In Chapter 7 to 12 of Kumara-Khanda (Rudra Samhita) of Shiva Purana, the story of slaying of Taraka by Kartikeya is narrated.
Shiva entrusted his son to the gods in order to kill Taraka. At the bidding of Shiva, Brahma, Vishnu, and other gods jointly started from the mountain keeping Kumara (Kartikeya) in front. Keeping Kumara at the head, shouting and roaring, purified by Shiva’s splendour they started to attack Taraka. The powerful Taraka rushed to fight back the gods with a great army. Then a celestial voice, prompted by Shiva addressed Vishnu and all other gods. The celestial Voice said: --
“O gods, keeping Kumara at the head you have entered the lists. Defeating the Asuras in the battle, you will be victorious.”
On hearing the celestial voice, the gods became enthusiastic. Fearlessly they roared like heroes. With their fear subsided, and keeping Kumara ahead, the gods went to the confluence of the river Mahi and the ocean desirous of fighting.
Immediately Taraka, along with a great army, came to the place where the gods stood. Battle drums were sounded as loud as the rumbling sound of the clouds at the dissolution of the world. The harsh musical instruments were also played when he came. The Asuras in the company of Taraka roared and shook the ground with their thudding footsteps.
Accompanied by the great army of the gods and the guardians of the quarters, lord Indra seated Kumara on an elephant and rushed forward. Great war-drums, Dundubhis, Bheris and Turyas, lutes, flutes and Mṛdangas were sounded and the Gandharvas sang war songs. Leaving the elephant to lord Indra, Kumara got in an aerial chariot of wonderful build and studded with different sets of gems. Indra and other gods of great strength, desirous of fighting, joined him with their own divisions of the army. The gods and the demons stood in their arrays on the ground with a vast army ready to start the battle.
The battle between the gods and Asuras
In the meantime, the rank and file of the Asuras and the gods, haughty of their strength and blazing with fury came together in a mutual clash. A terrific tumultuous fight between the gods and the Asuras ensued. Within a moment the place was littered with severed heads and headless trunks. Blood flowed like streams in hundreds of places. Hundreds of ghosts and goblins flocked there. Jackals and vixens began eating the flesh. Numbers of vultures, kites, crows, and carnivorous birds devoured the flesh of those falling.
In the meantime, Taraka, the demon of great strength, came there with a huge army to fight with the gods. On seeing the haughty warrior rushing on them, Indra, and others, turned against him. Then a tumultuous sound arose from both the armies. Duels were fought by the gods and the Asuras crushing each other, on seeing which heroes were delighted and cowards were terrified. The battle ground became impassable and awful with the corpses of the gods and Asuras lying there in thousands but it was very pleasing to the brave.
In the meantime, Virbhadra reached the place furiously along with his heroic Gaṇas and approached Taraka who professed to be a great hero. Immediately after being hit hard with a trident by Virbhadra, Taraka fell unconscious on the ground. Regaining consciousness quickly Taraka, the excellent Asura got up and forcefully hit Virbhadra with his spear. In the same manner, the heroic Virbhadra of great brilliance hit Taraka with his sharp terrible trident. Fighting each other thus they hit each other with various weapons and missiles both being equally skilful in the art of warfare. Both were severely wounded by the mutual hits and thrusts but still they continued their fight with added vigour. On seeing the fight between him and Virbhadra, Narada went there and asked Virbhadra to desist from this fight. Killing him by you does not fit in. Virbhadra said: --
“O excellent sage, I will kill Taraka. See my exploit today. Let Vishnu and other gods listen to my words—I shall make the earth freed of Taraka today even without bringing my master here.”
Saying thus and taking up his trident, Virbhadra mentally meditated on Shiva and fought with Taraka, accompanied by Pramathas. Keeping Virbhadra at their head, and shouting fearlessly jubilantly, hundreds of the Gaṇas fought with the Asuras. The terrific mutual fights between the demons and the Gaṇas happened again and again. Ultimately the Gaṇas, experts in the use of great missiles, came out victorious and were jubilant. Defeated by the Gaṇas of great strength, the Asuras turned their faces and began to flee. They were distressed and agitated.
