The kaumAra-shAsana holds that its mantra-s are of two types name shruti-prakR^iti and Agama-prakR^iti. The former mantra-s are those of vaidika origin. The rahasya trishati is said to specify mantra-s of both the classes.
bhUtapatir gatAta~Nko nIla-chUDaka-vAhanaH || 34/287
The terminal quadrantistich of this shloka “nIla-chUDaka-vAhanaH” encodes the shruti-prakR^iti-mantra known as the aShTAkShari vidyA (AV-Vulgate 20.132.16)
vachadbhU rudrabhUsh chaiva jagadbhUr brahmabhUs tathA | 35/291
bhuvadbhUr vishvabhUsh chaiva mantramUrtir mahAmanuH || 35/295
This shloka is said to specify shruti-prakR^iti skanda mahAmantra-s. What is immediately apparent is that it encodes the six ShaDakShari mantra-s that are associated with the shaktyuta mUrti yantra. But what is the shruti-prakR^iti being referred here? The answer is of considerable interest both in terms of the mantra-shAstra and also in terms of understanding the early transmission of the kaumAra shAsana to the southern country. The shruti alluded to here is the vaikhAnasa shruti. The vaikhAnasa mantra prashna (6.24.1-25.1) gives the six basic mantra-s for the vaikhAnasokta skanda yAga that is performed on the bright ShaShThi in the months of phAlguni, aShADha and kR^ittika:
jagad-bhuvaM bahuto hutaM yajad-bhuvan [vachad-bhuvan] namas te astu vishva-bhuve svAhA || 6.24.1
jagad-bhuvo .adhipatis senAnIr mayUra-priyaSh ShaDAnanA~NgAraH sa~njayAha namas te .astu sukhAvahAya svAhA || 6.24.2
subrahmaNyo bR^ihaspates sutAyAsya padma-yoneH yasyAtmA vahane vahati svAhA || 6.24.3
subrahmaNyo rudra-bhuvo brahma-bhuvaH bhavodbhavo mamAmR^itAya svAhA || 6.24.4
jagad-bhuvas subrahmaNyaH kR^ittikA-sutaH ShaShTikAya svAhA || 6.24.5
jagad-bhuvo yo yajad-bhuva skanda-vishAkha-netA havyam asmAt ShaNmukhAya svAhA || 6.25.1
Then the offerings are made to the kula of skanda-mAtR^i-s (the mantra-s are given after the durgA homa mantra-s in the VMP 6.27.1-28.1):
nandinyA mUlavatyA jagato vasatyA jyeShThAyA astu suhuta(g)M hutam svasur devyA dharitryA rajata-priyAyAs svAhA || 6.27.1
Apo vivesha prajayA brahma-dArAs skanda-prabarhaM bharaNe vidma devyAH veginI devI sharma deyAt sadA nas svAhA || 6.27.2
shAkhA-bhUta sushAkhayA divo bhettum ayUyujat dhAtA devyA yajAma homAgryAM tatra vAhiny udetu svAhA || 6.27.3
devI pravAhiny anishaM pAti-bhUta(g)M sarvaM Chando vikIrayan bhajato me shivaM dhattAM jayA vR^ittaM jarayatv Adhim eShA svAhA || 6.27.4
bisinI bhUtA jananIvA sR^ijanty utAvanItA brahmaNy adhy upAste tAM vidyutA(g)M samyag u tarpayAmi svAhA || 6.27.5
pravidyutAyA sumano-dharA chAmuM vira~njaty ata eSha panthAH tasyAbhavat vindu-karAnura~njo juhomi sA no shivadA vidheyA svAhA || 6.28.1
arghya is offered with:
tat-puruShAya vidmahe mahAsenAya dhImahi | tan naSh ShaNmukhaH pracodayAt ||188.8.131.52
