Lord Skanda or Subrahmanya is known by various names. Each name has got its own significance and points out a particular form or aspect of the Lord. Of them, a few are enumerated here with their real import.
Lord Shanmukha: Lord with six-faces. The story tells us how from the Trikuti of Lord Siva the Divine Sparks flashed out and how Agni and Vayu carried them and dropped them into the Ganga. Ganga took the Rays to Saravanappoigai.
Thus we see the combination of all the five elements in the Avatara of Lord Shanmukha. The Light, which stands for the Divine Spirit and source of Life to all beings enters Akasa (space) from its abode in the Lord (Lord Siva’s Trikuti). On reaching Akasa, it was received by Agni (represented in the Puranas as god of Fire) and Vayu (the Wind-god), who carry the Sparks to Mother Ganga. Ganga here represents the element of water. Taking these Sparks she leaves them in the Saravanappoigai, which stands for the earth (Prithvi) element.
Thus the Avatara of Lord Shanmukha is indicative of the combination of the Five Elements with the Spirit, as is the case with every living being on earth. But to distinguish and glorify the personality and the achievements of the Lord, who had come to save the suffering lives and to punish the wicked, everyone of the elements has been represented by one face. And the sixth face represents the Life-principle or the Spirit. Thus have the omniscience, the omnipotence and the omnipresence of the Almighty been gloriously personified for the easy grasp of the average mind.
Lord Subrahmanya: The Svarupa of Lord Shanmukha is Jyotirmaya. It is the Divine Spark from the Trikuti of Lord Siva that created the six-faced Lord Shanmukha. It denotes the Light of lights that illumines the hearts of all. Further, it also means the Light that destroys the darkness of ignorance of the Jivas. The Lord who had taken the Avatara to destroy the veil of Maya behind which Surapadma was suffering and to enable him to have a cosmic vision of the Lord, has been rightly called Subrahmanya.
Lord Skanda: One, whose presence is sweet-smelling or fragrant. This term ‘Skanda’ was used by Parvati Devi when she took the newborn babe from the six lotus flowers in Saravanappoigai. In the material world, even the best scent loses its fragrance after a time; even the most fragrant flower does not last long. But in the case of His Divine Form, the word Skanda is, indeed, very aptly used. For, only everlasting beauty and undecaying fragrance can be had in that Abode of Eternal Bliss and Supreme Happiness. To distinguish the mortal from the immortal and to glorify the Divine form, such a term as Skanda has been well employed.
‘Skanda’ also means ‘the joined One’. When Parvati Devi took the six babies from the six lotuses, they joined themselves and assumed a single body with six faces and twelve hands. Hence He is called as Skanda. He also causes the joining or union (Yoga) of the Jiva with Himself.
‘Skanda’ also means ‘One who was ejected’ or ‘One who leaped out’ and refers to the way of His emanation from the third-eye of Lord Siva.
Lord Saravanabhava: The Mantra of Lord Shanmukha, the six-faced Lord, is the six-syllabled word “Saravanabhava.” Saravana actually means a shrub that grows in plenty in marshy places (Naanal). As the Lord had His Avatara in a lotus-pond surrounded on all sides by this shrub, He was known by the name of Saravanabhava, and the word ‘Saravanabhava’ has become the very Mantra of the Deity. By the repetition of this Mantra man can achieve the highest goal of life: Peace and Happiness. The six-lettered word has its own significance. Just as the six faces represent the five elements of matter and the Spirit, each of the first five syllables stands for one element, and the sixth for the Spirit. Repetition of this Mantra alone, with concentration of mind and Bhava, can bestow on the aspirant mental peace and happiness, and success in all his undertakings. The sound-effect of this word has a soothing influence over the troubled waters of the mind-lake. The glory and importance of such a Mantra evolved by the sages of yore cannot be overestimated.
Lord Karttik: The six babes that were lying on the lotuses in the Saravanappoigai were nursed by the Devis of the constellation, Krittikai (the 3rd Star). Hence the Lord came to be known by the name of Karttikeya or Karttik Swami.
Gangeya: The son of Mother Ganga. As the Divine Sparks were carried over to Saravanappoigai by Mother Ganga, the form of the Lord that came out was called Gangeya.
Kumara Devan: As the Lord is endowed with undecaying beauty and everlasting youth, He is named the Kumar (son) of Lord Siva; Kumaran, Kumaraswamy or Kumara Devan are variations.
Velayudha: Whose Divine Weapon is the Vel or Spear. When Lord Subrahmanya was about to embark on His adventures in the South for the conquest of the Asuras, Lord Siva out of His supreme Yogic powers moulded a spear-like weapon (known as Vel) for Lord Skanda to wield. It is by this Vel that Surapadma and his Asura dynasty were destroyed. This Vel represents the Jnana Sakti i.e., Supreme Knowledge that tears asunder the veil of ignorance. The embodiment of this Supreme Knowledge is in the form of Lord Subrahmanya, who is Knowledge Absolute. Thus Lord Subrahmanya is termed as Velayudha, one who is having the weapon, Vel, with him always; it also means one who destroys ignorance (Ajnana) and bestows Supreme Knowledge (Jnana) on His devotees.
Saktidhara Murty: We find with Lord Karttik, personalities illustrating the various Saktis. The Vel represents Jnana Sakti. Valli and Deivayanai, His consorts, represent Iccha Sakti and Kriya Sakti, respectively. Hence Lord Shanmukha is known by the name of the Lord of Saktis or the Lord who grants Saktis to all. Hence the name Saktidhara Murty.
Murugan: Murugan is a Tamil name given to Lord Shanmukha. The term Murugan represents a Being with everlasting beauty, eternal youth and Godliness. The form of Lord Shanmukha has, therefore, been aptly denoted by the ancients as Murugan.
Guhan: One who dwells in the cave of the heart. As the Lord who is adored in various forms and names, as above, is the Indweller of the hearts of all and the Inner-controller of all, He has been named as Guhan. He dwells in the cave of the heart of all and especially those of His devotees to whom He is more easily accessible than to others whose minds are not turned towards Him. Guha means a cave. The heart is compared to a cave. The Light of lights that illumines the cave of all hearts is Lord Shanmukha or Guha.
Swaminathan: Shanmukha put Lord Brahma in prison on the ground that Brahma, though the creator, was himself ignorant of the full significance of the Pranava. To release him, Lord Siva went over to Lord Shanmukha. After complying with the orders of His father, Shanmukha revealed to Lord Siva the secret of the Pranava. Siva heard this secret discourse on Pranava in the attitude of a disciple receiving Upadesa from his Guru. Hence the Lord was named as Swaminathan or Guruswami or Siva Gurunathan. ‘Swami’ denotes Lord Siva, and ‘Nathan’ means Guru or Lord.
Glory to Lord Skanda, the illuminator of our Intellects! Glory to Lord Swaminathan, the Inner-controller of all! May His blessings be upon all!
One who is possessed of eternal youth
Indweller of the heart
He who initiated his father
The Integrated Form
One who was born among a bush or reeds
The Supreme Effulgence
The wielder of the Spear
Holder of the Sceptre
The paragon among Devas
He who was brought up by Krittika vestal Virgins
The wearer of the Kadamba flower garland
The Lord of the Hills.
Lord Subrahmanya’s Six Heads
The six heads of Lord Subrahmanya
Represent the six Chakras.
They also represent
The five senses and the mind.
They represent the six attributes of Bhagawan—
Jnana, Vairagya and Aishwarya,
Dharma, Kirti and Sri.