Skanda Sashti or Kanda Sashti, mainly observed by Tamil Hindus is the most significant festival dedicated to Lord Murugan. Skanda Sashti falls on the sixth day of Karthika Masam and it is usually determined based on lunar month.
Devotees of Lord Murugan observe six days fasting during Kanda Sashti, which begins on the first day or Pirathamai of Karthika lunar month and concludes on the sixth day, which is popularly known as Soorasamharam day. Soorasamharam is the most significant day of the six days celebration. It is on this day Lord Murugan defeated Demon Surapadman and hence Soorasamharam is observed every year to celebrate the victory of good over evil.
It may be noted that the Soorasamharam day is decided as the day when Shasti Tithi is associated with Panjami Tithi. Due to this, most of the temples observe Kanda Sashti on Panjami Tithi if Shasti Tithi starts before sunset on Panjami Tithi.
Kanda Sashti is celebrated in a grand style at Thiruchendur Murugan Temple. The six days celebrations begins on Pirathamai of Karthika Month and concludes on Soorasamharam day. Thiru Kalyanam is celebrated on the next day of Soorasamharam.
Rituals during Surasamharam/Soorasamharam:
# The fasting of the Skanda Sashti festival also continues till the day of Soorasamharam. The observer of this vrat can only eat a single meal during the day. The fasting ends on the following day, that is, on ‘Thirukalyanam’.
# Special rituals are held in Lord Murugan temples on this day. Devotees from far and wide come to witness the ‘Abhishekam’ of their deity that is followed by ‘Shringar darshan’.
# In some places like Palani, huge processions of Lord Murugan are taken out from the temple and paraded all through the town.
# On the day of Soorasamharam, in the Tiruchendur Murugan Temple, the divine act of victory of Lord Murugan over Surapadma is re-enacted.
# This ceremony is witnessed by devotees in thousands of number, from Tamil Nadu and other adjoining states.
Skanda Sashti Fasting:
Skanda Sashti fasting is very famous among many devotees. There are several ways in which Skanda Sashti is celebrated as a whole by emphasizing the victory of good over evil through the divine descent of Skanda to end the demonic forces and save mankind.
Skanda Sashti story:
There was once a demon named Surapadma. With his brothers Taraka and Simhamukhasura, he created havoc by disturbing gods and humans. Having received invincible powers from Lord Shiva, he abused them and indulged in evil ways.
Unable to bear their torture, the gods approached Lord Brahma and Sri Maha Vishnu. According to the blessing received by the devil, he could be killed by no less than the power of Lord Shiva himself. To the sincere prayers of all gods and human beings, Lord Shiva has decided to give birth to a divine son who inherited all his powers and glory to end the demon.
The birth of Skanda:
Lord Shiva gave six sparks of his third eye which were carried by the fire god and deposited in the Saravana River. There, the six sparks became six divine children. There were six Karthika sisters. At Lord Shiva’s request, the six agreed to feed the babies to grow. One fine day, Mother Parvati visited the children and, in all her love, she embraced all the children together.
The six children became one with six faces, twelve hands and two feet. The majestic figure that incarnated thus received the names Karthikeya, Skanda and Subramanya. Lord Murugan became so dear to all and was nurtured by Mother Parvati with wisdom, skill and dexterity. She also presented him to a lance called Vel.
Sura Samharam on Skanda Sashti Day:
Once Muruga became a young boy, he was ordained by Lord Shiva to defeat the demon. Subramanya fought a war against the demon and finally killed him after defeating his two other brothers. Gracefully, Muruga transformed the devil into a peacock and a rooster.
Skanda Sashti Day:
The peacock became the vehicle of Lord Muruga and the rooster reached a permanent place on the flag of Lord Muruga. The event of killing the demon is called Sura Samharam, fervently celebrated in the temples of Muruga with a virtual ceremony in which the demon is killed.
Skanda Sashti Fasting Procedure:
Skanda Sashti is a six day long fasting process. In 2016, the vrat starts on 31 October and lasts till the day of Skanda Sashti (6th November 2016). After the new moon day, the vrat starts on the day of Pratama (first day of the growing phase of lunar month) and extends till Sashti (sixth day).
After the day of the new moon, the vat begins on the day of Pratama (first day of the crescent phase of the lunar month) and extends to Sashti (sixth day).
The rigorousness of the fasting varies from person to person. On the whole, this is a popular kind of fasting that is believed to bestow the grace of Muruga in abundance. Especially those seeking progeny can highly benefit from this vrat.