Many khaṇḍa-s, māhātmya-s and saṃhitā-s attach themselves to the sprawling “Mega-Skandapurāṇa”. We use this term to distinguish it from the “Ur-Skandapurāṇa”, which was first published by Bhaṭṭārāi in the late 1980s and is now known to survive as three related recensions, one of which is represented by rather early manuscripts from Nepal. Of the texts associated with the “Mega-Skandapurāṇa”, the Śaṃkara-saṃhitā, remains relatively poorly known. It is unclear if there was a pan-Indian understanding of its constituent texts and if a complete version was ever extant in any part of the Indosphere. As far as we can tell, one of its khaṇda-s known as the Śivarahasya is preserved only in South India and is likely of South Indian origin. It was most likely composed in the Drāviḍa country; though one cannot entirely rule out the Southern Andhra country or parts of Southern Karṇāṭa as its original source. It was edited by a maternal śrauta-ritualist- and paurāṇika-clansman of ours in the 1950s-1960s. Upon completing its editing, he offered it to the shrine of Skanda housing the kuladevatā of our clan. The text as available still has some corruptions, several of which might have been introduced while typesetting. The Śivarahasya presents its relationship to the Mega-Skandapurāṇa thus:
teṣv api+idam muni-śreṣṭhāḥ skāndaṃ sukhadam uttamam ।
sarva-vedānta-sārasvaṃ pañcāśat khaṇḍamaṇḍitam ॥
ādyā sanatkumārīyā dvitīyā sūta-saṃhitā ।
brāhmī tu saṃhitā paścāt turīyā vaiṣṇavī matā ॥
pañcamī śāṃkarī-jñeyā saurī ṣaṣṭhī tu saṃhitā ।
ādyā tu pañca-pañcāśat sahasraiḥ ślokakair yutā ॥
dvitīyā saṃhitā viprāḥ ṣaṭsahasrair alaṃkṛtā ।
trisāhasrair yutā brāhmī pañcabhir vaiṣṇavī-yutā ॥
triṃśatbhiḥ śāṃkarīyuktā khaṇḍair dvādaśabhis tathā ।
ṣaṣṭhī tu saurī saṃyuktā sahasreṇaika kenasā ॥
grantha-lakṣair yutaṃ skāndaṃ pañcāśat khaṇḍa-maṇḍitam ।
tad adya sampravakṣyāmi yuṣmabhyaṃ vipra-puṃgavāḥ ॥
tat trayā saṃhitā proktā śāṃkarī veda-sammatā ।
triṃśat sahasrair granthānāṃ vistareṇa suvistṛtā ॥
ādau śiva-rahasyākhyaṃ khaṇḍam adya vadāmi vaḥ ।
tat trayodaśa-sāhasraiḥ saptakāṇḍair alaṃkṛtam ॥
The Mega-Skandapurāṇa is divided into 6 saṃhitā-s that have a total of 50 khaṇḍa-s among them. These are listed as follows with their corresponding verse counts: 1. Sanatkumāra: 55,000; 2. Sūta: 6000; 3. Brāhmī: 3000; 4. Vaiṣṇavī: 5000; 5. Śāṃkarī: 30,000; Saurī: 1000. Thus, the entire text is said to be of 100,000 verses. Within it, the Śaṃkara-saṃhitā (Śāṃkarī) is said to have 12 khaṇda-s of which the Śivarahasya of 13,000 verses is one. The Śivarahasya itself is divided into 7 kāṇḍa-s, which are: 1. Sambhava; 2. Āsura; 3. Māhendra; 4. Yuddha; 5. Deva; 6. Dakṣa; 7. Upadeśa.
The published Mega-Skandapurāṇa does not align precisely with this tradition and has 7 khaṇḍa-s: 1. Māheśvara; 2. Vaiṣṇava; 3. Brahma; 4. Kāśī; 5. Avanti; 6. Nāgara; 7. Prabhāsa. The Māheśvara-khaṇḍa in this compendium is not the same as the Śāṃkarī Samhitā under consideration in this discussion. However, they share many common themes that include the central thread gathered around the destruction of Dakṣa’s sacrifice, the marriage of Pārvatī and Rudra, the birth of Kumāra and the killing of Tāraka by him, the birth of Gaṇeśa, the Śivarātri ritual and the worship of Rudra at Aruṇācala. The tale of Skanda and the Tāraka war is repeated twice in the Māheśvara-khaṇḍa of the Mega-Skandapurāṇa.
The first 5 kāṇḍa-s and parts of 6 and 7 of the Śivarahasya in the Śāṃkarī Samhitā comprise a narration of the Kaumāra cycle partly modeled after the Rāmāyaṇa of Vālmīki. Much of the kāṇḍa-s 6 and 7 are primarily śaiva material relating to the observation of vrata-s and Śiva-dharma — these thematically overlap with the material in the Māheśvara-khaṇḍa of the Mega-Skandapurāṇa. The Kaumāra portions of the Śivarahasya were rendered in Tamil by the saiddhāntika guru Kāśyapaśiva in the medieval period as the Tamil Skandapurāṇa. His version has some differences from the extant Sanskrit text of the Śivarahasya — it is unclear if these differences are due to his reformulation of the narrative or because he was using a distinct recension of the text. A Telugu rendering of the text also exists but we do not have much familiarity with it. While the ancient versions of the Kaumāra cycle have the killing of the dānava/daitya Mahiṣa or Tāraka by the god Skanda as their centerpiece (Rāmāyaṇa and Mahābhārata), this text presents an unusual version of it: after the initial section culminating in Tāraka’s killing, there are two extended sections dealing with the elder brothers of Tāraka. These culminate in the great battle in which Skanda slays these demons, Siṃhamukha and Śūrapadma, along with their vast horde of Asura-s. So far, we have not seen any record of these demons outside of South India. Long before Kāśyapaśiva’s Tamil rendering, Śūrapadma appears in the South Indian tradition as represented by the earliest surviving Tamil texts, such as the Puṟanānūṟu (Puṟanānūṟu 23, a poem probably roughly contemporaneous with the Kuṣāṇa age in the North given that it describes the early Pāṇḍya king Neṭuñceḻiyaṉ), and a subsequent Tamil poetic anthology, the Paripāṭal. This suggests that the South Indian tradition had a deep history of certain unique elements of Kaumāra mythology.
As far as archaeology goes, we know that there was an active Kaumāra tradition in the Andhra country starting from the Andhra empire down to their smaller successor states, such as the Ikṣvāku-s and Viṣṇukuṇḍin-s among others, which had Nāgārjunakoṇḍa, as one of its foci. In the Tamil country, clear-cut archaeological evidence for strong Kaumāra traditions can be seen from the Pallava period onward. We believe this temporal period stretching from the Andhra empire down to the rise of the Pallava-s overlaps with the period during which the Puṟanānūṟu and the later Paripāṭal were composed in the Tamil country. The Paripāṭal displays a distinctive combination of the worship of Viṣṇu with his Pāñcarātrika vyūha-s and Kumāra — this pattern is seen in the Northwest, i.e., Panjab/Gandhara, and in Mathura during the Śaka-Kuṣāṇa age. This was mirrored in the South Indian Maturai (approximately the same longitude as its Northern namesake Mathura), the cultic locus of the Paripāṭal. Thus, one could argue that the core Kaumāra tradition in the Tamil country was a transmission of this Mathuran tradition.
Apart from the references to Śūrapadma, the themes in the Paripāṭal, while clearly linked to the ancient Kaumāra narratives, such as those seen in the Mahābhārata, show certain unique archaisms which have not survived in the Sanskrit tradition. For example, in Paripāṭal-5 by Kaḍuvan Iḷaveyinanār we encounter an incorporation of the Paurāṇika Marut mytheme into the tale of the birth of Kumāra. Here, after a prolonged dalliance with Rudra, mirroring the Sanskrit sources, Pārvatī becomes pregnant with Kumāra. Then Indra, who had acquired a boon from Rudra, cut the developing embryo into pieces with his Vajra (the number seven is implied by the repeated mention of seven in this verse) — the Paurāṇika Marut-motif. Then the pieces were placed in the three ritual fires by the seven ṛṣi-s (allegorically identified in the text with the seven brightest stars of Ursa Major), who realized that they would form the future commander of the deva-s. The pieces were purified by Agni and placed in the wombs of six of the wives (Kṛttikā-s=Pleiades), barring Arundhatī, of the seven ṛṣi-s (c.f. archaic Mahābhārata version). Thus, this South Indian tradition preserves a memory of the connection between the Vedic Marut-s, who are the sons of Rudra, and Skanda that was largely forgotten elsewhere (except for the reference to Kumāra as leader of the seven Marut troops in the oldest version of the cycle in the Mahābhārata).
When we take the whole Kaumāra corpus, we have reason to suspect that the ancient version of the tradition was much richer and more polymorphic than what is seen in the later Sanskrit tradition. As a parallel, we could point to the Aindra mythology. The Veda alludes to many mythemes that were clearly common knowledge when the Ṛgveda was originally composed. Further, the epics point to a degree of para-Vedic polymorphism in the Aindra tradition. However, what survived of that tradition in the extant Paurāṇika corpus is relatively limited. Likewise, with the Kaumāra tradition, we see that the Mahābhārata preserves a rich mythology, which included the triumphs of the god over Mahiṣa, Tāraka, and hints at an even richer body of myth by mentioning in passing the overthrow of several other demons (e.g., Tripāda and Hradodhara) by Skanda. By the time of the composition of the extant Paurāṇika corpus, the Kaumāra myth of Mahiṣa was mostly forgotten, surviving only in the Vāmana-purāṇa. The Mahiṣa myth was instead transferred to Kumārī (Vindhyavāsinī section of Ur-Skandapurāṇa). She originally started off as the virgin goddess, a female counterpart of Kumāra, and was subsequently subsumed under the great transfunctional goddess, the Śakti of Rudra. Thereafter, Kumāra was only left with the Tāraka myth across much of the Sanskrit tradition. Hence, posit that at the zenith of the Kaumāra tradition there was a considerably larger and more polymorphic body of Kaumāra material. The vitality of this old Kaumāra tradition is seen in Mathura — based on the remains of images, we infer the existence of at least 33 Kaumāra shrines in Mathura during the Kuṣāṇa age. Thus, we propose that some of this original polymorphism in the tradition was preserved in the transmission to South India, even as the tradition in the Tamil country remained relatively isolated from the later transmissions from the North (e.g., the transmission of the Eastern Kaumāra Lodge from Vaṅga to Bellary in Karṇāṭa). Hence, we posit that the special emphasis on Śūrapadma was a remnant of this old transmission that did not make it into other Pauraṇika transmissions.
Some of those mythic elements strongly persisted in the Tamil country and found their way into the Śivarahasya narrative, which the evidence presented below indicates is a later text:
1) In the Śivarahasya, the gaṇeśvara Nandin is prominent. Our textual analysis (to be presented later) has revealed that this is a strong marker of a text influenced by the Saiddhāntika Śaiva tradition. There are several other allusions throughout the text that point to its affiliation with the Saiddhāntika rather than any other Śaiva school of the mantramārga or the atimārga. This would also explain why the saiddhāntika Kāśyapaśiva chose to render it Tamil. Whereas in North India (outside of Nepal) and Vañga, the rise of the Siddhānta resulted in considerable erosion of the Kaumāra tradition from the 700s of CE, in the Drāviḍa country, the strong Kaumāra tradition was co-opted and incorporated within a Saiddhāntika framework. For example, this is seen in the works of the great polymath Aghoraśiva-deśika, who in addition to his numerous Saiddhāntika treatises also composed a work on the sthāpanā of Kaumāra shrines. This places the Śivarahasya in a distinct stratum from the Paripāṭal era (and even perhaps the Tirumurukārruppaṭai period) when Siddhānta was dominant in the Tamil country.
2) Its narration of the birth of Kumāra omits the coitus of Rudra and Pārvatī, which indicates a “sanitization” of the sexual elements of that narrative, which, for example, are an important aspect of its presentation in the Rāmāyaṇa, Mahābhārata, Śivapurāṇa and Kālidāsa’s Kumārasaṃbhava. This change in attitude again points to a relatively late date for Śivarahasya.
3) None of the early narrations of the Kaumāra cycle in the Iitihāsa-s or the Purāṇa-s attempt to model themselves after the Rāmāyaṇa. In fact, the Kumārākhyāna was seen as one of those old, independent mythic motifs of Hindu tradition that formed the basis of numerous retellings by different narrators, even as it was with the Rāmāyaṇa. Thus, the modeling of parts of the Śivarahasya, namely those concerning the war with Śurapadma and his clan (and possibly the arrangement in seven kāṇḍa-s), after the Rāmāyaṇa betrays a late “reconstruction” following the loss of continuity with the old Kaumāra Paurāṇika tradition.
4) The text acknowledges an already large Skandapurāṇa of the size of 100,000 verses. This implies that it comes from a period when the accretion of texts to form a mega-Skandapurāṇa was common knowledge.
While these elements point to a relatively late date for the Śivarahasya, we should point out that like all Paurāṇika corpora it does preserve several notable elements that have ancient roots going back to the Indo-European past. While the kāṇḍa-s 6 and 7 are dominated by the Śaiva material, its core is primarily a Kaumāra text intent on the aggrandizement of Skanda. Beyond the distinctive form of the Kaumāra cycle, there are multiple elements that indicate a southern locus for its immediate origin:
1) It presents a prominent role for the god Śāstṛ or Ārya as Hariharaputra. This transmogrified southern ectype of Revanta (commonly seen as Hariharaputra) was prominently worshiped at least since the time of the composition of the famous Tamil epic Śilpādhikāra.
2) It presents Vināyaka as elder to Skanda. While this is the position adopted by the text, its core Kaumāra narrative of the conquest of the demons still clearly indicates a tradition where Gaṇeśa was not yet born/in place.
3) The text describes two marriages of Skanda — one to Devasenā, seen across the Indosphere, and the other to Valli (related to the Dravidian term for tubers such as the tapioca and the sweet potato), that emerged in the Southern folk traditions and spread through the Southern zone of influence in the Indosphere.
4) The presence of the Kāverī-Agastya myth, which specifically points to the Drāviḍa country.
5) The staging ground of Kumāra in course of his campaign is called Śentīpura, which in the Tamil version of Kāśyapaśiva is identified as Tiruceñdūru, a major Kaumāra center, in the Drāviḍa country. It is already mentioned as a shrine of Skanda by the sea with a beautiful beach in Puṟanānūṟu 55.
6) The shrine of Aruṇācala in the Drāviḍa country is praised as an important Śaiva-kṣetra. Several other shrines in the Drāviḍa country as mentioned throughout the text, e.g., the Tyāgarāja and the Madhyārjuna shrines.
With this background, we shall briefly examine the contents of the Śivarahasya and a few of its notable points:
1) The Sambhava kāṇḍa
This section opens with a maṅgalācaraṇa seeking succor from Rudra, Umā, and their sons:
maṅgalaṃ diśatu me vināyako maṅgalaṃ diśatu me ṣaḍānanaḥ ।
maṅgalaṃ diśatu me maheśvarī maṅgalaṃ diśatu me maheśvaraḥ ॥
This is followed by short stotra-s with invocations of Gaṇeśa and Skanda by a set of 16 names each.
omkāra-nilayaṃ devaṃ gajavaktraṃ caturbhujam ।
picaṇḍilam ahaṃ vande sarvavighnopaśāntaye ॥
sumukhaś caikadantaś ca kapilo gajakaraṇakaḥ ।
lambodaraś ca vikaṭo vighnarājo vināyakaḥ ॥
dhūmaketur gaṇādhyakṣaḥ phālacandro gajānanaḥ ।
vakratuṇḍaḥ śūrpakarṇo herambaḥ skandapūrvajaḥ ॥
subrahmaṇyam praṇamyāhaṃ sarvajñaṃ sarvagaṃ sadā ॥
abhīpsitārtha siddhy arthaṃ pravakṣye nāma ṣoḍaśa ।
prathamo jñānaśaktyātmā dvitīyaḥ skanda eva ca ॥
agnibhūś ca tṛtīyaḥ syāt bāhuleyaś caturthakaḥ ।
gāṅgeyaḥ pañcamo vidyāt ṣaṣṭhaḥ śaravanodbhavaḥ ॥
saptamaḥ kārttikeyaḥ syāt kumāraḥ syād athāṣṭakaḥ ।
navamaḥ ṣaṇmukhaś caiva daśamaḥ kukkuṭa-dhvajaḥ ॥
ekādaśaḥ śaktidharo guho dvādaśa eva ca ।
trayodaśo brahmacārī ṣāṇmāturś caturdaśaḥ ॥
krauñcabhit pañcadaśakaḥ ṣoḍaśaḥ śikhivāhanaḥ ।
etat ṣoḍaśa nāmāni japet saṃyak sadādaram ॥
These stotra-s are popular in South India in Gaṇeśa- and Skanda-pūjā-s. However, it is notable that the names of Skanda do not mention Śūrapadma or Siṃhamukha; instead, they only utilize the pan-Indospheric Kaumāra material.
This is followed by the following topics:
-An account of the origin of the Purāṇa as narrated by the sūta, the student of Vyāsa, to the brāhmaṇa-s at Naimiśāraṇya and the nature of the Skandapurāṇa.
-An account of Kailāsa the abode of Rudra. This is followed the by usual Śaiva cycle of Pārvatī and her marriage that includes the below events.
-Kāma approaches Rudra who is in meditation.
-The incineration of Kāma by the fire from Rudra’s third eye.
-The lament of Rati.
-Rudra tests Pārvatī by appearing to her as an old man.
-Rudra reveals his true form to Pārvatī.
-Rudra sends the seven ṛṣi-s/stars of Ursa Major as his emissaries to seek the hand of Pārvatī in marriage.
-The construction of the marriage hall.
-The makeup and jewelry of Pārvatī.
-The gaṇeśvara Nandin leads the gods to the marriage of Rudra and Pārvatī.
