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Subrahmanya in Sahyadri

The making of Malai Mandir in Delhi's Vasant Vihar signifies the 'homecoming' of the Warlord.

india Updated: May 10, 2006 10:34 IST

Kartikeya (Subrahmanya) was once a beloved deity in the Delhi-Rohtak-Ujjain region and the making of Malai Mandir in Delhi's Vasant Vihar signifies the 'homecoming' of the Warlord.

(Malai means hill in Tamil and is pronounced with a short 'a', like 'mull-ei', not malaai as in Hindi for cream). Subrahmanya was born from the netragni or fiery spark in Shiva's eye to rid the world of the demon Taraka.

The Skanda Purana's Sahyadri Kand says he did so in the hills of south Karnataka. It's believed that Subrahmanya (also called Kumar) dipped his bloodstained spear in the river Dhara to cleanse it.

This is in present-day Dakshin Kannada district and the river is now called Kumaradhara. Though I haven't been to "Sachin's temple", I've driven through this lush, beautiful beautiful region and remember how it radiates peace and holiness.

The Kukke Subrahmanya temple he went to is one of the seven famous mokshasthalas in Karnataka and venerated all over the south. I'm told kukke means cave from old Kannada kukshi (guha in Sanskrit, gufa/kufa in Hindi). A legend goes that Vasuki, Lord Vishnu's serpent, was once being chased by Garuda and sought refuge in Subrahmanya.

So while he's worshipped as a handsome young man in Tamil Nadu (Murugan, meaning the Beautiful One), many Subrahmanya temples in Andhra and Karnataka embody him as a snake and in Tirupati, he is supposed to be the 'snake-hill' of Seshachalam itself.

Adi Sankara memorably stopped and prayed at the Kukke Subrahmanya temple during his great Hindu revival walkabout. His 33-verse prayer, the Subrahmanya Bhujangam, composed on the Coromandel shore at Subrahmanya's temple at Tiruchendur, is loved by many like the Hanuman Chalisa in the North.

They say the poem sprang out of Sankara's luminous vision of Subrahmanya seated deep in the cave of his heart. Set in Jagati (the 12 syllable Vedic metre), this exquisite poem glides like a snake on its shoulders (bhujangaprayatam).

It's believed to cure us of physical, mental and spiritual ailments. More on it another time, especially on two favourite verses.