On seeing his army vanishing thus in flight, their protector, the Asura Taraka, furiously rushed at the gods and the Gaṇas. He assumed ten thousand hands and rode on a lion. In the battle that followed he felled the gods and the Gaṇas quickly. On seeing such a perpetration of Taraka, Virbhadra, the leader of the Gaṇas, became very furious. To kill him he took up his trident after remembering the lotus like feet of Shiva. In the meantime, the master stopped the war. He prevented Virabahu and others immediately in order to show his own might. At his bidding Virbhadra returned from the battle. The heroic leader of the Asuras, Taraka, was still in his unabated fury. After causing a great havoc, Taraka, the protector of Asuras, the most excellent among the brave, seemed invincible to the gods.
On seeing the gods terrified and slaughtered, Vishnu became furious and got ready to fight. Taking discus Sudarshan, the bow Sarang and other weapons with him, lord Vishnu rushed to meet the great Asura in the battle. A great fight ensued between Vishnu and Taraka. It was very fierce. It caused horripilation to the onlookers. Lifting up his club, Vishnu hit the Asura with great force, but the powerful Asura split it with his trident. The Asura Taraka then quickly hit Vishnu with his spear. On being hit thus, Vishnu fell unconscious on the ground. In a moment, Vishnu got up and in rage seized his discus that was blazing with flames, and he roared like a lion. Vishnu hit the king of Asuras with it. Overwhelmed by the forceful hit he fell on the ground. Taraka using all his strength immediately split the discus with his spear. Both Vishnu and the Asura, equally powerful, hit each other in the battle with unabated strength.
Boasting of Taraka and fight between him and Indra, Vishnu, Virbhadra:
Brahma said: --
“O Guha (Kartikeya), the fight between Vishnu and Taraka is not proper. It is futile. Taraka the powerful cannot be killed by Vishnu. He has been granted such a boon by me. None except you can be the slayer of this sinner. Please get ready to slay him. O son of Parvati you are born of Shiva for killing that demon. Formerly Indra and the guardians of the quarters had been conquered by him. Due to the power of his penance, the heroic Vishnu too has been threatened by him. The entire universe of the three worlds has been defeated by this wicked Asura. This sinful being Taraka shall be killed by you.”
On hearing these words, Kumara was delighted, and he laughed. “So be it”, said he.
Resolving to kill the Asura, the great lord, son of Shiva got down from the aerial chariot and stood on the ground. Running on foot, seizing his lustrous spear blazing like a meteor, the powerful warrior Kumara born of Shiva shone well.
On seeing the incomprehensible six-headed deity coming forward, fierce and unagitated, the Asura spoke to the gods derisively— “O this child indeed will slay the enemies!” I will fight with him single-handed. I will kill the soldiers, the Gaṇas and the guardians of the quarters led by Vishnu. Saying thus, the powerful Asura rushed at Kumara to fight with him. Taraka seized his wonderful spear and spoke to the gods.
Taraka said: --
“How is it that you all kept Kumara face to face with me? You gods are shameless especially Indra and Vishnu. These two impudent fellows are presumptuous enough to place a child in front of me. Why? I will kill the child too. They too will have it. But let the child leave from here and save his life.”
After saying this, hinting at Indra and Vishnu he turned to Virbhadra and spoke.
“Formerly in the sacrifice of Dakṣa, many brahmins had been killed by you, O sinless one, I shall show you the fruit thereof.”
Saying this and dispossessing himself of his own merit by that act of censure, Taraka the foremost among warmongers seized his wonderful spear. Then, Indra, Vishnu, Virbhadra & others fought forcefully.
Jubilation of the gods at the death of Taraka:
Kumara prevented Virbhadra from attacking Taraka by trident and desired the destruction of Taraka. Then the powerful Kartikeya of great splendour roared. Angrily he got ready for the fight. He was surrounded by a vast army. Shouts of victory were raised by the gods and the Gaṇas. He was eulogised by the celestial sages with pleasing words. The fight between Taraka and Kumara was terrific and unbearable. Both fought each other with spears in their hands. They were experts in different tactics of warfare. They were equally strong. They desired to kill each other.
Then a celestial voice rose appeasing the gods— “In this battle Kumara will kill the Asura Taraka. None of the gods need be anxious. All shall rest assured. For your welfare Shiva Himself is standing here in the form of His son.”
