as dharma (virtous lifestyle), cosmogony (creation of the universe), mythology (itihasa), genealogy (vamsha) etc.

Appendix 1 - The story of Skanda’s birth

Note: This appendix is extracted from a note of Chapter 27 (the birth of Kumāra Kārttikeya) of the Kedāra-khaṇḍa of the Māheśvara-khaṇḍa.

Mahābhārata, Śalya, 44.6-13 records the following stages of Skanda’s birth:

  1. Falling of Śiva’s semen in the fire,
  2. Fire-god’s pregnancy,
  3. Fire-god transfers the foetus to Gaṅgā by Niyoga,
  4. Gaṅgā aborts it in Śara-grass on the mountain,
  5. The foetus continues to grow in the grass,
  6. Six sonless Kṛttikās claim him as their son,
  7. Skanda develops six mouths to suck the milk of the six mothers.

This original outline of the story shows the following developments in the Skandapurāṇa, which are not mentioned in the Mahābhārata, Śalya:

(1) The sexual intercourse between Śiva and Pārvatī created Pralaya—destruction of the world of mobile and immobile beings (vv 31-33).

(2) Gods depute Agni (the Fire-god) to disrupt the intercourse. Agni secretly enters Śiva’s harem and loudly demands alms. Infuriated at this interruption, Śaṅkara rushes to kill Agni. Pārvatī intervenes but gives Śiva’s semen in the joined palms of Agni and makes him drink it and curses him to be omnivorous (vv 24-43).

(3) Agni became pregnant and all Devas being recipients of food through the medium of Agni (in sacrifices) received Śiva’s semen. All gods became pregnant thereby and had unbearable pain (vv 44-46).

(4) Deputation of Devas with Viṣṇu to request relief from the torturing pain of pregnancy. Śiva relents and asks all Devas except Agni (the main culprit) to vomit the semen. The vomited semen became a mountain of gold (vv 47-64).

(5) Agni requests for relief. Śiva advises him to transmit it to women. Next morning at dawn, wives of seven sages performed bath in the river and feeling cold went to warm themselves near the fire though prohibited by Vasiṣṭha’s wife Arundhatī. Agni transfers Śiva’s semen to them (vv 65-74).

(6) Their husbands, finding them pregnant from somebody else, drive them out of their houses. Being homeless on the earth, they become Kṛttikās (Pleids) in the sky. But out of shame, they aborted on top of Himālaya Śiva’s semen whence it flowed down into Gaṅgā and was surrounded by bamboos. It ultimately developed into a child of six faces on the bank of Gaṅgā (vv 75-80).

The present text of the Mahābhārata is presumed to belong to the 4th cent. A.D. and the Skandapurāṇa to the 10th cent. Such has been the development of this legend during 600 years or so.

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