Skanda Sashti or Kanda Sashti Vratam is an important festival dedicated to Lord Muruga. It is observed in the Tamil month of Aippasi and most devotees fast during the 6-day period. It starts from the next day after Diwali and the final day is celebrated as Kandha Sashti. The last day is also called as Soorasamharam day.
It is believed that Lord Murugan defeated demon Soorapadman with his Vel on the sixth day of the battle and the festival of Soorasamharam is observed every year to mark the victory of good over evil. Soorapadman’s cruelty went to an extreme, Lord Shiva asked Muruga to destroy asuras and free Devas from their cruel bondage. Shiva gave the eleven rudras eleven weapons, and Parvathi gave the Vel weapon to Lord Muruga for the war. The Vel, or sacred spear, is the most powerful weapon in Lord Muruga’s armory. During the first five days of the war the brothers of Surapadma and all other asuras perished. Soorapadman had such a big ego that he did not want to surrender to the Lord. He took the form of a big mango tree. On sixth day, Lord Muruga’s spear split the tree and one part became a peacock and the other became a Chanticleer(cock). Lord Muruga took Peacock as his vahana (Vehicle) and Cock on his banner.
Thiru Kalyanam is observed on the next day of Soorasamharam. The famous ‘Vetri Vel’ chanting that takes place on the Shasti day is associated with the victory of Skanda over Soorapadman.
The Skanda Shasti Vratam (fasting)
The Skanda Shasti Vratam is believed to be highly beneficial and is observed mainly by Tamil speaking people. It is important to note that the day when shasti thithi conjugates with panjami thithi is chosen for Shasti Vratam. The Shasti vratam is also famous in Kerala. The energy of Lord Muruga, also called as Skanda, is abundantly available during these sacred 6 nights of darkness destroying energy.
Most devotees fast during the 6-day period. There is no common method of Skanda Shasti fasting. Different devotees observe it differently. Some people only fast on the Soorasamharam day. The fasting ends with the Thirukalyanam on the next day. But there are some basic rules followed by all the devotees.
- Non-vegetarian food is completely avoided during the period.
- Some people also avoid garlic and onions.
- Those who are observing the fast make it a point to read scriptures related to Lord Muruga or recite the Kanta Shasti Kavasam or Subramaniya Bhujangam.
- Most devotees also visit Skanda temples during the period.
- When it comes to Kanda Shasti fasting, some devotees only take a single meal a day.
- Some take the meal at noon and others at night.
- Some devotees confine to fruits and juices during the 6-day period.
There are several Skanda devotees who see the Vratam as an opportunity to clean the body and get rid of unwanted toxic elements. Such devotees confine to water, coconut water and other fruit juices.
It must be noted that ‘Vrata’ or ‘Vratam’ in Sanskrit means ‘vow.’ Vratam should not be misunderstood as mere fasting. By observing a Vratam a person is trying to purify his mind through meditation, worship and by sticking to some ‘vow’ that he/she has taken. Now, this vow can include fasting, not telling lies, not getting anger etc. A vratam should be seen as a deliberate attempt on your part to bring back discipline into your life.
Always my mother will tell us that she observed sashti viratham and by coincidence or with the blessings of Lord Muruga, my brother and I were born on Sashti thithi. It is a strong belief for me that if we wish to get something in life and observe fasting on this day, it will be fulfilled by the grace of God.
Some methods for observing Viratham – I got these details from my uncle. Thank you Ganesh mama…
Shasti Viratham is mainly done for Lord Muruga. Usually Kanda sasti will falls in tamil month of Aippasi.
- First meditate on Lord Muruga – You can do this silently or by chanting Om Valli Devasena samedha Sri Subrahmanya Swāmine namaha dhyāyāmii
- Now invoke Lord Muruga – Take the idol or picture or Vel and keep it near you or hold it in your hands. You can silently pray to Muruga or chant Om Vali devasena… swāmine namaha āvāhayāmii
- Now you can place the idol in the appropriate place chosen by you in the puja area – you can chant – Om āsanam samarpayāmii
- Now you can sprinkle some water – Om…namaha arghyam
- Now you can pour some water on the feet or near the Vel – Om… namaha pādhyam
- Sprinkle some water again – Om… namaha āchamaniyam
- Now you can sprinkle rose water or usual water – Om… oupachārika snānam
- Sprinkle some water again as final purification – Om…snānānandharam āchamaniyam
- Now you can offer turmeric paste or if you have special dress for idol you can offer it –Om… vastrārtham akshadām
- Now you can offer sandal paste to the Vel or idol – Om gandhān dhārayāmi
- Now you can do decorations with flowers or garlands – Om…gandhsyopari alankāranārtham akshadām
- Now you can offer kum kum – Om…haridrā kumkumam
- Finally, you can offer some flowers – Om…pushpaih poojayāmi
Now you can light the lamp and chant Skanda Sasti Kavacham, Subrahmanya Bhujangam or read Skanda Purana or any text related to Lord Muruga.
You can also perform archana after lighting the lamp or your usual method of daily puja with camphor and agarbathis.
If you have prepared any food (neivedhyam) you can offer it to the lord and perform Arathi.
At the end of the puja you can thank Lord Ganesha for helping in successfully conducting the pooja.