The Birth of Skanda – Part 1

SKANDA 017

Did you know old India had a deity dedicated to men who reject conventional marriage in preference for the love of another man?

He still maintains his popularity in the South under various names, and yet this original association has largely been swept away – the legacy of a Judeo-Christian ‘moral’ sensibility introduced to the Subcontinent by zealous Victorian missionaries, but now perpetuated by modern India’s politicised conservatism.

Howeverit is still possible to hear the old myths that have survived the determined efforts to censor them.

And this one is a wonder!

There was once a time when a megalomaniac fiend called Taraka the Deceiver contrived to conjure a great and dreadful power with which to not only overwhelm the world, but disintegrate the very fabric of the universe.  And this by first enduring ten centuries of extreme asceticism.

For the first hundred years, Taraka balanced on one leg with arms held high, staring directly into the sun until his eyes melted into dirty ghee. For the next, he teetered on just one toe. He survived a century on only water, then on nothing more than air. For a hundred years he floated on the surface of the sea. For another, he stood motionless on scalding desert sands.

Through the blistering heat of a century of summers Taraka sat naked surrounded by fierce flames until his skin charred and split.  He passed a hundred years balanced on his head, followed by another on his hands. And finally, he spent a hundred years dangling upside-down from a tree by his toe nails, his demonic lungs poisoned by the acrid smoke of bonfires lit beneath.

Taraka

TARAKA

The result was a searing, violent force as brilliant as a thousand noonday suns. Just as his cruel heart had intended, this now burst from every rotted pore of his body to bring calamity to men, gods and galaxies alike.  Taraka’s dreadful havoc had begun.

It was the owls and the asses that first began to wail, soon joined by the jackals, whose breath burst into flames.  And then the cows began to weep as their milk turned red and toxic.

The mountains began to quake until all the forests fell.  The quarters blazed until the oceans’ waters simmered on their shores.  Then came such storms that the skies were torn apart with thunderbolts, the cosmos with incendiary comets.

Men and gods alike were in despair, for surely there was no hero who could defeat such an enemy as this.  No hero, that is, except a child sired by Shiva.

SHIVA by Suresh

SHIVA by Suresh

However, the deity of the jhankri mountain-shamans was unable to oblige. Despite the chaos being wrought around him, the Lord of Yoga remained in deep meditation on his snowy peak of Kailash and could not be roused.

Yet Shiva had to be interrupted, for all life derives from loving intimacy, and with Shiva’s own desire for pleasure so long withdrawn all existence was now threatened with extinction.[1]

The gods therefore had but one choice: to call upon the services of Kama – the handsome Bringer of Joys, the God of Sensual Love, the Demolisher of Peace – who none, not even the great Shiva himself, could possibly resist …

KAMA

KAMA

[Part 2 follows soon]


[1]  In Shaiva myth, extremes of either an excess of or withdrawal from sexual activity always threaten the natural order, the balance of the universe, and must be arrested in order to restore both personal and cosmic equilibrium.

Read more in Limitless Sky.

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