Symbolism of the Guru Principle
When the five elements governed by Lord Shiva (Panch Mahabhoota - Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether) united with Shakti (Pure Consciousness), Lord Kartikeya was born.
Shiva is called Panchaanana – Lord with five heads. These five heads represent the five elements in Nature. When these five elements united with the sixth: Chaitanya Shakti (pure consciousness), they gave birth to the Shadaanana (six headed), also called Lord Karthikeya.
You can understand this in terms of the Kundalini Shakti. We have seven chakras (energy centers) within us. When the energy surges through the six chakras and stabilizes at the sixth chakra - the Ajna chakra (present in the middle of the eyebrows), it blossoms as Lord Kartikeya (symbolism of the Guru Principle).
The Ajna chakra is the place of the Guru Principle. It is where the Guru Principle blossoms and manifests itself. And that Guru Principle itself is Karthikeya.
Lord Shiva is the un-manifest Divinity, while Lord Karthikeya is the manifest. So you can think of Lord Karthikeya as symbolic of the Kundalini Shakti.
Symbolism of Valli and Deyvayanai - The Wives of Karthikeya
Lord Karthikeya has two wives: Valli and Deyvayanai. One is Iccha-shakti (will power) and the other is Kriya-shakti (power of action). Both these qualities come together with the Kundalini Shakti (Karthikeya). And Lord Karthikeya is the very embodiment of knowledge.
Its not enough to just have knowledge, you have to bring it in to action. This bringing to action is Kriya-shakti. And Iccha-shakti is the intention; you have to bring about an intention to perform such action. That is why our ancestors have brought about such symbolism.
Now there are many people who say, 'Kathikeya has two wives, why not me?' This is a wrong understanding. In fact, this is not at all an understanding. The two wives are only symbolic of Kriya-shakti and Iccha-shakti. Only if both are there, will knowledge be able to achieve something.
If we keep Lord Karthikeya as an embodiment of Knowledge, i.e, Gyana-shakti, then he needs the other two, which are the Kriya-shakti and Iccha-shakti. Only then will you get peace.
Lord Shiva is one of the three Gods of the Trimurti (Holy Trinity - Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva) represented by AUM – the primordial sound of the Creation. In AUM, the syllable ‘M’ belongs to Lord Shiva.
Story of Lord Karthikeya Taking the Seat of the Guru
There is a story about Lord Karthikeya from the Puranas. When Karthikeya was a young child, His father, Lord Shiva asked him to go and receive education from Lord Brahma. So Karthikeya went to Lord Brahma and asked him, "Please tell me the meaning of Om".
Lord Brahma said, "First learn the alphabets! You are directly asking for the meaning of Om".
Karthikeya said, "No, I want to know the highest knowledge first – Om". Now Lord Brahma knew all about the alphabets, but he did not know the meaning of Om (the primordial sound). So Karthikeya said to Lord Brahma, "You do not know the meaning of Om, how will you teach me? I will not study under you". And he went back to his father.
Lord Shiva asked Karthikeya, "What happened son? Lord Brahma is the Creator of the entire universe. You must learn from him".
Karthikeya replied, "Then you tell me, what is the meaning of Om?’
Lord Shiva smiled and said, "Even I don’t know".
Karthikeya then said, "Then I will tell you because I know the meaning of Om".
"Then tell me the meaning since you know it", said Lord Shiva.
"I can’t tell you like this. You have to give me the place of the Guru. Only if you put me on the pedestal of the Guru can I tell you", said Karthikeya.
Guru means he has to be on a higher position or platform. The teacher has to sit on a higher place and the student has to sit down and listen to him. How can Lord Shiva find a seat higher than Him, for He is the highest and greatest of Gods? So then Lord Shiva lifted the young Karthikeya on to His shoulders. And then in the ear of Lord Shiva, Karthikeya explained the meaning of the Pranava Mantra (Om). Karthikeya explained that the entire Creation is contained in Om.
The Trinity – Lord Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are contained in Om. Om means that everything is love. Unbroken and unshakeable love is Om. This is the essence and also the secret of Om that Lord Karthikeya narrated to Lord Shiva.
