Ma Skandamata is the fifth avatar of Durga and is worshipped on the fifth day of Navratri. Skanda is another name for Lord Kartikeya (Ma Parvati’s son and Lord Ganesha’s brother). Mata means mother and thus Skandamata means mother of Skanda or Kartikeya. As is clear from the name, she is another form of Ma Parvati.
In this form, Durga has four arms. She holds Kartikeya (Skanda) in one hand, holds a lotus in the second and the third hand and blesses her devotees with the fourth hand. She rides a lion and sits on a lotus (due to which she is also called Padmasana). Kartikeya is also known as Lord Murugan in South India. He is the commander-in-chief of the of the army of gods.
The birth of Kartikeya is an interesting story. After Sati immolated herself, Shiva became detached from the worldly affairs and started practicing austere penance as an ascetic. At the same time, the gods (devas) were under an attack from demons (asuras) who were being led by Surapadman and Tarakasura.
They had a boon that only Shiva or his offspring could kill them. Fearing that Shiva may never have an offspring, the gods rush to Lord Vishnu for help but Vishnu tells that the gods themselves are responsible for the situation. Had they not attended Daksha Prajapati’s yagna without Lord Shiva, Sati would have never immolated herself. He then tells them about Parvati, who is an incarnation of Adi Shakti and destined to be Shiva’s consort.
On behalf of gods, Rishi Narada approaches Parvati and tells her that if she observes extreme penance, she would get Lord Shiva as her consort, who was also her husband in the previous birth. After thousands of years of observing penance, Shiva relents and marries Parvati.
Shiva and Parvati’s energy combines and produces a fiery seed. Lord Agni is entrusted with carrying the seed safely to Saravana Lake till the radiance from the seed becomes Shiva’s offspring. The heat from the seed becomes unbearable even for Agni to hold and he hands over the seed to Ganga who safely carries it to the lake in forest Saravana. Goddess Parvati then took the form of the water body as she alone was capable of carrying the seed of her consort, Shiva. Later, six-faced Kartikeya takes birth and is taken care of by six Krittikas (mothers). He thus gets the name Kartikeya. He grew up to be a handsome, intelligent and powerful youth and thus got his name Kumara (Youth in Sanskrit).
Kartikeya was to be taught by Brahma but on the first day he asked Brahma the meaning of Om. Brahma explained him the meaning in twelve thousand verses, but he was not satisfied. He asked the same question to Shiva who explained him the meaning in twelve lakh verses. Still unsatisfied, he himself explained the meaning of Om in twelve crore verses.
As the commander-in-chief of the army of gods, he is blessed by all the gods and given special weapons for the war against Tarakasura and Surapadman. He, later, kills Tarakasura in a fiercely fought battle.
Thus, Ma Skandamata is worshipped as the mother of a supremely gifted child. When a devotee worships Skandamata, Lord Kartikeya is automatically worshipped as he is sitting in her mother’s lap. Her worship leads to peace, prosperity and salvation.