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Saturday, July 18, 2009

Lord Subrahmanya

(This image is reproduced with permission from Exotic India,

Shiva and Parvathi have two sons – one is Ganesha and the other is Subrahmanya. Subrahmanya is also known by several other names. They are: karthikeya, shanmukha, muruga and devasenapathi.

We talked about the meaning of the form of Ganesha in the previous essay. Ganesha, alias Ganapathi is the chief (pathi) of ganas ( tribes, humans). Devasenapathi is the chief of (tribes of Devas). These could also be interpreted as chief of manushya gunas (human tendencies) and devagunas (divine tendencies).

The root word for Subrahmanya is Brahmam ( note the variations such as Brahman, Brahma). Brahmam means the embodiment of the Absolute Immutable Brahman. The word also denotes the sacred Vedas. Therefore, the name stands for the embodiment of the Absolute Primordial Principle described in the Vedas.

Another name for Subrahmanya is Shanmukha or one with six faces. The five functions of Shiva (Matter) and the one of Shakti (energy) combine to give us the six faces of Shanmukha. The following sloka in Subrahmanya Thathva summarizes the symbolism:

“Hantha they kathayishyami rahasyam shrunu sundari
Shivoham nishkalah poornah shakthisthvam anapaayani
Panchakrityaparah cha aham panchavaktrah sadaashivah
Ekavakthraasi bahudha bhinnaapi parameshwari
Thanmayo manmayo yasmaat shadvakthrah parikeerthithaha
Panchakrithyaparoyam cha prapanchasya asya leelaya”

In this passage, Shiva is talking with Shakthi (Parvathi, Uma), the female energy counterpart. He says: “ let me tell you what our son Shanmukha represents. I perform 5 functions – revelation, manifestation or creation, protection, destruction and dissolution (covering). You, my dear, are the energy, and although you are One, you manifest as multitude. Shanmukha is a combination of our forces and is a manifestation of our playfulness with this Universe.”

Subrahmanya was born in a reed lake forest (sharavana). Therefore, he is also called Sharavanabhavan.The word shara has another esoteric meaning. The letter "sha" stands for number 2 and the word "ra" for the number 5. Twenty five (25) stands for the components of the primordial universe of the Samkhya philosophy.

Subrahmanya took two wives. He had 9 assistants. He killed several demons. His flag has a peacock and a cock. Every one of these items symbolizes deep philosophical and metaphysical principles. If you wish to know more, please read Sri Subrahmanya Thathvam by Mr. N.Subrahmanya Iyer, published in Tamil language in 1940 by the Guhananda Brahmavidya Vimarshini Mandali.

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