Shukla panchami, the fifth tithi (lunar phase) of the waxing Moon this month, marks the fifth day of Navaratri wherein we celebrate Goddess in the form of Skandamata (literally the “mother of Skanda”). Skanda is a name for Kartikeya (also known as Murugun and Subramanya), the brother of Ganesha (both sons of Shiva and Parvati). We see Skandamata depicted holding her young six-headed son, as well as holding lotus flowers and keeping one hand in a blessing mudra. In worshiping her we call forth the protection and care that the Divine Mother has for all of creation, as all are her children. She blesses us with bliss, happiness, and motherly love, as well as nourishment and good health.
Kartikeya is the Lord of War, the leader of the army of devas (Gods) who fight the asuras (demons) in Hindu mythology. In the stories, the demon Tarakasura was tormenting all of humanity, and it was destined that only Lord Shiva’s son would be able to kill him and save the world. Shiva had renounced everything and was lost in meditation, however, after the death of his first wife, Sati. The Gods devised a plan and ensured that Parvati was born (a reincarnation of Sati), and followed a path that would result in Shiva’s emerging from meditation and remarrying. When they finally married, Shiva and Parvati ended up making love for millions of years while the world awaited their savior. Eventually, the fire deity, Agni, snuck into their cave in order to steal the seed that was needed. It was so hot that he could not hold it, however, and dropped it in the river Ganga (another manifestation of Goddess), who deposited the infant Skanda on her banks where he was found and nourished by six women (thus the six heads).
The demons represent the ignorance which gives rise to all human impurities and misfortune. In worshiping Skandamata we also worship Skanda and receive his blessings, including protection from harm and victory over our enemies, both internal and external. Skandamata relates to the vishuddhi (throat chakra), meaning “pure” or “undiluted,” showing that we can attain purity and realize infinite blessings through her worship. She is rules the planet Mercury (Budha), the planet and deity of communication and the intellect.