Kartikeya (Sanskrit: कार्त्तिकेय, romanized: Kārttikeya), also known as Skanda, Kumara, Murugan (Tamil: முருகன்), Shanmugha (IAST: Ṣaṇmukha) and Subrahmanya, is the Hindu god of war

He is a son of Parvati and Shiva, brother of Ganesha, and a god whose life story has many versions in Hinduism

An important deity in the Indian subcontinent since ancient times, Kartikeya is particularly popular and predominantly worshipped in South India, Sri Lanka, Singapore and Malaysia as Murugan

Kartikeya is an ancient god, traceable to the Vedic period

Archaeological evidence from the 1st-century CE and earlier, where he is found with the Hindu god Agni (fire), suggests that he was a significant deity in early Hinduism

He is found in many medieval temples all over India, such as the Ellora Caves and Elephanta Caves

The iconography of Kartikeya varies significantly; he is typically represented as an ever-youthful man, riding or near an Indian peafowl, called Paravani, adorned with weapons and sometimes with an emblem of a rooster in the flag he holds

Most icons show him with only one head but some show him with six heads which reflect the legend surrounding his birth

He grew up quickly, becoming a philosopher-warrior, destroyed the demons Tarakasura, Simhamukha and Surapadma, and taught the pursuit of an ethical life and the theology of Shaiva Siddhanta

He has inspired many poet-saints, such as Arunagirinathar

Kartikeya is found as a primary deity in temples wherever communities of the Tamil people live worldwide, particularly in Tamil Nadu state of India, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, South Africa, Canada, and Réunion

Three of the six busiest temples in Tamil Nadu are dedicated to him

The Kataragama temple dedicated to him in Sri Lanka attracts Tamils, Sinhalese people and Vedda people

He is also found in other parts of India, sometimes as Skanda, but in a secondary role along with Ganesha, Parvati and Shiva