-The names of the Rudra-s and an account of their vast hordes in the marriage procession. This is followed by an account of the retinue of Rudra. Below is a notable section of this text:
sahasrāṇāṃ sahasrāṇi ye rudrāḥ pṛthivīṣadaḥ ।
sahasra-yojane lakṣya-bhedinaḥ saśarāsanāḥ ॥
te rudrās tridaśa-śreṣṭhās trinetraṃ saṃsiṣevire ।
asmin mahati sindhau ye ye ‘ntarikṣe divi-sthitāḥ ॥
nīlagrīvās trinetrās te ‘saṃkhyātāś cāpurīśvaram ।
aghaḥ kṣamācarāś cānye sarve te nīlakandharāḥ ॥
girīśayo ‘stu kalyāṇaṃ siṣeviṣava āpire ।
vṛkṣeṣu piñjarā rudrāḥ nīlakaṇṭhā vilohitāḥ ॥
bhūtānāṃ cādhipatayo vikeśāś ca jaṭadharāḥ ।
sahasrair apy asaṃkhyātāḥ sāyudhāḥ prāpurīśvaram ॥
anneṣu ye vividhyanti janān pātreṣu bhuñjataḥ ।
ye pathāṃ pathi rakṣanti tīrthāni pracaranti ca ॥
ye rudrā dikṣu bhūyāṃsas tiṣṭhanti satataṃ ca te ।
gaurī-kalyāna-sevāyai giriśaṃ samupāśrayan ॥
Here the account of the hordes of Rudra is adapted from that of the great multitude of Rudra-s provided in the final anuvāka (11) of the Yajurvedic Śatarudrīya. Apart from these, a great retinue of goddesses and natural phenomena is said to accompany Rudra on his marriage procession. The bluish violet Viṣṇu is said to have joined them with his four forms, i.e., Pāñcarātrika vyūha-s, and was introduced by Nandin.
-Rudra enters the marriage hall and the marriage is concluded.
-Brahman and the other gods send Vāyu as their messenger to urge Rudra to produce a son with Pārvatī. However, Nandin turned him back asking him not the break the marital privacy of the deities.
-All the gods went to Kailāsa themselves and beseeched Rudra, whose half was occupied by Ambikā, to produce the promised son who would relieve them from the Asura-s.
-Rudra assumed a six-headed form blazing like a crore suns and enveloped the realms of the universe terrifying all beings. Then, from the third eye of each of his six heads, the upward seminal flow (ūrdhvaretas) exploded as six flashes of intense light that vaporized the directions (dudravaḥ sarvato diśaḥ). Terrified by this manifestation, all sought refuge in Rudra, praising him with hymns.
-He gathered back those six blazes and they came together as six pacified minute sparks. He then instructed Vāyu and Agni to take them to the arrow-reed forest on the banks of the Gaṅgā and vanished along with Ambikā. Thereafter, Vāyu and Agni, each getting tired after a while, with much effort bore the sparks to the Gaṅgā and deposited them there. The other gods eager to see what would happen also arrived there.
-The Marut-s with their joyful selves filled the quarters with a pleasant breeze (diśaḥ prasedur maruto vavuś ca sukhamātmanāṃ). Then, in the midst of a lotus in the arrow-reed forest, a six-headed, twelve-armed, two-footed divine boy took shape (note recurrence of the ancient motif of the birth of Agni in the lotus: Ṛgveda 6.16.13).
-Viṣṇu called upon the six Kṛttikā-s to nurse him. Instantaneously, becoming six separate kids he drank from their breasts.
-Even as the six flashes from Rudra were vaporizing the directions, Pārvatī too was startled and jumped away. As a consequence, the anklet fell from her feet and broke spilling the gems within it. Ambikā was reflected on those nine gems and appeared tenfold — herself and the 9 reflections. These became the Kālikā goddesses, who were fertilized by the rays emanating from Rudra and became pregnant.
-The droplets of the sweat of the startled goddess were also fertilized by Rudra. From them were born a 100,000 fierce gaṇa-s (who became the retinue of Skanda).
-Ambikā was displeased by seeing these goddesses pregnant and cursed them that they would have an unending and painful pregnancy. They went to Rudra seeking his aid and upon his counseling Ambikā released them from her curse and each gave birth to a mighty son of the complexion of their respective mothers.
-Goddesses and the corresponding sons were: Raktā (ruby) — Vīrabāhu; Taralā (pearl) — Vīrakesarin; Pauṣī (topaz) — Vīramahendra; Gomedā (garnet) — Vīramaheśvara; Vaiḍūryā (beryl) — Vīrapuraṃdara; Vajramaṇi (diamond) — Vīrarākṣasa; Marakatā (emerald) — Vīramārtāṇḍa; Pravālā (coral) — Vīrāntaka; Indranīlā (sapphire) — Vīradhīra. These nine Vīra-s became the companions of Skanda and were known as his brothers.
-Then Rudra told Ambikā that they have actually generated a mighty son and asked her to come along on his bull vehicle to see him.
-They set out with thousands upon thousands of Rudrakanyā-s, Mātṛ-s, gaṇa-s and the Marut-s.
-Then Umā hugged the six separate kids who became a single Ṣaṇmukha and fed him with her milk.
The narrative of the birth of Kumāra up to this point presents several interesting points:
1. There is a prominent role for Vāyu along with the usual Agni in the birth of Skanda. We believe that this is the survival of an ancient motif that is already seen in the Veda, where on rare occasions, apart from the usual Rudra, Vāyu is presented as the father of the Marut-s. This is not a mere slip, because in the Indo-Iranian world we see an overlap in the Rudra- and Vāyu class deities. On the Indian side that goes back to the worship of Rudra in the context of the rites of the Proto-Śaiva-s, the vrātya-s, and in the Eastern Iranian world in the character of the deity Vāyu Uparikairya, who is iconographically identical to the Hindu Rudra.
2. We see the subliminal presence of the Marut-s, even in this late reflex of the Kaumāra origin myth suggesting a long survival of this memory in the circles conversant with the Veda.
3. A variant of the “fertilizing sweat motif” attested in this myth presents the origin of the 100,000 Skanda-gaṇa-s from the sweat of Gaurī.
4. The Nava-vīra-s are a unique feature of the South India Kaumāra cycle. However, the number nine is also mentioned as the total of the Kaumāra-vīra-s even in one of the most ancient surviving variants of the Kaumāra cycle, which is seen in the Mahābhārata:
kākī ca halimā caiva rudrātha bṛhalī tathā ।
āryā palālā vai mitrā saptaitāḥ śiśumātaraḥ ॥
etāsāṃ vīrya-saṃpannaḥ śiśur nāmātidāruṇaḥ ।
skandaprasādajaḥ putro lohitākṣo bhayaṃkaraḥ ॥
eṣa vīrāṣṭakaḥ proktaḥ skandamātṛgaṇodbhavaḥ ।
chāga-vaktreṇa sahito navakaḥ parikīrtyate ॥
This account in the Mbh states that by the grace of Skanda, the 7 goddesses (Skandammātṛ-s), i.e., Kākī, etc., gave birth to the terrifying red-eyed deity Śiśu, who was called the eighth vīra. However, when Nejameṣa = Bhadraśākha with the head of a ram, generated by Agni is taken into account, Śiśu is said to be the ninth vīra. Then the question arises as to who were the remaining seven? From the preceding account in the Mbh we can infer that these were Viśākha and other Kumāraka-s who were emanated by Skanda when struck by Indra’s vajra. We believe that these vīra-s were ectypes of the Marut-s filtering down through later mythic overlays. It also appears likely that in the Śivarahasya, the most prominent of the nine vīra-s, Vīrabāhu, is essentially an ectype of Viśākha as the younger brother of Skanda. This connection to one of the oldest surviving versions of the Kaumāra cycle suggests that this aspect of the Southern tradition was a memory coming down from its ancient layer originally brought from the North.
-Thereafter Skanda displayed his childhood līlā-s, some of which bring out his roguish (dhūrta) aspects that are known from the oldest layers of the Kaumāra tradition. One notable set of such cosmic sports is expressed in beautiful Mandākrāntā verses:
jyotiś cakraṃ dhruva-kara-gataṃ vāta-raśmi-praṇaddhaṃ
chitvā bālaḥ prathita-mahimā svānugānāṃ karāgraiḥ ।
dikṣv aṣṭāsu svayam api dadhan dhārayan vyoma-gaṅgā
nakrān badhvā vyasṛjad abhisaṃbhāvya-pāthaḥ punastān ॥
The boy putting forth his greatness, having taken in his hands the self-moving ones (planets) split the reins of propellant force (wind ropes) which bind them to the polar rays around which the celestial wheel revolves. Giving to himself the eight quarters, he then took on the Celestial Gaṅgā (Milky Way); binding the crocodiles (the constellation of Scorpius) he released them again into the Sun.
paścād ūrdhvam mahar api janas tat tapaḥ satya-lokaṃ
gatvā gatvā tad adhi vasatīn viśva-sādhyāmarendrān ।
līlā-lolo nava ca kalayan vedhaso bhīmabhūtān
lokālokaṃ girim api mudā prāpa cikrīḍa bālaḥ ॥
Thereafter, he ascended upwards to the Mahar, Jana, Tapa and Satya realms [of the universe], and kept going on to the excellent dwellings of the Viśvedeva-s, Sādhya-s, the immortals and Indra. Making anew celestial fierce beings, joyfully attaining the boundaries of the universe (lokāloka mountain), the playfully sporting boy sported.
