Skanda thereby came into being through the interaction of Desire (Kama), Consciousness (Shiva), Earth (Parvati), Fire (Agni), Water (Ganges) and Space (the Krittika).
Indeed, such was the force of his miraculous creation that it rippled through the matrix of the universe, causing hot and cold, north and south, male and female, and all contrary pairs to momentarily reverse.
Parvati knew the child that had almost been hers was born, for as she sat quietly on Mount Kailash her breasts began to run with milk. Shiva therefore sent the irresistibly handsome Gandharvas to discover the fate of his ‘splendid emission’.
They soon found Skanda in the care of the Six Sister,s in the forest of kasha grass beside the river. The Gandharvas gave honour to the Krittika, then wrapped themselves around the glorious boy – who in just six days had become a full-grown, light-filled adolescent – and swept him northwards, to the Himalayas.
Upon delivery to Mount Kailash, Shiva looked upon the young man with wonder. He drew Skanda close to clasp him in his arms and kiss him tenderly.
‘So now, my beloved son,’ Shiva said, ‘dance!’
So it was that on the seventh day of his life Skanda danced, ‘dispelling the anguish of all’ – whereupon the entire universe danced with him.
The impact on Taraka, whose cruel self-interest had threatened to destabilise the foundation of all existence, was such a sudden loss of all his power that he disintegrated into a fine dust and was scattered by the winds.
And thus the stability of the universe was restored, but now free of all danger, all violence – and all thorns.
This account of Skanda’s birth is told in the Puranas [for example, see Skanda Purana V – I:34:60-66], whilst the Mahabharata makes reference to Shiva “whose semen was offered as an oblation into the mouth of Agni”.
And yet in today’s fast-Westernising India a newly puritanised version is preferred, which describes Skanda as having been born to Shiva and Parvati by wholly unremarkable means.
New generations in India are thereby losing significant depths of their ancient culture and an entire universe of philosophical insight.
[Part 6 follows soon]
Read more in Limitless Sky
 The Krittika represent the constellation Western astronomers call the Pleiades. The Six Sisters are traditionally venerated by pregnant women, who honour them with neem leaves, milk curd and lemons. Their shrines are no more than six vermilion-smeared stones, which are always placed either beneath a neem tree, or beside a stream or river. It is also common for agricultural rites to be dedicated to the Krittika as the inauguration of winter planting.