Somaskanda or Somaskanda Murthy is one among the various forms of God Shiva popular in South India, where Shiva, Uma (Parvathi) and their son Skanda (Kumara or Murugan) are seen on the same pedestal.
This form of Shiva became widely popular from the early Pallava period as they popularised it by sculpturing behind the lingam or on the back wall of the main sanctum (Garbhagriha) of almost every temple they built.
Later, the Chola kings too continued the use of Somaskanda Murthy or a similar panel on their temples.
The name Somaskanda is an elision of the names Shiva, Uma, and Skanda. By separating the name, we get three words Sa, Uma, and Skanda. Which means (Shiva) with Uma and Skanda.
In the Somaskanda form, one can see the four-armed Shiva, two armed Uma (Parvathi), and Skanda (Kumara) are seated on the same pedestal on which Skanda is present in between them as a child.
Both, Shiva and Uma are seated comfortably in the Sukhasana position with one leg hanging down (right in case of Shiva and left with Uma)
The Somaskandar holds the Tanka(Axe) and a Deer with his upper hands and shows Abhaya and Varada mudras with his lower hands. Goddess Uma holds a water lily in her right hand and her left-hand shows Kataka mudra or sometimes a resting pose.
Most Idols and sculptures of Somaskanda shows the direction of Shiva and Parvathi as frontal. However, in some idols and sculptures goddesses Parvathi is turned slightly towards Shiva and some others where both Shiva and Parvathi towards Skanda.
Skanda in between Shiva and Uma is shown in a seated or standing or in a dancing pose. Sometimes he can also be seen seated on the laps of Parvathi. He is represented as a child wearing a crown, holding a flower and a fruit in his hands.
Severe sculptures also depict Somaskanda was flanked by Brahma and Vishnu behind the pedestal.
Some Agamas says this form must be flanked by two women called Bhoga Sakti and Vira Sakti.
Importance of Somaskanda
Most Shaivite temples of Tamil Nadu and some temples in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka have the Somaskanda deity.
Somaskanda Murthy is the chief deity used in the procession of Shaivite temple festivals (Brahmotsavams) in Tamil Nadu.
People consider these processions a very sacred moment and are thought to enlighten their spiritual sense.
It was a popular belief that the darshan of Somaskanda idol during the temple procession is considered Holy and brings prosperity to the family.
Benefits of Praying
Somaskanda is believed to be a very merciful form of Shiva who is believed to grant wishes and remove obstructions in life.
Traditionally many believe that praying to this form can grant a great child with good fortune.
Where can I see Somaskanda Idols or Sculptures in Temples?
One can see Somaskanda during the festive season or else on a special occasion where the idol is taken out for carrying the temple procession as an Utsava Murthy in Shaivite temples of Tamil Nadu.
In the remaining days, one can see this deity enshrined in a dedicated place mainly in the mandapas of the temple complex or in the place where Utsava Murthi’s are kept.
This form can also be seen on the gopuras or on the walls of the temples dedicated to God Shiva.