Lord Shiva was immersed in deep meditation after losing his wife Sati. Taking advantage of this state of Shiva was demon Tarakasura. He offered a long and hard thousand-year penance to Lord Brahma and obtained a boon, “Let my death come only in the hands of a young boy who is an offspring of Lord Shiva.”

Tarakasura’s atrocities on Gods, sages and devotees became unbearable after that. The harried Gods got together and hatched a grand plan. They got Shiva and Parvathi married with the help of Kama, the god of love.

However, after the wedding, even after several hundred years, there was no sign of the couple stepping out of their palace in Kailasa. The Gods, now desperate, debated their next move. “If Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi do not have a Son soon, then we will lose heaven to this demon Taraka. Let’s go talk to them.”

Nandi, the assistant of Shiva, guarded the palace door in Kailasa. He point blank refused entry to the visitors. Then they debated again, “Let us loudly sing praises of Shiva from here. He will certainly come out for us. He is a kind God.”

As they had expected, Shiva, after hearing the voices of the Gods and sages stepped outside and was taken by surprise, “What brings all of you to my abode?”  Shiva asked.

The gathering, now perked up momentarily, explained to Shiva how they were eagerly awaiting for his son to be born. Shiva thought for a moment and then he said, “I will unleash this energy from my body now. You nurture that and an able boy will be born out of it.”

The Gods’ happiness knew no bounds. But, when they realised that the energy emitted by Shiva was unbearably hot, they pushed the god of fire, Agni to the forefront. “Catch the energy, Agni!”

And he did. After a while, the very god of fire was on fire! “I have to get this out of me. This heat is hotter than anything I have felt so far.”  Agni transferred the energy into the bodies of six Krittikas (except Arundhati), the wives of Saptarshis.

The delicate Krittikas started burning with the heat of the white light they had enthusiastically received from Agni. They quickly released it on Mount Himalaya. When his snow started melting, Himavantha floated the energy on river Ganga. The river Goddess, drying up from the heat, gently deposited the energy on the lush Shara grass at her river bank.

And, the minute the energy touched the grass, an infant who exuded a bright light all around him, formed. When the baby’s cries reached Krittikas, they came running to nurture him. Then they fought, “He is my baby,” said one.

“How is it so? I bore him in me too,” said the next.

The baby, then magically grew six heads to appease each of his six surrogate mothers! The adorable little one soon grew up to be a valiant boy under the loving care of Krittikas.

In the meanwhile, Lord Shiva and Parvathi were on a frantic search for their son. Shiva’s men, Ganas, finally located the boy who shone with a brilliance that equalled the Sun’s.

“We will forever be grateful to you for raising our precious son,” Shiva and Parvathi thanked Krittikas, who, though very sad, sent their son to his rightful parents.

Shiva and Parvathi then declared, “This son of ours was raised by many kind-hearted people. We want to thank all of them. He will be called Kartikeya for being nurtured by Krittikas. He will also be called Agneya for being borne by Agni, Gangeya for being in the womb of Ganga, Saravana for being protected by the Sara grass.”

Young Kartikeya, then appointed the commander-in-chief of the God’s army by Shiva, fought with and killed the mighty demon Tarakasura, restoring peace through the entire the universe.

What is noteworthy in this story, apart from being highly imaginative, is how each one, from Agni to Krittikas, who nurtured Karthikeya is acknowledged and thanked. May be we can implement that too in our lives. Many times we are quick to forget those who help us. So this New Year, we can change that and be thankful to those who have helped us become better and stronger.

[Editor’s note: Vani Mahesh has a deep rooted interest in the Indian mythology and classics. She is a consultant writer for Amar Chitra Katha where she scripts stories from the Puranas. She has so far authored two comics and a novel published by Amar Chitra Katha. (‘Tales of Creation From the Brahma Purana’, A Kingdom for His Love, a novel based on Bhasa’s play, and now Saptarshi – The Seven Supreme Sages.)]

Author’s website: vanimahesh.com