This displacement of the celestial bodies by Skanda already has a germ in the Mbh account: pracyutāḥ sahasā bhānti citrās tārāgaṇā iva ।. The celestial army of Indra attacked by Skanda is said to have been like the clusters of stars thrown off their orbit. Another notable point is a subtle astronomical allegory in the first verse. The constellation of Scorpius is called the nakra in Hindu tradition. Hence, we take the account of Skanda seizing the nakra-s and releasing them into the solar blaze as an allusion to the Kārttika month (when Skanda was born) when the Sun is opposite to the Kṛttikā-s in Scorpius.
-Alarmed by Skanda’s sports the gods fought him.
-Skanda defeated the gods and shows them his viśvarūpa (macranthropic) form.
The viśvarūpa of Skanda, while comparable to other viśvarūpa-s in the Itihāsa-purāṇa tradition, has some interesting cosmic verses:
tasmin tejasi te devā vaiśvarūpe jagat-trayam ।
koṭi-brahmāṇḍa-piṇḍānām mahā-vapuṣi romasu ॥
yūkāṇḍānīva koṭīni caikaikasmin sahasraśaḥ ।
tat-tad āvaraṇaiḥ sārdhaṃ tatratyair bhuvanair janaiḥ ॥
bhūtair bhavyair bhaviṣyadbhir brahma-viṣṇavādibhiḥ suraiḥ ।
jānu-pradeśa-mātre ‘sya dṛṣṭvā vismayam āgatāḥ ॥
In his radiance, were the gods of all forms and the triple world. In the hairs of his great body were the crores of spheres of galactic realms (brahmāṇḍa-piṇḍā-s). They were like the eggs of lice [of the hairs], in each one of the crores there were thousands of world-systems, each with its own set of orbits and local inhabitants of those worlds. Seeing the past, the present and the future, the Brahman, Viṣṇu and like of gods all coming only to the height of his knees, they reached bewilderment.
-Realizing who he was, the gods crowned Skanda as the commander of their army.
-The incident of the runaway sacrificial ram of Nārada. Skanda dispatched Vīrabāhu to capture it and bring it back. Skanda then took it as one of his vehicles. A homologous episode is found in the Ajopākhyāna of the Śivapurāṇa; there, instead of a ram, it is a goat. It may be noted that the Tamil allusion to this myth in the poem by the Saṅgam poet Maturai Nakkīranār (Tirumurukārruppaṭai 200-210) also records a caprine animal that might be interpreted as either a goat or a ram.
-Skanda chastised and imprisoned Brahman for his lack of gnosis of the praṇava.
-He then stationed himself at Kumāraparvata. At Rudra’s behest, Nandin tried to get him released, but Skanda warned Nandin that he might have him join Brahman and asked him to leave right away. Then Rudra and Umā finally made their son release Brahman and he taught Brahman the secrets of the praṇava, associating it with the Yajurvedic/Sāmavedic incantation subrahmaṇyom । (the mantra used in the Soma ritual to invite Indra for the libation).
-Kumāra initiated the campaign against the Asura-s by marching against the fortress of Tāraka.
-Skanda sent Vīrabāhu to launch an attack on Tāraka and Krauñca (an asura who had assumed a mountainous form due to a curse of Agastya).
-Being informed by his spies of the assault, Tāraka sallied forth to meet the gaṇa-s led by the nine vīra-s. Fierce encounters took place between Vīrakesarin, Vīrabāhu and Tāraka. Vīrabāhu repelled Tāraka’s māyā with the Vīrabhadrāstra. Tāraka drew Vīrabāhu into a feigned retreat and traps him in the mountainous cavern of Krauñca, putting him to sleep. He then routed the gaṇa-s showering missiles on them. Tāraka is described as having an elephantine head.
-Skanda entered the field to rally his gaṇa-s with Vāyu as his charioteer. Skanda routed the Asura-s. Taraka said that while he is a foe of Indra and Viṣṇu, he had no enmity with Rudra. But Skanda pointed to his sins and crimes against the deva-s and attacked him. After a fierce fight, Skanda cut off his trunk and tusks and pierced his head. He fell unconscious but on getting up he hurled the Pāśupata missile at Skanda. Skanda caught it with his hand and took it for himself. Tāraka then asked Krauñca to aid him with his māyā. After repulsing their magic, Skanda finally killed both Tāraka and Krauñca with his śakti.
-Skanda took his station at Devagiri and gifted the Pāśupata missile he had caught to Vīrabāhu.
-Rājanīti section where the court suggested to Śūrapadma, who was enraged by the death of Tāraka, that they should avoid a confrontation with Rudra’s party.
-Skanda goes on a mostly Śaiva (apart from Kañci and Veṅkaṭācala, where Skanda is said to have run away when Umā did not give him the mango) pilgrimage.
-Skanda releases the Pārāśara-s from a curse they had gotten from their father due to their cruelty towards fishes in their youth.
-Skanda goes to Śentīpura.
The Sambhava-kāṇḍa ends here. We believe that the core of this kāṇḍa derives from an older Kaumāra tradition that was of pan-Indospheric distribution. The structure of the narrative is such that Śūrapadma and Siṃhamukha, who are unique to the Southern tradition, only have a minor role in it. The break in the narrative between the killing of Tāraka and Krauñca on one side of the remaining Asura-s on the other side supports that part as being an accretion to this archaic core.
2) The Asura-kāṇda. From here on the narrative starts paralleling the Rāmāyaṇa in several ways.
-Asurendra, the lord of the Asura-s and his wife Maṅgalakeśī birthed a daughter named Surasā. She became a student of Uśanas Kāvya and acquired the moniker Māyā due to her proficiency in Māyā. When she reached adulthood, Kāvya lamented the condition of the Asura-s due to their crushing defeats at the hands of Indra and Viṣṇu. He asked her to have sons of great might through Kaśyapa and have them learn the praxis of ritual from him.
-Seduced by the beauty of Surasā, Kaśyapa abandoned his austerities and cohabitated with her. From their coitus when they assumed celestial forms Śūrapadma was born. When they engaged in coitus as lions, Siṃhamukha with a leonine head was born. From their coitus as elephants Tāraka was born with an elephantine head. When they mated in the form of goats they birthed the demoness Ajāmukhī. Taking many other animal forms they birthed several other fierce Asura-s. From their sweat, during each intercourse, numerous other demons arose.
-Kaśyapa then taught his sons the Śaiva lore.
-Then abandoning Kaśyapa, Surasā took her sons away and instructed them to perform a great sacrifice to Rudra to gain boons from him.
-Having pleased Rudra with his mighty ritual, where Śūrapadma offered himself as the oblation, he obtained the boons of the overlordship of a 1008 galactic realms (aṣṭottara-sahasrāṇām aṇḍānāṃ sarvabhaumatām ।), overlordship over the gods with enormous equipment and wealth, an adamantine body, invulnerability and the Pāśupata missile. Rudra granted him and his brothers such boons with the condition that no force except that originating from Rudra himself could destroy them.
-Armed with these boons and blessed by Kāvya, the Asura-s attacked Kubera and conquered his realm, taking him prisoner.
-They then conquered the realms of the gods and subjugated them.
-Viṣṇu fought Tāraka for long but realizing his invulnerability from Rudra’s boons retreated after congratulating him.
-Śūrapadma then had Tvaṣṭṛ build great forts for himself and his brothers.
At this point the narrative takes detour into Agastya cycle.
-Ajāmukhī forced Durvāsas to engage in congress with her. As a result, she birthed two sons Ilvala and Vātāpi. They went to Durvāsas and asked him to transfer his tapas power to them. He refused but offered them an alternative boon. They remained adamant and got into an altercation with him. He escaped from the place with his magic after cursing them that someday Agastya will slay them.
-They obtained their peculiar boon of resurrection from Brahman.
-They slew many brāhmaṇa-s through their well-known goat trick.
-They were finally slain by Agastya, who digested Vātāpi and hurled the Pāśupata that he had obtained from Rudra at Ilvala slaying him.
-Śūrapadma tried to abduct Indrāṇī. The Asura-s caused a drought; as a consequence they dried up Indra’s gardens.
-With the aid of Vināyaka, Indra caused the Kāverī river to flow out of Agastya’s pot and water the gardens.
-After the churning of the ocean, Rudra wanted to engage in coitus with Mohinī, the alluring female form of Viṣṇu. Viṣṇu indicated that it was impossible. Rudra pointed out that Viṣṇu was actually one of his śakti-s and thus a valid female. They copulated beneath a Sāla tree in Northern Jambudvīpa. The sweat from their passionate intercourse gave rise to the Gaṇḍakī river. In it, the mollusks known as vajradanta-s gave rise to the Sālagrāman-s used in the worship of Viṣṇu.
-From their conjugation, the god Śāstṛ was born.
-Rudra placed Śāstṛ in charge of protecting Indrāṇī from abduction.
-Śāstṛ in turn brought in Mahākāla as the bodyguard for Indrāṇī.
-Ajāmukhī and her friend Durmukhī tried to abduct Indrāṇī for Śūrapadma. However, Mahākāla swung into action and chopped off their hands.
