Kartikeya: The six-headed youthful warrior and the God of endless wonders

Porcelain “The God Kartikeya” Courtesy: Art Alinda Archive

The nights are getting smoggier every other day. It is the last day of the Kartik month. Mother Nature heaved a gush of wind, reminding us once again, that it is time for us to let our windows shut close. Northern winds are on their way. However, the festive lights haven’t gone out yet. Walking down the paths filled with the crisps of fallen leaves, one may hear a faint sound of Kashor-Ghonta coming from a distance. The last day of Kartik month– the day of celebrating the Kartikeya Puja. Lord Kartikeya, the son of Shiva and Parvati is a Hindu God, who is worshipped widely in Southern parts of India, West Bengal, and Nepal. Also, in countries like Malaysia and Sri Lanka, Kartikeya Puja is a revered event. Lord Karitikeya, known by other names such as Skanda, Subhramanya, Shanmukha, and Murugan is a God of War and victory according to Hindu mythology. Being the ‘commander in the army of gods’ or ‘Mahasena,’ Kartikeya has been a notable deity since the advent of ancient times in the Indian subcontinent. His creation is personated as the destroyer of Asuras or Demons and to resurrect justice in the universe. Kartikeya or Murugan is a popular deity known as the ‘God of Tamil people.’ In North India, Kartikeya is believed to be the Elder son of Shiva and Parvati, while in South, Ganesha is the eldest, making Kartikeya the
youngest. According to mythology, Ganesha received more love and care from her parents, Shiva and Parvati. This specific treatment seemed so unfair to Kartikeya that he went to the mountains of South, leaving Kailash behind. This is how Lord Kartikeya came to be worshipped in the South more widely than in the North. In Northern tradition, Kartikeya is depicted as a Brahmachari (bachelor), whereas in South India, he is believed to have two wives, Devasena (daughter of Indra) and Valli (the daughter of a tribal hunter).

Ichnographically, Lord Kartikeya is depicted as a young man, riding on an Indian peacock, who is called Parvani, which indicates majesty and splendor and symbolizes evil forces on whom the deity dominates with his power. He usually has one or six heads depending on the region he is worshipped. He is described as the warrior of six heads because during the birth of Kartikeya, his mother, Goddess Parvati, through her Tantric powers merged the six fetuses born out of six Krittikas, who carried the seed of Lord Shiva, but couldn’t hold them longer in their womb until its birth due to the heat. Parvati merged them into one and wrapped them inside a Lotus, similar to an incubation and that is how Lord Kartikeya
was born with six heads. Lord Kartikeya carries a spear in one hand, which is called Vel which features the emblem of a rooster, and in another hand, he carries a bow and an arrow. Kartikeya’s vehicle is an Indian peafowl and is represented as the epitome of youthfulness. Kartikeya became the warrior god at a very young age and was destined to defeat the demons Tarakasura, Simhamukha, and Surapadma. He is also known as the philosopher warrior for his teachings on ethical life and Shaiva Siddhanta Theology, the philosophical system of South India that rever Lord Shiva as
the supreme power.

The worship of Lord Kartikeya is observed in several parts of Bengal with great pomp and gaiety. In fact, in those areas, Kartikeya puja is celebrated as a heritage tradition. It is believed that the tradition of worshipping the Lord Kartik first started in Pundaravardhana or the Northern part of Bengal, as one of the earliest specimens of Kartikeya’s images was discovered in Mahasthangarh (one of the oldest archeological sites in Bangladesh) and other adjoining areas of Northern Bengal. According to Rajtarangini (the metrical legendary and historical chronicle of the north-western part of
India), there was a Kartikeya temple in Pundaravardhana, which is
possibly located in Baghopara village in Bogra district (at present in

Whereas in Southern Bengal, the puja was popularised by the merchants there. It is believed that the worship of Lord Kartikeya was popular in the areas of Sundarban, Bankura, and Katwa. At present, Bansberia and Chuchura in Hooghly, Katwa and Purvasthali in Bardhaman, Sonamukhi in Bankura, and Beldanga in Murshidabad are the most popular places in Bengal that are known for being the most revered sides of Kartikeya Puja. Among them, Bansberia is the most renowned place for this puja. Earlier it was one of the parts of Saptagram and was known as Banshapati. The village was the residence of traders and merchants and it is already said that Merchants and Traders were one of the sole initiators of Kartikeya
Puja in Bengal. That is why, Banshberia became one of the active places that revered Lord Kartikeya. The Kartikeya Puja is more than 400 years old and at present 91 pujas take place in this area (information source: Bansberia Kartik Puja Committee). In other neighbouring areas of Chinsurah and Magra, the number of pujas is 28 and 30, and are celebrated for four days here.

Another renowned place that is known for Kartikeya Puja is Katwa in
Bardhaman. Lakhs of worshippers visit Katwa from the adjacent areas
every year to visit and participate in the occasion. With the fall of the
Pundravardhan, the tradition of Kartikeya Puja only remained among the merchants, traders, courtesans, and farmers. Later it gradually spreads in the other parts of the society.

The Kartikeya Worship is vastly observed in the areas of Bardhaman,
especially in the Katwa region, Kandi in Murshidabad, and some regions of Birbhum including Tarapeeth on the first day of Aghrayana to mark the prosperous occasion of Nabanna. In these areas, Farmers are the one who organises the Kartikeya Puja along with Annapurna Puja.

In the Bankura district, the Sonamukhi region is famous for worshipping Kartikeya for over 400 years. Even though innumerable Kartikeya Puja took place at this place, only 17 among them are recognized because only they have permission for the Visarjan (idol immersion) procession. The festival is celebrated for four days here as well.

Other notable Kartikeya Pujas in Bengal include Beldanga in
Murshidabad, Chuchura in Hooghly, Purvasthali in Bardhaman, and
Halishahar in North 24 Parganas are specifically significant. Over 150
Kartikeya Puja are celebrated in Purvasthali, though the festivity and
glamour aren’t like the past days, as they used to be in the 16th century, during the reign of Raja Krishna Chandra. The same scenario is shared in Halishahar as well. The 250-year-old puja has lost its earlier glory of their previously celebrated ‘Big Kartik.’

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *