Skanda Sashti is an important festival of Tamil Hindus, celebrated in honour of Bhagwan Skanda. Skanda, also known as Murugan, Subramanya, or Kartikeyan, is the son of Shiva and Parvati, and is described as the God of war. The festival occurs on the sixth day of shukla paksha in the Aippasi month of the Tamil calendar. Murugan is considered as a prominent deity in South India, and Skanda Sashti celebrates the destruction of evil by Murugan.
Skanda Dev, also known as Murugan, Kartikeyan, Subramanya, Kumara Swamy and Velayudhan, is an ancient deity mentioned in stone inscriptions and coins of 1st to 5th century CE. The story about Skanda is mentioned in Shiva Purana, Mahabharata and Kumar Sambhavam. Murugan is praised by various Tamil poets such as Arunagiri, Nakkeerar and many others. Skanda is referred as Sanat Kumara in Chandogya Upanishad. Skanda Sashti is celebrated to commemorate the defeat of asuras, Simhamukha, Surapadman and Tarakasura, at the hands of Murugan. The festival falls on the 6th day of Shukla paksha of Aippasi month of Tamil calendar. According to the Gregorian calendar, it falls in October-November. The festival is considered very auspicious by Hindus, especially Tamil Hindus, who begin the celebration six days before the actual tithi. Devotees observe vrat and abstain from consuming non vegetarian food for 6 days. During the celebration, devotees sing praises of Murugan or Subramanya and also enact the stories of Skanda in public gatherings. The Skanda Sashti vrat begins with sunrise on the sixth day of the lunar cycle and ends on the sunset. All Subramanya temples celebrate this festival with great grandeur with thousands of devotees visiting the temple and burning camphor. Devotees also undergo penance and carry the kavadi to various Subramanya temples. Piercing long needles into cheek, lips and tongue is also one of the ways through which devotees express their surrender to Murugan. They sing hymns from Kavadi Chindu and Skanda Sashti Kavacham and organize dramatic representation of Surasamharam (the killing of suras by Kartikeyan). Champa flowers are special to Kartikeyan, hence, Skanda Sashti is also known as Champasashti.
ORIGIN AND SIGNIFICANCE:
Origin of Skanda Sashti is related to the killing of asura brothers, Surpadman, Simhamukha and Tarakasura, by Kartikeyan. When none of the devatas was able to defeat them, the asuras went on rampaging all the three loks. Murugan killed the asuras and severed Tarakasura’s head with a weapon ‘vel’. The severed head of the asura suddenly split into two parts, a peacock (the vahana of Murugan) and a rooster (the flag of Murugan). This marked the beginning of celebration of Skanda Sashti. Skanda Sashti celebrates the victory of Murugan over the asuras, after a fierce fight that lasted for 6 days, after which peace was restored on earth.
It is also believed that once Kartikeyan was disappointed with Shiva and Parvati, and left Kailash to retreat into the mountains in the Southern part of India. This happened on Sashti tithi of Kartikeyan month in Shukla paksha. Hence this day is celebrated as Skanda Sashti.
This day holds great significance to all Hindus, as it celebrates the victory of the Supreme over evil. Corresponding to the six days of battle, devotees celebrate this festival for six days, undertaking fast, prayers, bhajans, recitation of hymns and enacting inspiring stories of Murugan. The six heads of Murugan represent the six power houses or chakras, and our sixth sense. Observing vrat on this day, helps us fight the demons within us and also overcome our adversaries. It helps in improving businesses, health conditions and financial status. It also attracts good relationships, love and harmony in life. Celebrating Skanda festival brings sudden turn of events and conspires favourable conditions in life.
DEITIES ASSOCIATED WITH THE FESTIVAL:
On the occasion of Skanda Sashti, prayers are offered to Kartikeya along with his parents, Shiva and Parvati.
CUSTOMS, TRADITIONS AND RITUALS:
Celebration of Skanda Sashti begins six days prior to the tithi and devotees celebrate the occasion with great devotion and enthusiasm. Vrat is observed for six days and daily pujas are performed, revering Murugan. During the six days, consuming onion, garlic, or any root vegetables is prohibited and non-vegetarian food is completely avoided. Those who observe fast can eat fruits, milk, and nuts. Men visit the temple with their bare body up to waist, and women wear traditional attire during these six days. Donations, especially annadaan or food donation, is an important tradition followed by all Saivite devotees. Devotees, both men and women, also shave their heads and perform body detoxification. Special naivedyam is prepared at home and donated to Brahmin and needy along with clothes. Large gatherings are organized and devotees sing bhajans and hymns praising Murugan. Many stage performances are also arranged, depicting the story of Kartikeya as the God of War.
After Surasamharam, Murugan got married to Devayani, the daughter of Indra. An event called Thirukalyanam is organized on Skanda Sashti festival, to celebrate the marriage of the celestial couple. The toughest ritual that is performed by south Indian folks on this day, is piercing of tongue, cheek or lip with a needle, dart or an arrow, in a completely surrendered and devotional condition, under the enchantment of Bhagwan.
