The worship of Muruga, as Skanda is popularly called in Tamil country, is very old in South India, where he is worshipped with great devotion. One of the most ancient totem-groups in the South was that of the Nagas (i.e. snakes) and the appearance of a serpent is even today considered by many as betokening the presence of Murugan. Lord Subramanya's other names are Skanda, Kumaresa, Kartikeya, Shanmukha, Guha, Muruga and Velayudhan.
The oldest Tamil hymns refer to Him as the deity of the hilly regions, the God of the tribes of hunters — Velan (He who carries a vel or spear). He was also believed to induce violent passions of love in the minds of girls, and was propitiated by magic rites.
By about the sixth century, the Skanda cult had shed its association with the earliest indigenous forms of worship practised by the hill-tribes and the Kumara Tantra was looked upon as a branch of the Saiva Tantras, and Skanda was invested with some of the attributes usually associated with Siva, for instance; Mahayogin, the great Teacher, the great Healer, the Lord of the Bhutas, and as the great Ascetic.
Lord Subramanya is a ray born of the Divine Consciousness of Lord Siva. Valli and Deivayanai are His two wives who represent the power of action and the power of knowledge. Lord Subramanya is an aspect of the Divine easily accessible in this age of ignorance and lack of faith. He gives material and spiritual prosperity and success to His devotees, if they show even the smallest devotion to Him.
He holds a spear in His hand, which is an emblem of power and indicates that He is the ruler of the Universe. Lord Subramanya’s vehicle is the peacock which he rides, thus signifying that He has conquered pride, egoism and vanity. There is a cobra under His feet, which signifies that He is absolutely fearless, immortal and wise.
Sri Subramanya Temple, Chengam Road, Tiruvannamalai
This year the Festival of Skanda Sashti took place from October 26th to October 31st and was lavishly celebrated at all His Temples including the six Muruga Temples located at Tiruvannamalai. Skanda Sashti denotes the destruction of evil by Lord Murugan and His victory of light over dark. Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita: "Among the army generals, I am Skanda".
When I visited this Sri Subramanya Temple on Chengam Road, opposite the Simha Lion Tank, the Swami in charge told me that the Temple (also known as Arumukha Koil i.e. Six-Face Temple) is believed to be 700 years old. The open compound surrounded by trees has a beautiful, quiet serenity. In front of the Shrine housing Lord Subramanya is a peacock, vel and stele. Swami mentioned that the stele is thought to be a 100 years old. (Steles are upright stones with an inscribed surface and are used as a monument or as commemorative tablets).
At this Subramanya Temple the Lord stands alone with His spear. In this pose He is known as Velayudhan; this is His Nirguna aspect, which is free from the illusory power of Maya. Several of the Murugan Temples in Tiruvannamalai have the Lord represented with his six heads in a horizontal line. But in the case of this Temple, three of the Lord’s heads are at the front, and three at the back which signifies that He is all-pervading and indicates that He can multiply and assume forms at will.
Many choose to have functions and pujas performed inside the Mantapam of this Temple Compound. Even though conveniently located to my own place, this was actually the first time I’ve visited this peaceful, beautiful Murugan Temple. For those of you planning to visit, the Temple’s opening hours are 6 a.m. to 10.30 a.m., and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
For those wanting to find out more information about Skanda worship go to this Swami Sivananda link to download a fascinating PDF
And to view a beautiful and comprehensive website dedicated to Lord Murugan go to this link here.