-Ajāmukhī complained to Śūrapadma of her dismemberment.
-Śūrapadma forced Brahman to heal her and Durmukhī.
-Śūrapadma’s son Bhānukopa seeking revenge attacked the realm of Indra.
-He fought a fierce battle with Jayanta, the son of Indra, and eventually took him prisoner.
-Unable to find Indra or Indrāṇī, Bhānukopa destroyed the realm of Indra.
3) The Vīramāhendra-kāṇḍa.
-Before attacking the fortress of Vīramāhendra, Skanda sent Vīrabāhu as a messenger to Śūrapadma to ask him to peacefully surrender, release the deva-s he had incarcerated and return their realms that he had occupied.
-Vīrabāhu went to the Gandhamādana mountain and prepared to fly to Vīramāhendra. He mounted the massif assuming a gigantic and fierce form and laughed terrifyingly (aṭṭahāsa). He felt like extending his arms so that he could crush the Asura-s fortifications and cities with his hands like an oil-press crushing sesame seeds.
-As he pressed on the mountain the surviving warriors of Tāraka who were hiding in the caves came forth and were crushed by Vīrabāhu.
-Thinking of his guru, Skanda, Vīrabāhu flew into the sky causing the world to quake as he sped through the welkin.
-As he arrived at Lankā, which was the capital of Śūrapadma’s general Vyālimukha (who was visiting his lord), he was challenged by his deputy Vīrasiṃha and his troops. After a quick fight, Vīrabāhu chopped off Vīrasiṃha’s arms and head with his sword.
-Vīrabāhu leapt on Lankā and pushed it under the ocean.
-Vīrabāhu was then attacked by Vyālimukha’s son Ativīra and his troops who emerged out of the water. Vīrabāhu cut down the daitya troops and took on Ativīra who fought with a cleaver obtained from Brahman. However, Skanda’s Vīra cut his head off.
-Flying a thousand yojana-s he reached Vīramāhendra. As he was wondering which might be the best gate to make an entrance he arrived at the southern gate. There, he was challenged by Gajāsya, a monstrous demon with a thousand trunks and two thousand arms. After a closen fight, Vīrabāhu chopped off his trunks and hands and slew him with a kick.
-Realizing that this fight would bring more Asuras into the fray, he used his magic to become minute and entered via the eastern gate.
-There he saw the enslaved gods and the dwellings of mighty demons.
-Kumāra appeared in the dreams of Jayanta and the gods who were being subject to indignities by the Asura-s. Skanda told them that he had already killed Tāraka and Krauñca and that he had sent Vīrabāhu as his emissary who would wreak havoc among the Asuras. He assured them that thereafter he himself would attack the Dānava stronghold and slaughter them.
-Vīrabāhu met Jayanta and the other imprisoned gods and told them that their sufferings were due to their siding with Dakṣa during his ritual. He assuaged them by stating that the spear-wielding god would destroy the Asura-s and relieve them shortly.
-Vīrabāhu audaciously appeared before Śūrapadma and intimated him of the conditions for his surrender placed to him by Skanda.
-Śūrapadma rejected the terms and sent his general Śatamukha to capture Vīrabāhu. A fierce battle broke out between them during which Vīrabāhu demolished 20,000 Asura fortifications. In the end, he slew Śatamukha by thrashing him.
-Taking a giant form he crushed many other Asura warriors.
-Uprooting a mountain he smashed the Asura city.
-After another fierce fight, Vīrabāhu slew Śūrapadma’s ten-headed son Vajrabāhu by chopping off his heads with his sword.
-As Vīrabāhu was flying away, the polycephalous Vyālimukha challenged him. Another fierce fight ensued and Vīrabāhu finally killed him by chopping off his heads.
-Returning to Śentīpura, Vīrabāhu bowed thrice to Skanda.
-The Asura-s rebuilt their capital demolished by Vīrabāhu and prepared to fight Skanda.
-Skanda built the fort of Hemakūṭa as the base for this attack on Vīramāhendra.
-Śūrapadma’s spies informed him that Kumāra was gearing for an attack on Vīramāhendrapura.
-He called his son Bhānukopa and asked him to attack Skanda and his troops right away as they had approached the Asura city and fortified themselves at Hemakūṭa.
4) The Yuddha-kāṇḍa.
ṣaṇmukhaṃ dvādaśa-bhujaṃ triṣaṇṇayana-paṅkajam । kumāraṃ sukumārāṅgaṃ kekī-vāhanam āśraye ॥
-Bhānukopa donned his armor and mounting his car sallied forth with numerous Asura heroes.
-Skanda sent heavily armed, ruby-colored Vīrabāhu at the head of the bhūtagaṇa-s to intercept him. Wielding a bow like the pināka of Rudra he sallied forth. The two armies met amidst a shower of arrows from warriors on both sides.
-The fight was evenly poised but eventually, the gaṇa-s of Skanda started gaining an upper hand as the bhūta commanders slew their Asura counterparts.
-Seeing his forces retreating from the assault of the bhūtagaṇa-s of Skanda, Bhānukopa rallied them back. Bending his bow to a circle he released an unending stream of arrows on them striking down many and causing the gaṇa-s to fall back. Seeing this, the gaṇa Ugra got close to Bhānukopa and attacked him with a rod. Bhānukopa destroyed that rod with his arrows and struck down the gaṇa with the Brahma-spear. Then the gaṇa Daṇḍin attacked Bhānukopa with a mountain and struck his chariot and driver. Bhānukopa furious felled Daṇḍin with a shower of arrows. Next, he fought the gaṇa Pinākin who had rushed at him and struck him down with a shower of thousand arrows. Thereafter, several other gaṇa-s mounted a massed attack on Bhānukopa who routed them with his unending shower of arrows.
-He then fought the navavīra-s of Skanda. Vīrasiṃha was struck down by the Nārāyaṇa weapon of Bhānukopa.
-Then Vīramārtāṇḍa attacked the Asura. He got close to Bhānukopa and broke his bow; however, Bhānukopa struck him down with his cleaver.
-Vīrarākṣasa next attacked him from close quarters and both fell to the ground. Bhānukopa recovered consciousness and mounting a fresh car resumed the battle. Five of the remaining Vīra-s surrounded him and fought a great bow-battle for a while. Striking some of them down and brushing aside the rest he rallied the Asura troops and marched straight at Vīrabāhu.
-They fought a terrific battle in which both lost their bows but taking up new bows resumed the assault. Vīrabāhu smashed Bhānukopa’s helmet but he donned a new one and continued. Finally, tiring from the fight, Bhānukopa swooned.
-Immediately, the Asura forces surrounded their hero to protect him even as the gaṇa-s recovering from his assault surged forward. By then Bhānukopa stood up and continued the battle with Vīrabāhu.
-Despite all his attempts he could not dispel Vīrabāhu’s showers of arrows. Hence, he deployed the Mohāstra, a missile that caused the gaṇa-s to be paralyzed and fall to the ground. Even Vīrabāhu was paralyzed in his car. Taking advantage of this Bhānukopa shot numerous arrows at Skanda’s forces drenching them in blood.
-Skanda seeing his gaṇa-s in dire danger fired the Amoha missle from Hemakūṭa. This destroyed the Mohāstra and revived all the gaṇa-s.
-Seeing the nullification of all his tactics, Bhānukopa retreated for the day deciding to resume the battle later.
-Realizing the seriousness of the situation, Śūrapadma himself decided to join the battle. He sallied forth along with Atiśūra, the son of Siṃhamukha and Asurendra, the son of Tāraka.
-Indra saw them and informed Skanda of the impending attack. Having saluted Indra, Skanda decided to lead his forces personally in the battle. Indra asked Vāyu to be Skanda’s charioteer.
-A great battle broke out between the gaṇa Ugra and Atiśūra. Atiśūra discharged numerous divine missiles at his adversary but they failed because Skanda provided immunity against those missiles to his follower. Finally, Atiśūra discharged the Pāśupata, but it did not harm its own party and returned to Mahādeva. Frustrated thus, he leapt out of his car and struck Ugra with a rod. However, Ugra survived that blow and snatched the weapon from the demon and pummeled him to death with it.
-Tāraka’s son Asurendra rushed to shore up the ranks after his cousin’s death. He faced the gaṇa-s Kanaka, Unmatta, Siṃha, Daṇḍaka, and Vijaya in fierce encounters, defeating each of them.
-Then Vīrabāhu flew in on his car and started showering arrows on the demon. After a prolonged encounter, Vīrabāhu smashed his enemy’s chariot. The two engaged in a great battle flying in the skies, with Asurendra wielding a rod and Vīrabāhu, a sword. The latter finally beheaded Asurendra.
-Seeing his nephews slain, Śūrapadma launched a fierce attack on the bhūtagaṇa-s. He was attached by the nine Skanda-vīra-s. Fierce fights took place between him and Vīrarākṣasa, Vīramahendra, Vīradhīra, and Vīramāheśvara in that order and he overcame all of them. Vīrabāhu then entered the fray to shore up his half-brothers. He deployed the Aindra and Vāruṇa, Brahma, Vaiṣṇava missiles on the demon and Śūrapadma countered those with his Māyāsurāstra. Then both deployed the Pāśupata missile but it returned back to the respective users. Then they both deployed śakti-s that neutralized each other. Finally, Śūrapadma struck Vīrabāhu on his chest with a daṇḍa.
