Vaikasi Visakam is a festival that has special significance for Tamils. This day honors Muruga, the son of Shiva and Parvati, as it is his birth anniversary. It occurs in the Hindu month of Vaikasi (May-June). Murugan was born on the full moon day or Purnima in this month, that coincided with the Vishakha Nakshatra.
Muruga is the patron deity of Tamil Nadu. Supposedly, he resides on the Palani hills, to which he moved from Kailasa, the heavenly abode of his parents, after a tiff with them. He has many names like Skanda, Kartikeya, Kumara, Shanmukha, Subramanya, etc. He embodies courage, wisdom, and knowledge.
Muruga is the God of war and the general of the army of Gods. Hence, he is also called Devasenapati and Yuddharanga. He taught the Pranava Mantra to his father, Shiva. He was born to annihilate demons who represent the negative tendencies in human beings.
He is an important deity in Theravada Buddhism which is practiced in Sri Lanka and Thailand. The Nikaya Samgraha claims that he is a guardian deity of the land, along with Saman, Upulvan (Vishnu), and Vibhisana.
The 16th-century Siamese text, Jinakalamali, also describes him as a guardian deity. Buddhist Sinhala shrines, like the one at Kataragama, are dedicated to Skanda. In Chinese Buddhism, he is revered as Weituo, a young and divine general, the guardian deity of local monasteries, and protector of the Buddhist dhamma. This representation was common after the Tang period. Korean Buddhism also adopted Skanda. The Jain deity Naigamesa is depicted in early Jain texts as riding a peacock and the leader of the divine army, which evoke Muruga.
Muruga was born from Shiva’s third eye. So he has great destructive powers. On Vaikasi Visakam, devotees perform special Poojas for Murugan and visit Murugan temples to seek his blessings.
The Legend Behind Muruga’s Birth
Three demons who were also brothers were causing many problems on Earth. They were Tarakasura, Soorapadman, and Simghamukhan. They had received a boon whereby only a son of Shiva could kill them. This made them pretty much invincible, as Shiva had no sons and neither was he in a situation to sire sons. Sati, the wife of Shiva, had died by self-immolation after her father, Daksha, humiliated her and Shiva. Shiva had wandered about in grief like a madman, carrying her charred corpse until Vishnu cut it into many pieces with his Sudarshana chakra.
After this, Shiva embarked on deep meditation. So there was no scope for him to get married again or have children. This made the demons very bold. As they continued their reign of terror, the Gods went to Brahma and sought help. Brahma replied that only Shiva could help them. But no one dared to disturb Shiva, as they were afraid of his anger.
Meanwhile, Sati was reborn as Parvati, the daughter of Himavan, the king of the mountains. She was determined to marry Shiva. So a plan was hatched. The Gods sent Kama, the God of love, to awaken feelings of love in Shiva’s heart. Kama sent one of his flower-tipped arrows in Shiva’s direction. Shiva came out of his trance and opened his 3rd eye. Kama was burned to ashes. However, Shiva restored him to life, taking pity on his wife, Rati.
The Gods apprised him of the situation in heaven. So Shiva opened his 3rd eye again, and six sparks of fire emanated from it. Vayu (air) and Agni (fire) carried them to the Ganges to cool them. But the Ganges also found them too hot and carried them to Saravana Poigai, where they lay on a bed of reeds and turned into 6 male babies. The 6 Karthiai Pengal found them and nursed them. Later, Parvati embraced them, and they became one baby with 6 faces and 12 hands.
This form gave rise to the name, Shanmuga, the God with six faces. Shanmuga went to battle against the 3 demons and restored peace on Earth. The 6 faces of Murugan represent creation, protection, destruction, involution, infinite kindness, and the initial source of knowledge. The Krittika maidens who took care of the 6 babies became Krittika Nakshatra or the Pleiades constellation. For this reason, he has the name, Kartikeya.
Iconography of Murugan
Murugan is the commander-in-chief of the Devas’ army. He is the deity of war and represents courage and boldness. He also offers wealth and wisdom to his devotees. With his 6 faces, he can look East, West, North, and South, at heaven and hell at the same time. He has a dark blue complexion, and he holds weapons like the Vel in his hands. He is often portrayed with his 2 consorts, Devayanai and Valli. He rides a peacock, which has a snake in its talons.
Vaikasi Visakham Rituals
Vaikasi Visakam is a 10-day celebration. It is also called Brahmotsavam. Devotees perform special Poojas and rituals to the idol of Muruga on this auspicious day. They also offer milk pots or Pal Kudam and carry Kavadi, a decorated yoke, on their shoulders to the Murugan temples.
Those who perform Pooja at home clean and decorate the idols or photos of Muruga with flowers. Some also observe a fast to please the deity. While fasting, devotees remember Murugan’s epic battle against the three demons, Tarakasura, Surapadman, and Singamuhan. These demons represent human vices. Remembering Murugan’s victory over the demons, they gain the strength to overcome their inner demons and negative traits. So, this is a significant part of the vrat or fast.
It is believed that Muruga’s blessings can help resolve marital problems. He can also bestow progeny, wealth, and prosperity. Muruga is worshipped to reduce one’s past sins and also to get rid of the malefic effects of Kuja or planet Mars.
Devotees prepare a Bhog comprising sweet dishes and offer them to Murugan. Red oleander flowers or six Nagalinga flowers are part of the offerings. It is also the custom to donate to charity on this day.
Festival Date and Time
Vaikasi Visakam 2023 is on Saturday, June 3, 2023.
∙ Visakam Nakshathram begins at 06:53 am on Jun 02, 2023
∙ Visakam Nakshathram ends at 06:16 am on Jun 03, 2023