In the first mantra the editions prepared by the kuMbhaghoNaM vaikhAnasa-s as well as that by the American scholar Resnick read as “yajad-bhuvan”. However, at least one vaikhAnasa from the Tamil country reads this as vachad-bhuvan. The reading vachad-bhuvan is also seen in the form of this mantra preserved within the subrahmaNya pratiShTha of the shaiva saiddhAntika tradition. Hence latter reading could have also been a valid, especially given that it specifies the base of one of the six ShaDakShari mantra-s in its typical form (OM vachadbhuve namaH ||). In the sextet of ShaDakShari-s one of the 6 mantra-s is typically given as “bhuvadbhuve namaH ||” in later tAntrika sources. In all manuscripts and the oral tradition of the vaikhAnasa-s the cognate name is read as bhavodbhava. This corresponds to the same name used in the mantra “sadyojAtaM prapadyAmi…” which is a skanda mantra in the gopathokta atharvavedIya skanda yAga. Similarly, the bali mantra deployed in the bodhAyanokta dhUrta homa of the classical taittirIyaka-s uses the name bhavodbhava. These points suggest that the original name was probably bhavodbhava, which was transformed to bhuvadbhuva to fit the form of the remaining mantra-s to constitute the ShaDakShari sextet. While mantra-s related to rituals to skanda and ShaShThI were widespread across different shAkhA-s in the late Vedic period, the earliest indications of the kaumAra mUla ShaDakShari-s are currently observed only within the taittirIya tradition. An indication that these mantra-s were based on “bhU” is supported by the form the ShaDakShari of the classical tattirIyaka-s for offering oblations in the dhUrta homa: “bhuve namaH svAhA ||”. But what makes the vaikhAnasa mantra-s important is that they are the earliest indication of the complete base forms of the ShaDakShari sextet. Further, this set of six mantra-s specify the 31 kalA-s of the kaumAra mantra-shAstra that are used in the sarvA~NganyAsa, just as the kalA-s of the pa~nchabrahmA are used in the shaiva tradition.
The origin of these celebrated kaumAra mantra-s in association with the vaikhAnasa-s is also consistent with other elements of kaumAra worship recorded in their tradition. As we noted before, the vaikhAnasa-s invoke kumAra during the nAmakaraNa blessings and in their specific ritual of the child’s first outing, where it is taken to the kumAra shrine. These points are of particular interest when considered in relation to the fact the vaikhAnasa-s were the earliest innovators within the taittirIyaka tradition who adopted the iconic worship of viShNu in temples. They appear to have moved to the south carrying with them an early form of the vaiShNava-mata and appear to have been involved in the emergence of early viShNu shrines in south India during. From a historical perspective, we find a geographical association between the iconic worship of viShNu (in the pA~ncharAtrika form and probably also in the vaikhAnasa form) and that of kumAra at several sites where early temples have been recorded: 1) Mathura in Aryavarta and 2) The region centered on Nagarajunakonda during the Andhra, ikShvAku and viShNukuNDin period in dakShiNApatha. In light of these observations it appears likely that the vaiShNava-s were in proximity with the kaumAra-s in this period. Even earlier evidence for such a link is also seen in the early kaumAra myths recorded in the mahAbhArata. For example, in the kaumAra narrative of mArkaNDeya (the oldest extant narration of the kaumAra myth) one of the names of kumAra is vAsudeva-priya. Similarly, in the narrative of the discomfiture of prahlAda we find that viShNu and kumAra have an “understanding” and recognition of each others might.