-Seeing his champion’s discomfiture, Kārttikeya attacked Śūrapadma and a great fight ensued. Bending his bow Skanda fired a profusion of arrows at the Asura lord. They cut each other’s shafts in mid-flight. Śūrapadma hurled his śakti at Skanda, who cut it off with 14 arrows. Then Śūrapadma uttering a loud roar hurled a trident at Skanda who cut it off with four and the seven arrows thereafter. Then with another missile, Skanda smashed the helmet of Śūrapadma and destroyed his armor with further shafts.
-Thereafter, the six-headed son of Ambikā hurled a cakra and cut down the Asura hordes that accompanied Śūrapadma and the piśāca-s feasted on their corpses.
-Śūrapadma replenished his gear and returned to the fight. He tried deploying many divine missiles but they were all nullified by Kumāra with his śakti missile. Thus, on the brink of defeat, Śūrapadma vanished and flew back to his fortified city thinking he would return later to fight Kumāra.
-Skanda ordered his bhūtagaṇa-s to storm the fortifications of the Asura stronghold.
-The gaṇa-s launched a massive assault on the fortifications of Vīramāhendrapura. In course of this assault, they killed the demon Atighora.
-Bhānukopa sallied forth again to fight Vīrabāhu, this time armed with his grandmother Māyā’s Sammohana missile.
-After prolonged use of various missiles both tried to get better of the other with the Pāśupata. Both Pāśupata missiles neutralized each other.
-At this point, Bhānukopa deployed his grandmother’s Sammohana missile, which not only made Vīrabāhu but also the rest of the Skandapārṣada-s unconscious and hurled them into the ocean.
-Bhānukopa returned to this father to tell him of his great victory and promised him that he would head out the next day to slay Skanda.
-On receiving intelligence that his army had been drowned by Bhānukopa, the six-headed son of Rudra launched his śakti, which sped to the ocean, and, destroying the Sammohana weapon, led his forces out back to the Asura capital.
-The Skandapārṣada-s now launched a ferocious assault on the defenses of the city. The Asura Vyāghrāsya advanced to defend the fortifications. He was slain after a trident fight by the Skandagaṇa named Siṃha.
-As the Skandapārṣada-s demolished the defenses of Vīramāhendrapura, Vīrabāhu hurled the Āgneya and Vāyava missiles and set the city on fire.
-Śūrapadma’s men informed him of the reversal and the impending destruction of his city by the fires. He brought in the mahāpralaya clouds to douse the fires. As they were putting off the fires, Vīrabāhu struck back with the Vāḍava missile to vaporize the clouds. Seeing the havoc in his city, Śūrapadma wanted to head out himself to fight Skanda and his forces.
-Just then Śūrapadma’s son Hiraṇya came to him and told him that it might be prudent to surrender to the six-headed son of Rudra, reminding him that there was no one who could counter him and his dreadful gaṇa-s.
-Śūrapadma warned his son that he would kill him if continued speaking thus. Hiraṇya calmed him down and decided to enter the battlefield himself.
-Hirāṇya baffled the Skandapārṣada-s for a while with his display of māyā. Finally, his māyā was overcome by the Cetana missile shot by Vīrabāhu. Hirāṇya fought Vīrabāhu for a while but the latter cut his bow and smashed his car with his astra-s. Hirāṇya knew that he would be killed shortly. He also realized that nobody would be left to perform the funeral rites for his family once Skanda’s troops stormed the city. Hence, he took the form of a fish and vanished into the ocean.
-Śūrapadma’s son Agnimukha next took the command of the Asura forces and led them against the Skandagaṇa-s with a vast force of Asura-s. In the battle that followed, Vīrapuraṃdara slew the Asura-s Somakaṇṭaka and Megha with his arrows. After a pitched battle, Agnimukha slew seven of the Vīra-s, barring Vīrapuraṃdara and Vīrabāhu with the Pāśupata. Agnimukha the advanced on Vīrabāhu. After an even astra-fight, Agnimukha got Bhadrakālī to fight on his behalf. Vīrabāhu defeated her and she left saying no one could stop the Skandapārṣada-s. Then Agnimukha returned to the fight showering thousands of arrows. Vīrabāhu hurled the Vīrabhadrāstra which burst Agnimukha’s head.
-As Vīrapuraṃdara and Vīrabāhu were lamenting the fall of their brothers, the latter flared up and shot an arrow into Yamaloka engraved with the message that, he the younger brother of Kārttikeya, wanted Yama to release his seven half-brothers. Duly Yama released their ātman-s and they reanimated their bodies.
-A great battle next took place between three thousand Asura-s born of Śūrapadma and a thousand of the chief Skandapārṣada-s. The battle was evenly poised for a while, but the Asura-s started gaining the upper hand as their severed limbs were restored by a special gift they had obtained from Brahma. Hence, the gaṇa-s turned to Skanda, who appeared in their midst, and gave one of their leaders, Vijaya, the Bhairava missile. As he deployed it, one of three thousand Asura-s named Matta deployed the Māyāstra. However, the Bhairavāstra destroyed it and cut off the heads of all three thousand Asura-s.
-Next, Dharmakopa, another son of Śūrapadma advanced with his troops against the Vīra-s. His troops were destroyed by the Vīras-s even as Dharmakopa closed in on Vīrabāhu. After an exchange of missiles, Dharmakopa struck down Vīrabāhu’s charioteer. Then they engaged in a closen fight where Dharmakopa tried to strike Vīrabāhu with a rod and then a thunderbolt. Evading both, Vīrabāhu killed him with a kick.
-Bhānukopa received the news that while he thought he had won, the forces of Skanda had returned and wreaked enormous destruction on the Asura-s. He told his father perhaps it was a futile attempt, and they should surrender to Skanda. His father refused; hence, Bhānukopa set forth again to fight the Skandapārṣada-s. After a great fight Bhānukopa overthrew the bhūtagaṇa-s attacking him and rushed forward with a shower of arrows. Vīrabāhu bent his bow and destroyed the missiles hurled by Bhānukopa. Thereupon, Vīrabāhu hurled a śakti and struck Bhānukopa. However, recovering from the blow he resumed the fight. For a while, neither could get better of the other in their exchange of astra-s. Bhānukopa then baffled Vīrabāhu with his māyā powers. Vīrabāhu destroyed the māyā display with his own magic. As their fight raged on, Bhānukopa smashed Vīrabāhu’s chariot. But Vīrabāhu retaliated by breaking the Asura’s chariot and cutting his bow with his shafts. Finally, they closed in for a sword fight. Vīrabāhu chopped off the right hand of Bhānukopa but he took the sword in his left and continued. Vīrabāhu cutoff that hand too. Handless, he tried to deploy the Māyā missile but Vīrabāhu swept his head away with a blow from his sword.
-Śūrapadma on hearing of the death of his son fainted. He lamented much when he received his son’s mutilated body parts. He called his brother Siṃhamukha to come from his city of Āsurapura to join the fight. Shocked by the news of the defeat of the Asura-s, and the death of his sons and nephews, Siṃhamukha flew over from his city to aid his brother.
-Donning his armor, he set forth for battle with his great troop of Asura-s. Skanda called Vāyu to get his chariot ready. Vīrabāhu with his half-brothers wanted to lead the 100,000 Skandapārṣada-s to the encounter first. Skanda let him do so and a fierce fight ensued. Showering balls, arrows, axes, and plows on the gaṇa, the great lord of the Asura-s advanced. His demons fought several gaṇa-s in melee as they exploded each other’s weapon discharges to smithereens. Vīramārtāṇḍa used the Jñānāstra to counter the māyā being deployed by the demons. Siṃhamukha cut through the gaṇa ranks like a great mountain on the move. He put to flight the 100,000 Skandapārṣada-s with showers of missiles. He then proceeded to crush them as though one would crush mosquitoes. Seeing this, Vīrabāhu counter-attached showering thousands of arrows with his bow. The hundred sons of Siṃhamukha surrounded him and returned the showers of arrows. With his missiles, Vīrabāhu smashed their chariots and broke their bows. Then they rushed at him with their swords but Vīrabāhu slew all hundred with an arrow and his sword.
-Infuriated and saddened by this, Siṃhamukha rushed at Vīrabāhu. They ground each other’s missiles to dust and had a prolonged astra fight. Vīrabāhu slew his charioteer. Siṃhamukha hurled a gadā at him, but it burst on striking his adamantine form born of Rudra. Vīrabāhu then demolished the Asura’s car. He resumed the battle taking new cars over and over again and deploying thousands of bows. Vīrabāhu kept breaking them repeatedly. Seeing himself unable to get better of Skanda’s warrior, Siṃhamukha deployed the Māyāpāśa. The great lasso weapon immediately bound Vīrabāhu and the gaṇa-s who were on the field and hurled them atop the Udaya mountain in a state of paralysis. Sensing victory, Siṃhamukha roared loudly and thought that Skanda too had fled. However, his spies informed him that Skanda was still very much there with the remaining gaṇa-s at Hemakūṭa. Mātariśvan informed Skanda of the events and Siṃhamukha’s advance towards their fort.
