The festival going by the name of Sri Kanda Sashthi is observed
on the sixth day of the bright fortnight in the month of Aipasi
corresponding to the English months of October- November. The observance
is to propitiate lord Subramanya, the second son of Siva, in his
aspect of Kameswara for having overcome and destroyed the asura
called Surapadma and followers. The mythical incident relating
to this is as follows :
Once the asuras had obtained from Lord Siva innumerable boons. Puffed with Pride at their achievements they had become arrogant, and one among them named Daksha had even gone to the extent of wantonly insulting Siva by withholding his portion of the sacrifical offering (yajnabhaga) on a particular occasion.
In former times, there were different grades of beings known by different names such as Rishis, Deva Rishis, Brahma Rishis, Bhagavan, Devas and Prajapatis. The Daksha referred to above belonged to the order of Prajapatis and hence he was also styled Daksha Prajapati. This Daksha Prajapati had a daughter named Sari, and Siva desired very much to many her. The feeling of love was reciprocated and Siva and Sati were married. Shortly after, Daksha performed a sacrifice, but did not invite his son-in- law for it, nor did he offer him the portion of the sacrificial offering which was his due being one of the Trinity. Siva of course resented the insult and the sacrifice was spoiled.
By the wanton insult offered to Siva by Daksha Prajapati he had become a great sinner. Sati, filled with grief at the feud between her father and her husband, destroyed he was born again as Parvati and married Siva again.
At this time an asura named Taraka was harassing the devas. Unable to withstand his Prowess the army of the devas broke and fled, and Indra, the celestial king, approached Brahma for advice. He directed him to use Manmatha’s Powers to rouse the love for Parvati, dormant in Siva bent in bent on yoga practice. By doing this he suggested in making Siva beget his on second son Subrahmanya, who in course of time Became the commander-in-chief of the army of devas and destroyed the asura Taraka along with his followers.
The mythical incident of the birth of Lord Subrahmanya with six faces, a dozen arms and two feet, is highly allegorical, interesting and instructive, full of spiritual and philosophical significance worthly to be deeply pondered over to get at the real significance of the myth. The myth itself, in brief, is as follows:
While Siva was seated with his consort parvati on his lap, the devas approached him and made representation that the asura Surapadma with his hosts of followers was harassing the devas and injuring the world. Roused to anger by these words of the devas, he emitted from the third eye on his forehead, six sparks of fire of surpassing brilliance and splendour.
Unable to bear the pulsating vibrations and radiance emanating from these sparks of mighty potency, the devas again prayed to Siva to mighty potency, the devas again prayed to Siva to reduce the force emanating from them and make it bearable for them. He thereupon directed Vayu, the god of wind, and Agni, the god of fire, to help the devas by using their powers to moderate the energy of the sparks.
By using the influence of Agni and Vayu the sparks having been reduced to smiling and shinig streaks os splendour, were wafed away to the fountain source of the holy river Ganges on the mountain tops of the sacred Himalayan ranges.
After contact with the holy waters of the Ganges, these gem-like sparks of lire gathered together in a bush of reeds that was near, and assumed the form of a glorious being of light and colour of dazzling brilliance and splendour with six faces and twelve hands. Thus is described the origin of the lord Subramanya of the Hindus.
Filled with wonder and admiration, the devas and others fell to praising this second-born son of Iswara, destined to become not only the saviour of the world but also the teacher of gos and men in this solar system.
It is interesting to note that Vishnu, the preserver of the universe, is said to have directed the Kritika dames (Pleiades) to nurse this marvellous child and from this incident, he is said to have derived the name Kartikeya.
On one occasion, Brahma the lord of creation, is said to have been challenged by Subrahmanya to expound the sacred weld Prallava to his satisfaction, and when he failed to do so, he was imprisoned by our Lord in a cave. On Siva's interference, Braham was released and Subramanya is said to have thoroughly grasped the expoundings of Pranava given to Parvati by Siva, even when he was an infant resting on the lap of Parvati. It is therefore no wonder that he is recognised by all as the lord of wisdom, a fact which is represented symbolically by associating him with serpent, which stands for space as well as wisdom according to circumstances.
A peculiar form of propitiating this deity is that of carrying a kavadi to any one of his temples, by a devotee from his village or residence. This custom is rather unique and deserves special attention and thought to reveal the mystery behind the custom. At any rate, there is an allegorical myth connected with the origin of the custom.
In Hindu scriptures, there is a mention made of a dwarf Sage Agastya, who is said to have drunk the oceans dry on a particular occasion! Agastya is said to have been given two hillocks on Mount Kailash, the abode of Siva in the north, with the permission to take them south to be located somewhere there and worshipped as Siva and Sakti, spirit and matter. As the hillocks could not be forthwith removed, fhe sage returned to his abode known as Podiamalai, leaving the hillocks in a forest called Burchavanam. There he met an asura named Idumban, the sole survivor of the asura class, destroyed by the prowess of Subrahmanya, and who was in fact the preceptor of the asuras when they were in affluent circumstances. He begged the sage Agastya to accept him as his disciple and to initiate him in the mystery of the divine wisdom. Complying with his request, the sage directed him to go and bring the two hillocks left in the Burchavanam in the north to be located in the south. He also invested him with certain powers by which he was ahle to command the rod of Brahma and the Services of the eight serpents - Vasuki, Anantan, Taksha, Sangapalan, Guljkan, Padman, Mahapadman and Karkotakan to remove the hillocks and carry them on his shoulders.
Using the huge and mighty serpents as ropes, he tied the two hillocks to the two ends of the rod of Brahma and was proceeding south carrying them, balancing them all on his shoulders. When he came to the place called Palani, Idumban felt tired and having placed the burden down, began to take Some rest. Having recovered from the fatigues of the Journey he tried to lift the burden from the ground to proceed on the journey, but t, his surprise and dismay, he found one of the hillocks rooted to th, earth, and do what he might he was not able to lift it! Mounting on top of one of them, he espied Subramanya there in the guise of a youth in underwear with a stick in his hand.
An altercation ensued between our Lord and Idumban which resulted in the latter's falling down on the ground senseless. Idumban's wife subsequently prayed to Subrahmanya to spare her husband, pardon him and bless him, who taking pity on the devoted wife of Idumban, restored him to consciousness and took him into his favour by making him his (dvarapalaka) gatekeeper.
From the incident referred to above, has originated the custom of kavadi-bearing by the Hindus to propitiate Subrahmanya.
There are many temples dedicated to Subrahmanya in southern India. The specially important places for the worship of subrahmanya are Tiruchendur as the place where he was first worshipped for having destroyed the asura Surapadma; Tirupparankunram near Madurai where he is said to have married a damsel by name Devasenai; Palni near Dindigul where he appeared to Idumban in the guise of a youth; and Swamimalai near Kumbakonam where he is said to have initiated Iswara himself in the mysteries of pranava.
At Vaithiswarankoil he is worshipped as a lovely youth who is said to have obtained his Velayutham (invincible lance) from the goddess Sakti, and at Trichengode, he is worshipped in the form of a serpent.
Tirutani near Madras, is also important as the place where he is said to have married Valli, and a place called Kambankollai (not yet identified !) is made mention of, where he made Vinayaka threaten his lady-love Valli in the guise of an elephant to make her voluntarily fall into his arms and eventually wed him.