Today in the drAviDa country most kaumAra shrines are officiated by saiddhAntika shaiva-s. However, there are reasons to believe that this is unlikely to have been the case in earlier times: 1) the worship of kumAra was already in place even before the saiddhAntika-s had become a dominant force in the Tamil country. There are pallava kings with kaumAra names even before the first pallava to receive the saiddhAntika dIkSha (In fact we find viShNu and kumAra to be the main deities in the names of the early pallava-s, much like the rulers further north in the Andhra country. A similar association is also seen in the inscriptions of their later rivals, the chAlukya-s, e.g. the Surat copper plates of shryAshraya shilAditya.). 2) We find that kumAra was a prominent deity in the relatively early layers of drAviDa poetry. The dating of the drAviDa anthologies is controversial. However, as KAN Shastri noted, we find that the pallava-s are hardly noticed in the early drAviDa collection termed the eTTuttokai (the 8-fold collection), which includes the paripATal. Though the paripATal is considered to be one of the latest texts in this collection, it is still likely to have been composed in large part before the pallava dominance of the drAviDa country and its proposed dates of ~250-400 CE seem likely. This was certainly before any south Indian ruler known to receive saiddhAntika dIkSha. The paripATal has two prominent deities kumAra (8 poems) and viShNu (6 poems), again reinforcing their old association. The exquisite kaumAra poems of this text encapsulate versions of the mythology known from various sources in the devabhASha and importantly mention the pANTiyan ruler’s visit to a kaumAra shrine near Madurai (identified as the original temple at tiruppara~Nku~Nram). 3) The survival of the skanda-sadbhAva tantra in the Tamil country. This is an early kaumAra tantra with iconographic features typical of the gupta age, which does not show any saiddhAntika influence. This suggests that there is memory of a pre-saiddhAntika system of temple worship of kumAra.
In the north in the post-harShavardhana period there appears to have been an explosive expansion of the mantramArga shaiva streams at the expense of the kaumAra shAsana (perhaps even catalyzed by the former via emphasis on negative myths). Hence, in the north the saiddhAntika-s largely sought to absorb kumAra within the shaiva frame work rather than explicitly promote him. For example, in the Chandrarehe stone inscription (verse 10) from the kalachuri kingdom of Tripuri the saiddhAntika Acharya prabodha-shiva deshika is compared repeatedly with kumAra, who is described as faithfully carrying out the duties in worshiping his father shiva. Following this absorption, in the north we find that there was a decline in the popularity of kumAra along with the concomitant rise of vinAyaka (as assessed by inscriptions). Finally, the Islamic depredations largely ended his memory in large parts of the North. But in the south due the strong presence of multiple kumAra shrines from even before the establishment the saiddhAntika-s he was not displaced, but simply co-opted via the action of the saiddhAntika deshika as a sarvAdhikArI. An important player in this process was the great saiddhAntika scholar aghorashiva deshika (1100s of CE) who composed a manual known as the subrahmaNya pratiShThAvidhi, which provides the kaumAra temple installations under a saiddhAntika framework. In this framework the ShaDakShari sextet is combined with the faces of the 5 brahma mantra-s:
OM ishAna-mUrdhAya jagadbhuve namaH |
OM tatpuruSha-vaktrAya vachadbhuve namaH |
OM aghora-hR^idayAya vishvabhuve namaH |
OM vAmadeva-guhyAya rudrabhuve namaH |
OM sadyojAya-mUrtaye brahmabhuve namaH |
OM sarva-vaktra bhuvadbhuve namaH |
Likewise other saiddhAntika elements are worked into various aspects of the kaumAra ritual.
In light of the above discussion the links of the kaumAra shAsana to the vaikhAnasa-s assumes considerable significance. It appears likely that an offshoot of the vaikhAnasa-s or a related parallel stream of brAhmaNa-s specializing in the temple worship established the system of kaumAra temple worship in south India. Like the vaikhAnasa-s who bore the temple worship of viShNu to the south this group is also likely to have built on the household iconic worship of kumAra as specified in the general taittirIya tradition to develop it for temple worship. It is possible that Mathura was a common center where the temple worship developed among both the vaiShNava-s and kaumAra-s. From there these groups appear to have pushed further south together reaching the region around Nagarjunakonda and finally the Tamil country. This would explain the origin of the early of the skanda shrines in the southern country along with those of viShNu referred to in the songs of the paripATal. Finally, it may also explain the faint folk memories that the main vaikhAnasa shrine at Tirumala is alternatively a kaumAra shrine. Indeed the vaikhAnasa officiants appear to acknowledge this in their aShTottara-shata-nAmAvali of ve~NkaTeshvara, where he is called: “kArttikeya-vapudhAriNe namaH |”. It is not impossible that at some point there was also a presence of the vaikhAnasa associated kaumAra-s in this place.