SHASTHI - FAIRS & FESTIVALS IN TAMILNADU, INDIA
Shashti, the sixth day in the bright half of the
month of Aippasi (Oct 15 - Nov 15), is celebrated
in Saivite temples all over Tamilnadu, and with
an extra measure of grandeur in temples dedicated
to Subramanya. Skanda Sashti commemorates the
destruction of evil by the Supreme General Kartikeya,
son of Shiva, and is celebrated with the dramatic
enactment of Soora Samhaaram. Mention must be
made of the grand celebrations at Tirupparankunram,
Tiruchendur, two of the 6 'Padai Veedu' temples
of Murugan. At Sikkal, the festival image of Subramanya
receives a spear, from the Ambal shrine, and breaks
out in sweat, a day before the climax of the festival.
Vijay Raghavan, in this article explores the background
of this festival.
Skanda: Skanda is an ancient deity mentioned
in stone inscriptions and shown
on coins ( 1st cent. To 5th cent
CE) . The story of Skanda is found
among others in the Mahabharatha,
Siva Purana and is retold in Kalidasa's
Kumara Sambhavam. Chandogya Upanishad
identifies Skanda as Sanat Kumara.
In Tamil, Arunagiri's Thiruppugazh,
Nakkeerar's Thiru Murugaatrupadai,
and scores of other literatures
praise the glory of Muruga in devotional
Story of Skanda Shasti is the story of
the birth of Skanda or Kumara and the
fulfillment of the purpose of His divine
incarnation. "Tormented by the asura
( demon/anti God) Tarakasura, the devas
with Indra at their head went to the world
of the self born the creator" (Kumara
Sambhava 2.1) The creator said "
only the spark of Shiva can produce the
hero who will defeat the powers of the
evil" Unfortunately, Shiva The king
of yogis was lost in a deep state of meditation
and samadhi. None of the Devas dared to
disturb him... least of all convince him
to create a progeny.
Upon Brahma's suggestion, they sought the help
of Parvathi and Kama (the god of love). Parvathi
agreed to help and engaged herself in severe
penance to attract Shiva's attention. Kama also
agreed to help and engaged himself in the suicidal
mission of arousing Shiva from His state of
Samadhi. Kama shot his arrows of love at Shiva
who was eventually disturbed and the fire of
anger from his third eye burnt Kama into ashes.
The penance of Parvathi and the sacrifice of
Kama paid off. Shiva was aroused from his Samadhi.
However, none could bear the sparks of His fiery
seed. It fell into the mouth of Agni, and afterwards
received by Ganges, who in turn threw it into
Sara Vana ( forest of arrow like grass). Thus
Saravanabava was born. He was also Skanda -
Shiva's power of chastity preserved through
penance. Skanda was raised by the six mothers
of the divine constellation of Krithikai (pleiades)
. Karthikeya divided himself into six babies
to be nursed by six mothers. When Parvathi came
and gathered all the six babies, He became Shanmukha
- the one with the six faces and one body.
became Kumara - the powerful virile
adolescent who was also the beautiful and the
handsome ( Muruga) . He was made the General
(Deva Senapathi) of the God's army. "....Of
the army generals I am Skanda."..(The Gita).
Skanda received from his mother Parasakthi an
all powerful Vel (lance). Hence He is also Sakthi
Velan. He engaged the armies of Simhamukha,
Surapadman and Tarakasura on a six day battle
and vanquished all of them on the sixth day.
The Asuras were annihilated and the Devas were
liberated. The sixth day (Sashti) of the waxing
moon ( sukhla) in the month of Ashada ( Oct/Nov)
is celebrated as Skandha Sashti.
Indra was restored to his kingdom and gave his
daughter Deivayanai or Devasena in marriage
to Skanda. In order not to discriminate between
the rich and the poor, Muruga also married Valli
the gypsy damsel.
Skanda Sashti Celebrations
Corresponding to the six days of the war over
the evil forces, devotees undertake fasts, prayers
and devotional singing to Lord Muruga. Most
of the devotees stay in the temples during these
six days. In Tiruchendur and Tiruparankundram
events leading to the conquest of the Asuras
are dramatized and enacted. Offering of Kavadi
on Skanda Sashti is a form of popular worship.
According to Swami Sivananda " the Lord
spent His childhood in Tiruchendur and took
Mahasamadhi at Kathirgamam. If anyone goes to
Kathirgamam (Sri Lanka) with faith, devotion
and piety, and stays in the temple for two or
three days , the Lord Himself grants His vision
to the devotee."