Sri Karttikeya and Tarakasura According to Skanda Maha Purana—Mahesvar Khanda
After Bali, Kal Khanja, Maharoudra, Kalakeya, Nivata Kavacha, etc., were born as enemies to Indra. Tarakasura, son of Namuchi, did severe Tapasya or penance. Brahma was pleased. Tarakasura wanted to be Ajar, Amar and Ajeya (imperishable, immortal and invincible). Brahma gave him the boon of Ajayatvam (living invincible or unconquerable). He attacked and conquered the Devas (the gods) again and again.
The gods approached Vishnu. Vishnu asked them to find out some means to get Siva married, who was then in Samadhi; Sati had burnt her body in Daksha’s Yajna and was born by then as daughter to Himavan, the Mountain-King, Parvati by name.
The gods approached Himavan and persuaded him to get his daughter Parvati married to Siva and thus serve the purpose of the Devas, who were oppressed by Tarakasura. Since none but one born of Siva alone could kill Tarakasura, Himavan took his eight-year old daughter Parvati to Siva. He prayed to Siva for permission to come to Him daily for ‘Worship’. Siva granted this boon but desired Himavan not to bring Parvati with him any more. Parvati protested and reminded Him of His divine nature and entreated Him to let her continue her worship to Him. Pleased with her arguments and reasoning, Siva allowed her to do so.
After sometime, Parvati slowly got fixed up in her Tapasya on Siva. In the meanwhile, ‘Cupid’ (Kamadeva) as desired by the gods, approached Siva to distract Him from His Samadhi. Kamadeva was burnt to ashes in the attempt; Siva opened His third eye and Kamadeva was burnt by the Rays emerging from it. At that time Parvati was there to worship Him as usual; and the Devas also approached Siva.
The gods received their desired boon. Kamadeva’s wife, Rati, also performed severe Tapasya to get back Kamadeva, and Siva was pleased to restore Kamadeva to his original position but as Ananga (unembodied or without a body). Rati was taken away by Shambara, a demon, and she was there with Shambara, as Mayavati. According to Skanda Purana, Parvati did Tapasya, for Rati’s sake, and got the desired boon from Siva. Siva was again in deep Samadhi, while by his side, Parvati, too, was performing her severe Tapas.
Again the gods petitioned Siva. And Siva, satisfied with Parvati’s intense devotion to Him, in the guise of a Vatu (a young Brahmachari) gave her the desired boon and, as desired by the Devas, on Gandhamadan, a mountain in Kailasa, Siva’s rays came forth as Pralayagni (the all-devouring fire). The whole of the Universe was on the point of being burnt and the Devas, including Brahma, were perturbed. As desired by the Devas, Agni, the Fire-god, in disguise stole into the presence of Siva unseen by Nandi at the main door and disturbed His privacy. Agni as Pani-Patra or Karapatri begged for alms.
Rudra was enraged and rushed forth to destroy him with His trident but was held back by Parvati. While Parvati came out with Bhiksha, Agni appeared in his own form. Girija got enraged and cursed him and made him Sarvabhakshi (all-devouring) and declared that all of them would reap the consequences of this evil plot.
Agni narrated all this to the Devas. To their great astonishment, all the Devas including Indra were contacted, through Agni, and all became Sagarbhas (pregnant) with excruciating pain. They approached Vishnu for relief. Vishnu could only direct them to Siva. The Devas, including Brahma and Vishnu, approached Siva and prayed to Him. Siva advised them to vomit the Retas (the rays) they were suffering from. They all vomited, and the rays took the form of a mountain of shining gold. They were followed by Agni.
Siva desired Agni to throw the ‘rays’ into the ‘Yonis’ (the womb) of all ladies during their monthly course. Agni, the Fire-god, was burning with full rays, at the Ganga bank, early morning in Brahmamuhurta, when all the Rishipatnis were there for their morning bath (Pratah Snanam) in the month of Karttika. They were shivering with cold and, in order to warm themselves, approached Agni, the Fire, in spite of Arundhati’s warning to them. As soon as the Rishipatnis including Krittika reached the proximity of the fire, they were all ‘contacted’.
The said Retas (rays) of Siva entered every pore of their bodies. Agni was released. These Rishipatnis in turn were cursed by their husbands, the Rishis. The Krittikas were changed into birds (Khecharas); and the Rishipatnis, being ashamed of themselves and very sorry for their conduct (Vyabhichara), vomited the Retas (rays) on the Himalayas. All these rays in turn were thrown into the Ganga by the ‘Kichakas’, and there on the Ganga bank, out of these rays appeared the ‘six-mouthed’ or six-headed Shanmukha as (i) Karttikeya, (ii) Gangeya, (iii) Shaka, (iv) Vishakha, (v) Atibala and (vi) Mahabala.
The gods were overjoyed to hear of Shanmukha’s birth through Ganga. Parvati was taken unawares. She became Prasruta-stani, a mother with milk pouring from her breasts. Immediately Narada came and informed them of Shanmukha having been born on the Ganga bank. Parvati with Siva hastened to the Ganga bank followed and surrounded by all the Devas, Yakshas, Gandharvas, Siddhas, etc. They all prayed to Karttikeya, the child, the Kumara shining gloriously shedding divine rays of bliss. Parvati took ‘Kumara’, the child, in her lap and fed him at her flowing breasts. Karttikeya in Siva’s lap began to play with the snakes round his neck and specially oppressed Vasuki with his many playful tiny hands! Thereafter, as desired by Siva, the gods, led by Brahma, installed Karttikeya as ‘Senapati’ and gave him the power to lead the unconquerable ‘Sena’ (army); also gave Sena, the most beautiful daughter of Mrityu, the Death-god, as his consort. With Sena as his consort, Karttikeya killed in battle Tarakasura, as desired by the gods.(Excerpts from “Lord Shanmuga and His Worship” by Swami Sivananda)