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Shiva and Parvati's wedding and eventually killing of Tarakasura by Skanda

Shiva and Parvati's wedding and eventually killing of Tarakasura by Skanda




There was an asura (demon) named Taraka. Tara’s son was Taraka.
Taraka wished to defeat the gods. He therefore went to a place named Madhuvana and began to perform very difficult tapasya. He gazed at the sun and stood there with his arms raised. He stood on one leg and that too, only on the toes of his feet. A hundred years passed. For those hundred years, Taraka drank only water and had no food to eat. For the next hundreds, he gave up that also and lived only on air. A hundred years were spent in performing tapasya inside water, another hundred years on earth and a hundred years more inside fire. For a hundred years he performed tapasya upside down, standing on his hands. And for yet another hundred years, he hung upside down from the branches of a tree.
The meditation was so difficult that Brahma was pleased. He appeared before Tarakasura and said, I am pleased with your tapasya. What boon do you want?
If you are pleased, replied Tarakasura, grant me two boons. The first boon should be that no one created by you should be as strong as me. The second boon should be that I should be killed only by Shiva’s son.
Shiva at that point of time had no sons. Sati had died and although she had been reborn as Parvati, she had not been married to Shiva.
Brahma granted Tarakasura the two boons. The demon went to a city named Shonitapura and began to live there. All the other demons made Tarakasura their king. Thanks to the boon. Tarakasura was so strong that he easily defeated the gods. He conquered the three worlds and drove the gods out of heaven. He stole all their belongings and employed the gods as his servants.
The despondent gods went to Brahma and asked him to find a solution to the Tarakasura problem.
I can’t, said Brahma. It is because of my boon that the demon has become so powerful. Besides, my boon says that Tarakasura can only be killed by Shiva’s son. Shiva has got to have a son. He is now performing tapasya in the Himalaya mountains. Parvati is also in that region. Do something so that these two fall in love with each other and marry.


The Burning of the God of Love.

The gods decided to follow Brahma’s advice. But how could it be ensured that Shiva and Parvati fell in love with each other? The king of the gods was Indra and the god of love was Kandarpa or Madana or Kamadeva.
Indra summoned Kandarpa. You have to help us, said Indra. There is no other way out. Shiva is performing tapasya in the Himalayas. Parvati is also in the region. Make sure that the two fall in love. That is your job.
Kandarpa went to the place where Shiva was meditating. And as soon as the god of love appeared, the place took on the traits of a spring which was pernnial. Flowers bloomed and bees buzzed among the flowes. Cuckoos sang and fragant breezes started to waft through the forest. Shiva tried to concentrate on his meditation. But he kept getting distracted.
While all this was going on, who should arrive there but Parvati? She was so beautiful that Shiva was smitten with love for her. Parvati also seemed to like Shiva.
But life is never simple. Shiva was, after all, Shiva. He realized that something was wrong. How could his meditation have been disturbed? How was it that the season seemed to be spring although it had no business to be spring? When Shiva glanced around, his eyes fell on Kandarpa who was hiding. He realized that it was Kandarpa who was responsible for all this mischief.
Shiva was angered. He had a third eye in the middle of his forehead. From this third eye flames sprouted and these flames burnt Kandarpa to ashes.
Kandarpa’s wife was Rati. When Rati saw that her husband had been burnt to ashes, her grief knew no bounds. At first she lost consciousness. When she recovered, she lamented, Woe is me. What is going to happen to me? My husband, my love, where have you gone? 


Shiva with his third eye turning Madana or Kandarpa or Kamadeva into ashes
The gods and Rati sought out Shiva. They explained that it had been no fault of Kandarpa’s. He had been asked to disturb Shiva’s tapasya because of the Tarakasura problem. What would happen to Rati now?
Shiva replied, What has happened has happened. Nothing can be done about kandarpa now. He will eventually be born in the city of Dvaraka as Krishna’s son Pradyumna. Rati will then be reuntied with Kandarpa. But till such time, let her simply wait.
The gods dispersed, still despondent. The matter of Shiva and Parvati’s marriage had not progressed at all.