Customs related to Skanda Sashti vrat:
Skanda Sashti vrat is a very liberal vrat, in which devotees can choose their most suitable way to observe the fast. However, some of the basic rules to be followed are:
- Non vegetarian food and root vegetables are strictly prohibited during the 6 days of the festival.
- Devotees can have one meal, either at noon or at night, if they cannot observe vrat the whole day.
- Devotees who observe full day vrat can consume fruits and nuts on this day.
- Some devotees also detoxify themselves on this day, by consuming water, fruit juices & coconut water.
- Those who observe vrat, read scriptures related to Murugan and recite Skanda Sashti Kavasam or Subramanya Bhujangam.
PUJA VIDHI AND KATHA:
- Clean the place where worship has to be done and place the murti of Kartikeyan murti along with Shiva and Parvati, on it.
- Sprinkle some water on the murti, chanting – Om Oupcharika Snaanam.
- Sprinkle some more water chanting – Om Snaanaanaamdhram acchamaniyam.
- Offer turmeric paste and dress Bhagwan in new clothes, chanting – Om Vastraartham Dhanam.
- Offer Sandalwood paste, chanting – Om Gaandhan Dharyami.
- Offer flowers and garland, chanting – Om Gandhasyopari Alankarnaartham Akshadheem.
- Offer Kumkum, chanting – Om Haridraa kumkumam.
- Now ignite the ghee lamp
- Recite Skanda sashti Kavacham, Skanda purana or any tale related to Murugan deva.
- Now perform aarti with kapoor and incense, and offer the special naivedya to Murugan.
- Thank Ganesha for the successful completion of Puja.
Kartikeya’s powerful mantra has 6 syllabelles ‘Sa Ra Va Na Ba Va’. Chant Sarvana Mantra 108 times with mala. One can also wear six mukhi rudraksha mala to calm mangal grah, which is under the control of Kartikeyan.
SARAVAN BHAVA MANTRA – Om Saravana Bhavaya Namah
MURUGAN GAYATRI MANTRA – Om Tatpurushaye Vidmahe, Maha Senaye Dheemahi, Tanna Shaanmugha Prachodyat.
As mentioned in Skanda Purana, the asuras, under the guidance of the Asura trio, Simhamukha, Tarakasura and Surapadaman, defeated the devatas and took over all the three worlds. They found immense joy in troubling the devatas and humans, destroying and diminishing almost everything that belonged to them. Asura Surapadman had been blessed with a unique boon that only the one born from Shiva, could kill him. After the self-immolation by Sati, Shiva was in deep grief and went into a long penance. Surapadman took advantage of this, and under the pretext of being invincible by anyone, he, along with his brothers Simhamukha and Tarakasura, started creating havoc in the three worlds. Finally, the devatas approached Shiva for help, but seeing Shiva in deep meditation, did not dare to disturb him. Brahma then requested Parvati and Kamadeva to help. They agreed to help and while Parvati engaged in a severe penance to attract Shiva’s attention, Kamdev tried to evoke sexual desire in Shiva. Kamdev ultimately broke Shiva’s meditation. Annoyed with Kamdev’s act, Shiva burnt him to ashes. Semen got ejected from Shiva and fragmented into six parts that got deposited in Ganga, who buried the fragmented semen parts in a forest. The six parts eventually transformed into six children, who were looked after by Karthigai stars. When Ma Parvati arrived to see the six children, they combined into one body with six heads. This was the birth of Kartikeyan. Thus, in some scriptures, he is described as an individual with one face and two arms, while in some, with six faces and twelve arms. In the meanwhile, Surpadman detained Indra’s son and many other Devatas in his capture. Subramanya finally decided to take his role as general of the army of Devatas and defeated Asuras. In the battle that lasted for 6 days, Murugan Bhagwan killed Surpadman with his ‘vel’ and the act was called Surasamharam. He also severed Tarakasura’s head which split into two parts. One part became a peacock, the vehicle of Murugan and the other part became a rooster that rested on Murugan’s flag.
The renowned Vetrival chanting is associated with the victory of Skanda over Surpadman.
CELEBRATIONS ACROSS THE COUNTRY:
Skanda Sashti is a grand event in Tamilnadu and all Subramanya temples celebrate this festival with grandeur and elaborate programs. Temples of Mrugan in Udupi, Thirupparamkunram, Thiruchendur and Kathigamam organize large fairs and programs that include bhajans, kirtans and dramatic representation of the conquest of Kartikeyan. Thousands of devotees visit the temple during the festival to experience the grandeur and magnificence of the celebrations.
BENEFITS OF CELEBRATING THE FESTIVAL:
Worshipping Murugan on this day brings courage and wisdom to deal with the difficulties of life.
- It helps in overcoming debts and financial losses.
- It helps in avoiding accidents
- Marriage harmony is established.
- Child happiness is restored.
- Removes mangal dosh from one’s kundali.
- Highly beneficial in removing Rahu, Ketu and Kaal sarpa Dosha.
- Helps to gain courage and victory over enemies.
- It is said that reciting Skanda Sashti Kavacham on Thursday is highly beneficial.
- It acts as Kavach for protection from evil eyes and envious people.