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It Contains eighty eight thousand and one hundred Shlokas (stanzas). Has seven parts- Maheshwar, Vaishnava, Brahma, Kashi, Avanti, Nagar and Prabhasa. Purana got its name from Skand (Kartikeya) the son of Lord Shiva. Birth of Skand; its reason and effects constitute the main theme. Kartikeya was the commander of the gods' army and had killed the demon Tarkasura.
DAKSHA'S ANIMOSITY TOWARDS LORD SHIVA
Skanda Puran begins with the eulogy of Lord Shiva–
YASYAGYA JAGAT SRISHTA VIRANCHIH PALKO HARIH;
SANHARTA KAALRUDRAKHYO NAMASTASMAI PINAKINE.
(Meaning)— Salutations to Lord Shankar who has entrusted the job of creation to Lord Brahma–Who has instructed Lord Vishnu to nurture the world and who himself acts as the supreme annihilator.During ancient times, once, Sage Shaunak had performed a grand 'yagya' at his hermitage in Naimisharanya forest. Many sages had thronged Naimisharanya to attend it. One of them was Sage Lomesh.After the yagya was over, all the assembled Sages requested Sage Lomesh to narrate the divine tales of Lord Shiva.
Sage Lomesh said–Daksha-Prajapati had got his daughter, Sati married to Lord Shiva. Once, he had performed a grand yagya in which he had invited everybody except his own son-in-law.When Sati learnt about the yagya, she sought Lord Shiva's permission to attend that yagya. Lord Shiva tried to convince her that it was not proper to attend a ceremony in which one had not been invited. But Sati did not pay any heed and was bent upon attending that yagya. Ultimately, Lord Shiva had no option but to give his conscent. But he did not forget to send his 'Rudraganas' with her for her protection.
BIRTH OF KARTIKEYA
Lord Shiva and Parvati lived happily at Gandhamadan Mountain enjoying every bit of their conjugal life. Once it so happened that a small quantity of Shiva's sperm fell on the ground while he was enjoying intimate moments with Parvati. As a result, tremendous amount of heat was generated and the whole world started burning.Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu instructed Agni to employ some means so that the destruction caused by Shiva's over flowing sperms could come to an end.Agni went to Gandhamadan mountain in the guise of a hermit. He requested Parvati by saying—'O Mother! Please give me something as alms. I have nothing but my hands as a begging bowl'
Parvati kept Shiva's sperms on his palm, which was eaten up by Agni. Parvati was enraged to see this and cursed Agni–"You have shown disrespect to me. From today onwards you would become omnivorous. The sperms which you have devoured would cause unbearable inflammation in your body."
As the result of Parvati's curse, Agni really started experiencing unbearable inflammation in his body. He requested Lord Shiva to reveal the means by which his pain would come to an end. Lord Shiva instructed Agni to implant those sperms in any woman's womb to get rid of the unbearable inflammation.Thus, Agni, who was suffering from extreme heat that generated in his body, sat at a lonely place waiting eagerly for a woman to arrive there.He did not have to wait for too long, as six Kritikas, shivering with cold arrived there to warm themselves. The sperms of Shiva entered into their bodies through the pores. These six Kritikas became pregnant.
When their respective husbands learnt about their pregnancy they cursed them. As a result they got transformed into 'Nakshatras' and established themselves in the sky. But, they aborted their respective foetus at Himalaya mountain before getting transformed into six constellations. The holy Ganges carried that foetus to a secluded place, which was covered with dense bushes of reeds.In course of time, Lord Kartikeya manifested from those reed bushes. He had six heads. The deities were delighted at the birth of Kartikeya. Lord Shiva along with Parvati went to the place where Kartikeya had incarnated. Parvati took young Kartikeya in her embrace.
KARTIKEYA KILLS TARAKASUR
Lord Shiva assured the deities, who were also present there that Tarakasur's days were numbered. The deities's army then proceeded towards the battlefield.On their way, the deities heard a heavenly voice–'You can defeat the demons only if you fight under the leadership of Kartikeya.'
Now all the deities requested Kartikeya to become their leader. Menawhile, Devasena–the daughter of Mrityu arrived there and requested Kartikeya to become her husband. Kartikeya accepted Devasena as his wife. This is the reason why he is also known as Deva senapati.Karitkeya was leading the deities' army, mounted on an elephant. The army had all the deities in its rank- Indra, Varun, Vayu, Kuber, Dharma Raj, etc.Both the rival armies met at an island situated between Ganga and Yamuna. Tarakasur had come with a large army, which boasted of many brave and mighty warriors.
The battle commenced and the first phase was dominated by the demons. The deities could not stand up to the might of demons. Even Indra was severely wounded when Tarakasur attacked him with his deadly weapon- 'Shakti'. On seeing the level of destruction caused in the deities' army, King Muchkunda, who was on the side of the deities' attacked Tarakasur. In the ensuing battle Muchkunda got injured and fell down on the ground. He got up furiously and tried to kill Tarakasur with his Brahmashtra. Sage Narad told him that Brahmashtra would be of no use as Tarakasur had been blessed with invincibility against mortals. Narad said–'Only Kartikeya is capable of killing Tarakasur. So, you all need to have patience till Kartikeya accomplishes his mission.'
Meanwhile Veerabhadra was fighting a dual bought against Tarakasur. He had already caused indescribable losses to the demons. While the fight was going on, Tarakasur realized that it was not easy to defeat him. So, he decided to use his illusionary powers, which helped him in acquiring ten thousand hands. The deities ran away from the battle field, when they saw ferocious Tarakasur approaching them.Lord Vishnu instructed Kartikeya to kill Tarakasur before it was too late. Kartikeya chased Tarakasur with his deadly weapon- Shakti in his hand. A fierce fight took place between both of them. Kartikeya attacked Tarakasur with his Shakti. Tarakasur retaliated by hitting him with his own Shakti. The assault was so severe that Karikeya lost his consciousness for few moments.
When Kartikeya regained his consciousness, he got up quickly to fight against Tarakasur. Once again a fierce battle commenced. Kartikeya remembered his parents in reverence and released his Shakti in the direction of Tarakasur.Tarakasur died instantly. The deities were delighted at the death of their tormentor.