Parvati’s Tapasya

But Parvati had fallen in love with Shiva and she didn’t know what she could do about it. She thought of Shiva all the time.
One day the sage Narada came and told her, Shiva is only pleased with tapasya. Without tapasya, even Brahma and the other gods do not get to see Shiva. Why don’t you perform tapasya?
Parvati decided to do what Narada had asked her to. She asked her parents for permission. Her father agreed with alacrity. Although her mother Menaka was not at all keen that Parvati should perform difficult tapasya, she too eventually agreed. 



Parvati tapasya


Parvati gave up her jewellery and handsome clothes. She wore deerskin instead. There is a peak in the Himalayas known as Gouriskikhara. It is there that Parvati went for her tapasya. The meditation was very difficult. During the monsson Parvati meditated while seated on the ground. In the winter she mediated under the water. Wild beasts dared not harm her. All the gods and sages assembled to see this wonderful tapasya. The gods and the sages also began to pray to Shiva. Lord, can’t you see that Parvati is performing difficult tapasya? They asked. No one has meditated like this before. No one will meditate like this in the future. Please grant her what she wants.
Shiva adopted the form of an old brahmana (the first of the four classes) and appeared at Parvati’s hermitage. Parvati welcomed the old man and worshipped him with flowers and fruits.
Why are you meditating? asked the brahmana. What is it that you want?
I wish to have Shiva as a husband, replied Parvati.
You are indeed stupid. Said the brahmana. That is like giving up gold for a piece of glass or giving sandalwood for mud. Does anyone give up the water of the Ganga and drink water from a well instead? Marry one of the gods instead, go and marry Indra. Shiva is a stupid fellow. He has three eyes and five faces. His hair is matted and his body is smeared with ashes. He wears snakes as garlands. He is always accompanied by ghosts, He has no clothes and no wealth. No one knows who his parent are. He lives in the forst and his throat is blue with poison. I think you are making a big mistake. Forget about Shiva and don’t waste your life.
The brahmana’s words angered Parvati. It is you who are stupid, she said. You don’t know a thing about Shiva. He is the lord of everything. You have insulted Shiva and I made the mistake of worshipping you. You are again going to say something nasty about Shiva. But before you can do that, let me go away. I shall not stay to hear Shiva insulted.
As Parvati was about to depart, Shiva adopted his own form and said, Where are you going? I thought that you were praying for me. You can’t forsake me now. I am not going to let you go. Ask for a boon.
Please marry me according to the prescribed rites, replied Parvati.
Shiva agreed and Parvati returned home.


The Marriage

Shiva called the seven great sages (saptarshis) and asked them to go to Himalaya as his messengers. The message was that he wished to marry Himalaya’s daughter Parvati. Himalaya was delighted to see the sages and even more delighted to learn that Shiva wanted to marry Parvati. A date was fixed for the marriage. 


Shiva and Parvati marriage

The day of the marriage dawned. Gandharvas (singers of heaven) sang and apsara (dancers of heaven) danced. All the gods came to Kailasa to accompany Shiva on the procession. Himalaya had also got ready. He had built many gates in front of his house and had placed flags on them. The beauty of Himalaya’s residence at that time is impossible to describe. When the procession arrived at the residence, Parvati’s mother Menaka rushed out.
Let me see Shiva, she exclaimed. Let me see my son-in-law. My daughter Parvati has performed tapasya to obtain Shiva as a husband. He must be exceedingly handsome.
The first person Menaka saw was Vishvavasu, the king of the gandharvas. Vishvavasu was very handsome and, at first, Menaka thought that this was Shiva. But when she was told that this was only a singer who entertained Shiva, she thought that Shiva would be more handsome. Then her eyes fell down on the handsome Kubera, the god of wealth, and she thought that this had to be Shiva. Kubera was more attractive than Vishvavasu. But Menaka was told that this was not Shiva either. Then came Varuna, more attractive than Kubera. But this was not Menaka’s son-in-law. Nor was her son-in-law the great god Yama, handsomer than Varuna. The handsome gods Indra, Surya and Chandra passed by. But Narada told Menaka that these were not Shiva, they were simply Shiva’s servants.
Menaka’s joy knew no bounds. If these were the servants, what was the master going to be like? She mistook Brahma, Vishnu and Brihaspati for Shiva, and each time Narada told her that she was wrong. Where then was Shiva? Finally Shiva came and Narada pointed him out to Menaka. At the sight of her son-in-law, Menaka fell unconscious.
Shiva was surrounded by ghosts on all sides. The faces were fierce, their complexions were dark and they made a tremendous racket. Shiva himself rode on bull. He had three eyes, five faces and ten arms. He was smeared with ashes and the moon adorned his forehead. He was dressed in a tiger’s skin and a garland of skulls hung around his neck. No wonder Menaka fainted.
When she recovered, she began to lament. She scolded Himalaya, Narada and Parvati for her misfortune. Brahma, the other gods, and the sages tried to pacify Menaka. But to no avail.
I will not permit my daughter to be married to Shiva, Menaka said. I will give her poison instead. I will throw her into a well and kill her. I will chop her up into pieces with a weapon. I will hurl her into the sea. I will kill myself. I will get Parvati married to someone else. Not to Shiva.
Parvati resolved, I shall not marry anyone other than Shiva. Is a jackal a fit replacement for a lion?
Vishnu then tried to pacify Menaka. But this did not succeed either. Finally Narada asked Shiva to display his beautiful form and Shiva obliged. This form is exhibited only to those who are very faithful to Shiva. Everyone was charmed by this beautiful form, even Menaka. His body shone like a thousand suns and a crown sparkled on his head. His clothes glittered and the lustre of his jewels put the stars to shame.
Menaka begged forgiveness for her foolishness and now there were no further obstacles to the marriage. Under Brahma’s supervision, the marriage ceremony took place and Shiva and Parvati returned to Kailasa.


Kartikeya


Skanda or Kartikeya fighting with Tarakasura


Shiva and Parvati’s son was Skanada or Kartikeya. When the baby was very small, it got lost in some reeds. Six princesses discovered the baby in the reeds and each wanted to bring up the baby as her own son. All of them finally cooperated in bringing up the body. These princesses were the Krittikas and the boy came to be known as Kartikeya.
The gods got to know from Narada that Kartikeya had been brought up by the Krittikas. They came and appointed Kartikeya their general. The army of gods then invaded Tarakasura’s city Shonitapura. A terrible fight raged for ten days. The gods completely decimated the demons and Katikeya killed Tarakasura.
After the victory celebrations were over, Kartikeya was restored to his parents.


KARTIKEYA'S SORROW

While the deities hailed the glory of Kartikeya for having killed Tarakasura, Kartikeya himself was saddened by his act. He told the deities--'I regret for having killed Tarakasura 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 Pratigyeshwara, Kapaleshwara and Kumareshwara. Kartikeya, while worshipping at Kapaleshwara sprinkled holy water on the Shivalinga and prayed so that Tarakasura's soul rested in peace. He also offered sesame seeds to lord Kapaleshwara and prayed --
'May my offerings made in the form of sesame seeds reach Taraka--the descendant of Sage Kashyapa.'
This way, Kartikeya was absolved of his sins.

KILLING OF PRALAMBA

A demon named Pralamba had escaped unharmed in the battle fought between the deities and demons, where the Tarakasura was killed by Skanda. As the deities were busy installing Shivalingas at different places, Pralamba started to torment their families in their absence. The deities got this information from Kumuda 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 Pralamba. Shakti pierced the heart of earth and went right up to Patala loka where Pralamba 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 Patala Ganga and became famous as 'Siddha-koopa.'


OM NAMO NARAYANAYA

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