-Mounting his car driven by Vāyu, Skanda led his forces into battle. In the battle that ensued the Asura-s began to retreat. At that point, Siṃhamukha assumed a gigantic form with two thousand arms. Grabbing all the gaṇa-s of Skanda he swallowed them. Śūrapadma’s spies informed him of his brother’s deeds and he ascended an observation turret to see the great form of his brother.
-Skanda then strung his bow and twanged the string causing the whole universe to resound and the Asura vehicles fell to the ground from the sound emanating from the bow twangs of the son of Umā. Siṃhamukha rushed at him to do battle. Kumāra fired a mighty missile that split open the firm belly of the demon and from the fissures through which blood was pouring out, some of the gaṇa-s who had been swallowed emerged forth. Stanching the slits in his belly with his many arms, the demon hurled a dreadful rod at Skanda. He split it up with four missiles, which then proceed the strike the demon on his forehead. Losing his strength, he lifted his hands off his belly and the remaining gaṇa-s too escaped.
-Skanda then fired a missile that proceeded to the Udaya mountain and destroyed the Māyāpāśa. Then turning into an airplane the missile brought Vīra-s and gaṇa-s back to the field and returned to the six-headed god’s quiver.
-To shore up their leader, the Asura-s who had retreated returned to attack Skanda upon hearing his terrifying roar. As they surrounded the god, he hurled thousands of projectiles and also attacked the demons with rods, swords, spears and axes. Vāyu maneuvered the car with great speed even as Skanda dispatched his missiles that lit up the entire universe like the Vaḍava fire. The great god pierced the many galactic realms with his weapons and rent asunder the limbs of the demons and shattered their vehicles. The cluster missiles shot by Skanda branched repeatedly giving rise to crores upon crores of arrows and penetrated all the galactic realms slaying numerous Dānava-s wherever they were. Seeing these weapons being fired by their commander, all the deva-s sang the praises of the son of Rudra.
-The whole field was filled with corpses of the demons. Wielding a thousand bows Siṃhamukha again attacked the commander of the deva-s.
-He then struck Vāyu on the chest with numerous arrows and the god fainted. But Skanda controlling his own car destroyed the Asura’s chariot with a hundred arrows. Then with a thousand arrows, the son of Mahādeva, cut down all the bows of the demon at once. Siṃhamukha hurled a trident at the god, who cut it down with fourteen arrows. Then he rushed at the god with a rod who powdered it with seven shafts. The demon then sent the death-dealing pāśa but Skanda cut it up with a thousand projectiles. Then he cut up the two thousand arms of the Asura. The great demon (termed māhāmada here) uttered a “mahākilikilārāva” and rushed at Skanda. The god sliced off his thousand heads with an equal number of arrows.
-Siṃhamukha regenerated his severed limbs and reentered the fray. Skanda let this happen eight times as part of his battle sport. Then he cut all his hands except for a pair and heads except for one. The demon roared that he would slay the god with just those and uprooted a mountain and rushed at his adversary. Kārttikeya rent asunder that mountain with a single arrow. The Asura now attacked him with a terrifying daṇḍa. Thereupon, Guha hurled his vajra which blazed up like several crores of suns. It destroyed that daṇḍa and striking the Asura on his chest annihilated him.
-Having bathed in the Celestial Gaṅgā Kārttikeya returned to the Hemakūṭa fort with his Vīra-s and gaṇa-s.
-Hearing of the death of his brother from his agents, Śūrapadma fell down from the observation turret he had mounted to witness the battle. Regaining his composure, he decided to himself lead the Asura-s in the war against Guha. He ordered all the surviving Asura-s from the numerous galactic realms that he controlled to come over and join him for the battle.
-Mounting his special battle car armed with all the divine missiles, with a great force of Dānava-s he headed out of his fortified city with their roars filling the whole universe.
-The gods called on their commander Skanda to enter the field against the evil demon. Worshiped by all the gods and his 100,009 Vīra-s, Skanda took up all his weapons and set forth for battle on the car driven by the god Vāyu:
ādāya paraśuṃ vajraṃ śūlaṃ śaktiṃ vibhīṣaṇāṃ ।
khaḍgaṃ kheṭaṃ bṛhac cakraṃ daṇḍaṃ musalam eva ca ॥
dhanuś-śarān mahāghorāṃs tomarāṇi varaṇy api ।
vinirgatya rathaṃ ramyaṃ vāyunā nītam agnibhūḥ ॥
āruroha surais sarvaiḥ pūjitaḥ puṣpa-vṛṣṭibhiḥ ।
nava-saṃkhyādhikair lakṣair vīrair api mahābalaiḥ ॥
-The other gods asked Viṣṇu if Kārttikeya might meet with success in the impending encounter. Viṣṇu assuaged their doubts saying that their troubles would end soon as Skanda would definitely triumph.
-As the battle was joined, Śūrapadma’s demons charged with a great shower of weapons. Skanda twanging his dreadful bow, which resounded like the flood at the end of the Kalpa, entered the field. He launched into an orgy of slaughter with his missiles reaching the limits of the universe. Wherever the demons went, his bolts cruised after them. Breaking through the walls of the galactic realms they entered whichever region the Asura-s flew to and slew them. Floods of blood and mountains of corpses of the Asura warriors started to pile all around.
-Furious, Śūrapadma joined the fray and laid low most of the Skandapārṣada-s with his terrifying missiles. Vīrabāhu rushed forth to engage him and cut his bow with his cleaver. But Śūrapadma punched with his fist and he fainted. Deciding not to kill him for he was just a messenger of Skanda, Śūrapadma seized by his feet and hurled him into the sky.
-He then charged at Skanda and engaged him in a fierce bow battle with the exchange of innumerable arrows. Finally, Śūrapadma struck down the flag of Skanda with a shower of arrows and blew his conch as a mark of victory. Skanda however quickly retaliated cutting and hurling Śūrapadma’s banner into the sea with seven shafts. Then, the thousand-headed gaṇa Bhānukampa blew on a thousand conchs and Viṣṇu too blew on his. Agni turned into the cock banner and went to adorn the car of Guha. The cock crowed loudly. All this created a terrifying din.
-Angered, Śūrapadma now turned to the gods were and attacked them with his weapons. Skanda followed him with Vāyu driving his car at top speed. Skanda protected the gods and attacked the demon with a shower of weapons. As the chariots of the two of them wheeled around in battle the whole universe to vibrated violently and whole mountains were reduced to atoms.
-Śūrapadma attacked his enemy with halāyudha-s, bhindipāla-s, kuliśa-s, tomara-s and paraśu-s. Then Skanda destroyed his vehicle completely with fourteen missiles.
-The demon then mounted the Indralokaratha (the space-station he had captured from the gods) and started tunneling into the various galactic realms he had conquered. However, he found the tunnels into them blocked by the arrows of Mahāsena and found that many of his demons were trapped in each one of them. He broke down the obstructions with his weapons and let out his demons. Those Asura-s came out and mounted a furious attack on Skanda. With his cakra, paraśu, daṇda and musala the son of Umā slaughtered them, and chasing them to each of the realms, he burnt them down with his weapons to a fine ash.
-The Asura then deployed the deadly Sarvasaṃhāraka-cakra, but Mahāsena sportingly captured it for himself. Next, he tried māyā tactics but Skanda easily overcame those with the Jñānāstra.
-Thus, defeated he finally went to his mother and asked if she might have a means of victory. She told him that she did not see a way out against the son of Rudra, but the only thing he could do is to get the Sudhāmandara mountain to revive the dead demons.
-He mounted a lion-vehicle and sent the Indralokaratha to bring the said mountain. The craft brought the Sudhāmandara to the field and the wind blowing from it started reanimating the dead demons. Seeing this, Skanda deployed the Pāśupata missile that started branching and emitting numerous Rudra-s, the Marut-s, Agni-s and vajra-s. These destroyed all the reanimated demons and also the vivifying mountain. Thereupon, the Asura sent the Indralokaratha to scoop up Vīrabahu and the remaining 100,008 troops of Skanda and stupefy them. Guha retaliated with a series of missiles that grounded the craft and brought it back to him. The gaṇa-s got out of it safely and the space-craft became the property of Skanda.
-Then the Asura injured Vāyu with his shafts and briefly Skanda’s chariot was out of control. But regaining control he cut the bow of the demon. Śūrapadma thereafter attacked him with the terrifying missile known as the Sarvasaṃhāraka-śūla. Skanda shot numerous arrows to destroy his lion-vehicle and then hurled the Ghora-kuliśa that neutralized the said śūla and brought it back to Skanda.
-The Asura assumed the form of a gigantic fierce bird and started pecking at Skanda’s car and blowing his gaṇa-s away with the blasts from his wings.
-Skanda then looked at Indra and the latter took the form of a peacock. Mounting the peacock Skanda and Indra fought the demon. Indra pecked him and clawed him in the form of the peacock, even as Skanda pierced him with many arrows. Śūrapadma dived in his bird form and broke Skanda’s bow, but Guha drew out his sword and hacked the bird-formed demon to pieces.