Taraka, hit Kumara angrily with his spear. At the blow of the spear, the son of Shiva became unconscious. He regained his consciousness in a few minutes. He was eulogised by the great sages. Kumara became furious like a maddened lion and was desirous of killing the Asura. The powerful Kumara hit Taraka with his spear. With massive heaps of fatal missiles, they hit each other. They had various ways of attack. They roared.
Kumara with his spear struck Taraka who had harassed the worlds. Immediately the Asura Taraka the ruler of the hosts of Asuras, although very heroic, fell on the ground with all his limbs shattered. The great warrior Taraka was slain by Kumara. When the powerful Asura was slain, other Asuras were killed by gods and Gaṇas. Thousands of them fled to Patala for their life. thus, the entire army of the Asuras disappeared. Thus, when Kumara came out victorious the gods were happy. The three worlds attained great pleasure. The delighted gods, Gaṇas and sages, Siddhas and Caraṇas eulogised Parvati, Shiva, and the son of Shiva. Then there was great jubilation with vocal and instrumental music and chanting of the Vedas.
The Victory of Kumara and the death of Bana and Pralamba:
Mountain Kraunca, harassed by Baṇa came there and sought refuge in Kumara. Skanda who was thus eulogised by Kraunca became delighted. Kumara hurled the spear aiming at Baṇa. Reducing the Asuras to ashes along with his army in a moment, the great spear returned to Kumara.
With great pleasure and observing the rules Skanda installed three phallic emblems of Shiva that quell all sins. The first is called Pratijneshvara, the second Kapaleshvara and the last Kumareshvara. The three can confer all the achievements. Thereafter, Kumara joyously installed the phallic image Stambheshvara, near the column of victory.
Then Kumuda the son of Sheṣa who was harassed by the Asuras came and sought refuge in Kumara. Another follower of Taraka—Pralamba who had fled from the battle with Taraka wrought great havoc with full force.
Eulogised by Kumuda and requested to slay the demon Pralamba, Kumara took up his spear after remembering the lotus-like feet of Shiva. He hurled the spear at Pralamba. Reducing that powerful Asura to ashes in a moment the spear carried out the job without strain and returned to Kumara. Then Kumara told the Naga child Kumuda— “Go home fearlessly. That Asura has been slain along with his army.”
On hearing the words of Guha, Kumuda, the son of the Naga chief eulogised and bowed to Kumara and went to Patella in great delight.
Vishnu and other gods eulogised kumara along with his followers for being freed from adversities and killing Taraka. Kumara granted them fresh boons in order. On seeing the mountains eulogising, the son of Shiva became very glad and said: --
“All of you, mountains will become worthy of being worshipped by the sages and resorted to by persons following the paths of action and knowledge. At my word you will be assuming the forms of phallic emblems, the special forms of Shiva. My maternal grandfather, the excellent mountain Himalaya, will become the fortunate bestower of fruits to ascetics.
The gods said: --
“By killing Taraka the lord of Asuras, and by granting boons thus, all of us including the mobile and immobile beings have been made happy by you. Now, it behoves you to go to Kailash with great pleasure, to the abode of Shiva to see your mother and father Shiva and Parvati.”
After saying thus, Vishnu and other gods went jubilantly to that mountain along with Kumara. They reached Shiva’s Mountain crying shouts of victory to Shiva. They entered the precincts with delight. Auspicious sounds arose. On seeing Shiva and Parvati, Vishnu and other gods bowed to Shiva with devotion and stood there humbly with palms joined in reverence. Kumara descended from the aerial chariot in all humility and bowed joyously to Shiva and Parvati seated on a throne. On seeing their beloved son Kumara, the lordly couple Shiva and Parvati rejoiced much. After eulogising and bowing to Shiva frequently, Vishnu and other gods stood before him after placing Skanda ahead. On hearing the eulogy of the gods, Shiva, the self-ruler was delighted. The compassionate lord then laughed. Shiva said: --
“O Vishnu, O Brahma, O gods, listen to my words with attention. I am merciful. I shall protect you, the gods.”
Then, Vishnu, the other gods and the sages bowed to Shiva, Parvati, and Kumara joyously, and returned to their abodes in great delight singing the pleasant glory of Shiva, Parvati and their son.