On hearing this, Goddess Parvati (Mother of Lord Karthikeya, and an incarnation of the Mother Divine) was overcome with joy. She said, "You have become a Guru (Swami) to my Lord (Natha)!"
Saying this she addressed her son as Swaminatha, and ever since Karthikeya also came to be known as Swaminatha.
So in this way, Lord Karthikeya assumed the position of the Guru and explained the meaning of Om to Lord Shiva by sitting on his shoulder. So the essence of the story is this – The Guru Principle is placed even higher than Lord Shiva Himself! To explain this truth, this story was written in the Skanda Purana.
So even Lord Shiva had to become a disciple of the Guru Principle. So the Guru Principle and Karthikeya are considered to be one and the same.
There is a saying, ‘Guru Govind dou khade kake lagu paye, balihari Guru apke Govind diyo milaye.’
(Both Guru and God stand before me, whose feet do I touch first? I bow down to my Guru first because without him I would have never been able to recognize God.)
The Guardian of Divine Qualities
Lord Karthikeya is also called ‘Deva Senapati’ – the guardian and rescuer of Divine qualities. Lord Shiva is known to give away boons easily to his devotees, even if they are to demons. He is ‘Bhole Baba’ (the Innocent One), so whatever boon or blessing anyone would ask for, He would instantly grant it, and then He Himself would get caught up.
All the three – Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva would bestow boons on anyone who would ask of them, and then they themselves would get caught. At that time it would it be Lord Karthikeya who would stand up to fight against the demons (who received such boons). That is why He was elected as the General of the Gods.
Karthikeya means the principle which is both peaceful and yet very active. Usually people who are very active are not quiet and at peace. And people who are quiet are not very active. So Karthikeya is that principle which is both peaceful and yet very active. Being spiritually complete and worldly-wise; having both these aspects. Dynamism and deep silence together in the form of Kartikeya.
Iccha-shakti and Kriya-shakti are together with the Gyaan-shakti (Karthikeya). That is why it is said that owing to the presence of Kriya-shakti, Lord Karthikeya became the Senapati - General of the Army of the Gods, and He protected the Gods and Goddesses.
Symbolism of the Spear (Vel) and the Rooster (Tarakasur)
Kartikeya also defeated Tarakasur (a demon) in battle. Tarakasur is symbolism of Ego (arrogance). When one thinks, ‘I have conquered and mastered everything, I know everything’, such a state of mind is said to be denoted by Tarakasur.
There are some people, no matter what you tell them, they will say, "Yes, I already know, no need to tell me". They will never confess to not knowing something. They will act like they know everything. Such a false sense of pride, such arrogance that is dismissive of everything that comes before it, is a demonic quality.
Humility, simplicity and naturalness, all these qualities get concealed when there is arrogance. So, to destroy such an ego is the job of the Kundalini Shakti, that is, Karthikeya. Hence, Karthikeya is the slayer of ego.
Now, the story goes that Taraka (ego) after being defeated by Karthikeya assumed the form of a chicken or a rooster. A chicken is a symbol of weakness, lack of steadiness, and lack of patience. Generally if someone is a coward they say, "You’re a chicken", is it not?
So, Tarakasur (ego) became a chicken or rooster after being defeated by Karthikeya.
After having defeated Taraka (ego) in battle, Karthikeya spared his life and asked him what boon he would desire. So Taraka prayed to always be at the feet of the Lord. So Lord Karthikeya made him the emblem on His flag. This means that ego should always be kept subdued. Ego is necessary in life but it should be kept subdued.
If you look at the idol of Karthikeya, in one hand He carries a spear. It is also called Vel. It is symbolic of the Kundalini Shakti, and it brings fearlessness and courage. In His other hand He carries a small flag on which there is a rooster. The rooster is a sign of the demon Taraka (symbolizing ego) who prayed to always stay with the Lord in the form of a small flag.
There is another significance of the rooster. The rooster denotes time (the rooster wakes you up at exactly 4:00 AM in the morning. Similarly when there are any changes in the day, the rooster raises its voice). So the meaning of the rooster is to only raise you voice at the right time.
All things get fructified if done at the right time. There is no use if the time slips. So, we should speak according to the time, and according to the situation. This is also a significance of the rooster.