-The demon then took the form of the earth. Skanda taking a new bow drowned that earth-formed demon with the oceanic missile. The demon then took the form of the sea. With a hundred fiery missiles Skanda dried up that form. He successively took various forms, including the gods, but Skanda destroyed all of those with his missiles.
-Finally, to reveal that those forms of the demon were merely fictitious forms, Skanda assumed his macranthropic form with all existence and all the gods comprising his body — the planets and stars his feet; Varuṇa and Nirṛti his ankle joints; Indra and Jayanta his thighs; Yama and time his hips; the nāga-s and the ambrosia his genitals; the gods his ribs; Viṣṇu and Brahman his arms; the goddesses his fingers; Vāyu his nose; Rudra his head; the numerous galactic realms his hair follicles; the omkāra his forehead; the Veda his mouth; the Śaivāgama-s his tongue; the seven crores of mantra-s his lips; all knowledge his yajñopavīta.
-Seeing this macranthropic form of Kumāra, Śūrapadma had the doubt for the first time in his existence if after all this god might be undefeatable — many great Asura-s had fought him and many great missiles, which were previously infallible had been, used yet he triumphed over all of those. However, the demon brushed aside these feelings and assumed a gigantic form with numerous arms, heads and feet, and casting great darkness that enveloped the whole universe he rushed forward to eat Skanda and the other deva-s.
-Skanda immediately hurled his mighty śakti. Blazing like crores of suns it destroyed the overpowering darkness of the Asura and cruised after him. He dived into the sea of the fundament even as the śakti chased him there. The Dānava immediately became the “world-tree” — a giant mango tree stretching across the limits of the universe. Blazing like the trident of Rudra, the śakti split that tree in half. Śūrapadma assumed his own form and drawing his sword rushed at Skanda. The śakti struck him immediately and slew him.
-His remains were transformed into a peacock and a cock that respectively replaced Indra and Agni as the mount and the banner of Skanda, even as the two gods returned to their prior state. Thereafter, the gods praised Mahāsena for his glorious acts.
-Śūrapadma’s primary wife expired on hearing the news of his death and his son Hiraṇya who had hidden as a fish in the ocean performed the last rites of the dead demons with help of Uśanas Kāvya.
The final battle between Skanda and Śūrapadma has some mythic motifs of interest. First, the many transmogrifications of the demon in course of his battle with the god are reminiscent of the shamanic transformations. This motif is encountered in several distant traditions — most vividly in the folk Mongolian account of Chingiz Khan’s final fight with the Tangut emperor composed by his descendant Sagang Sechen (Also note the motif of the nine heroes of the Khan in that account). There, Khasar, the brother of the Khan (one of the nine heroes) plays a role similar to Vīrabāhu in destroying a witch who was guarding the Tangut capital and preventing the entry of Subetei. Khasar killed her with his arrows allowing the Mongols to storm it. Then the Khan and the Tangut lord fought a magical battle with both of them taking on many forms like a snake, Garuḍa, tiger, lion, and the like. Finally, the Khan took the form of Khormusta Khan Tengri (the great Mongol god) himself and put an end to the shape-shifting of the Tangut. Though he struck the Tangut with many arrows and swords he still could not kill him. ṭhe Tangut let slip the secret of his death in the form of a magical wootz steel sword hidden in his boot that the Khan seized and slew him. Thus, we suspect that the shape-shifting of Śūrapadma in the final battle is from an ancient shamanic layer of the Kaumāra tradition that is attested in the Saṅgam Tamil tradition (the muruka-veri, e.g., Tirumurukāṟṟuppaṭai 200-210).
Second, the final dive of Śūrapadma into the ocean and/or his transformation into a mango tree is a motif that has deep roots in Tamil Kaumāra tradition. It is mentioned in multiple Saṅgam texts such as: 1) Pattiṟṟupattu: here the Cēra king Neṭuñcēralātaṉ, who built a fleet to fight a naval battle with the Romans, is said to have destroyed his enemies even as Skanda cut down the tree of the Asura-s. 2) The Paripāṭal 18.1-4 mentions how Skanda pursued the demon into the deep ocean. Paripāṭal 5.1-4 mentions both his pursuit into the ocean and his destruction by the Skandaśakti in the form of a mango tree. 3) Tirumurukāṟṟupaṭai 45-46 mentions his pursuit into the ocean. Tirumurukāṟṟupaṭai 58-61 mentions his destruction in the form of the mango tree and also his centaur transmogrification, which is absent in the Purāṇa. We take these mythemes to be reflexes of the famous precessional myth — i.e., the shattering of the old world axis that is widespread across Hindu tradition and beyond. A variant of this myth is associated with the submerging of the old equinoctial constellation beneath the equator (the world ocean, e.g., the Varāha myth): thus, both of these are combined here in the final fight of Śūrapadma. Notably, both in the Pattiṟṟupattu and the Paripāṭal, Skanda is described as riding an elephant rather than a peacock in the final battle against Śūrapadma. This is probably an archaism as this elephant vehicle is mentioned in the ancient Kaumāra material found in the medical Kāśyapa-saṃhitā (129) as having been generated from Airāvata by Indra for Skanda.
5. The Deva Kāṇḍa.
-The rule of the gods is restored.
-Skanda is engaged to Indra’s daughter Devasenā.
-The marriage of Skanda and Devasenā.
-Skanda seeks the daughter of Viṣṇu born as Vallī in a sweet potato excavation among the pulinda hunter-gatherers.
-He appears as an old man to her. Gaṇeśa frightens her as an elephant, and she comes into the hands of Skanda in the form of the old man seeking help from the elephant.
-Vallī recognizes Skanda and starts a clandestine affair with him.
-When she elopes with Guha, the hunters, including Vallī’s brothers and father chase and attack Skanda, who strikes them down with his arrows.
-Kumāra revives the dead huntsmen and marries Vallī and returns to his abode with his two wives.
-The praise of emperor Mucukunda.
-Mucukunda installs the image of Rudra known as Tyāgarāja.
6. The Dakṣa-kāṇḍa
This section is mostly Śaiva material relating to the cycle of Dakṣa. One notable point is that here Rudra generates Vīrabhadra and Umā generates Bhadrakālī to destroy Dakṣa’s ritual. Notably, this parallels the Ur-Skandapurāṇa wherein Umā generates Bhadrakālī by rubbing her nose. There Rudra generates Haribhadra. This might indicate a connection to that ancient Skandapurāṇa version of the Dakṣa cycle. However, we may note that a similar situation is also seen in the Brahmapuraṇa ((39.51), where Rudra created the lion-formed Vīrabhadra, whereas Umā creates Bhadrakālī to accompany him. Further, interestingly, here as Vīrabhadra destroyed the male partisans of Dakṣa, Bhadrakālī destroyed the females of Dakṣa’s clan. This symmetry appears to be an ancient motif — in the Greek world we have Apollo kill the male Niobids while Artemis killed the female ones. Apart from the Dakṣa cycle, this kāṇḍa contains:
-The ṛṣi-s’ wives at Dārukavana run after Rudra. They attack him with various beings and he destroys them.
-The killing of Gajāsura by Rudra.
-Churning of the ocean and Rudra consumes the Hālāhala.
-The appearance of eleven crore Rudra-s at the Madhyārjuna shrine (Tiruvidaimarudur in the Drāviḍa country).
-The beheading of Brahman by Bhairava.
-Dharma becomes Rudra’s bull.
-Rudra destroys the universe and smears the residue as his ash.
-Rudra slays Jalandhara.
-The birth of Gaṇeśa.
-Jyotirliṅga-s and Aruṇācala.
The only Kaumāra-related material in this kāṇḍa are: 1. The praise of Skanda’s peacock and chicken. 2. The “backstories” of the birth of Śurapadma, his mother and his clan. 3. The Skandaṣaṣṭhī festival.
The rest of this kāṇḍa is again largely Śaiva material pertaining to Śivadharma for lay devotees. Indeed, chapters in this section seem to self-identify as a Śiva-purāṇa. It begins with an account of the Rudra-gaṇa in Kailāsa. It contains several accounts of humble animals (including men like cora-s) attaining higher births from acts of Śaiva piety. Similarly, sinners who defile/steal from Śaiva shrines or take even things like lemons or bananas from them attain hell. The observance of key festivals of Rudra and the Bhairava-Vīrabhadra festival are laid out. Further, it gives the 1008 names of Rudra, the practice of Aṣṭāṅga-yoga, the theological principles of Siddhānta and the iconography of the twenty five images of Rudra that are displayed in Śaiva shrines.
It also contains accounts of: 1. Rudra destroying the Tripura-s. 2. Rudra slaying Andhaka. 3. The rise of the most terrible demon Bhaṇḍāsura. Rudra performs a fierce ritual, offering Brahman, Viṣṇu, Indra and other gods as samidh-s in a fire altar where he himself was the fire. From it arose the youthful goddess Tripurā who slew Bhaṇḍāsura. This minimal account lacks the details seen in the Lalitopākhyāna, where this myth takes the center-stage. 4. The killing of Mahiṣa by Durgā through the grace of Rudra as Kedāreśvara. 5. The killing of Raktabīja by Kālī and her dance with Rudra.