Sashti vratham – Skanda is a popular Hindu deity especially among Tamil Hindus. Lord Skanda is son of God Shiva and Goddess Parvati. In south India, Skanda is considered as the younger brother of Lord Ganesha while in north India Skanda is considered as the elder brother of Lord Ganesha. God Skanda is also known as Murugan, Kartikeyan and Subramanya.
Sashti Tithi is dedicated to Lord Skanda. Devotees keep fast during Shukla Paksha Sashti day. For Skanda Sashti Vratam the day when Sashti Tithi is combined with Panchami Tithi is preferred. Hence Skanda Sashti Vratam might be observed on Panchami Tithi.
How to observe Shasti Vratam?
The Shasti fasting begins with sunrise. The fast is broken on the next day morning after praying to Lord Surya (Sun God).
Most people observing the fast make it a point to visit Murugan Temple on this day.It is a complete fast in many places. But this might not be quite possible for many people due to job, health and other reasons. So many people take some sort of vegetarian food on this day – this is usually a single meal in the afternoon or night.
Many people opt for a fruit diet on the day. Some avoid solid food.
In several Kerala Muruga temples, many devotees eat a single rice meal at noon given from the temple. The cooked rice is consumed without any major side dishes.
The method of fasting differs from region to region. But all non-vegetarian food is avoided on the day.
Devotees listen to stories related to Skanda and reading of Skanda Purana. Another activity during the day is the reciting of Kanta Shasti Kavasam.
Fasting is not just abstaining from food but it also an attempt to instill positive thoughts. Many people use fasting as a means to fight against anger, lust, impatience and other negative tendencies. All Vratas associated with Hindu religion is an attempt to realize the Brahman.
How to observe Skanda Shasti Viratham or fasting:
Skanda Shasti or Kanda Shasthi Vratam is an important observance dedicated to Lord Muruga. It is observed in the Tamil month of Aippasi and most devotees fast during the 6-day period.
There is no common method of Skanda Shasti fasting. Different devotees observe it differently. 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.The fasting ends on the Sixth day.
It must be noted that ‘Vrat’ 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.
Fasting should be voluntary and it should not be done unwillingly. If you are taking medicines, do not observe intense fasting and stick to the routine suggested by your doctor.
Temples Dedicated to Lord Murugan
Following six abodes, which are known as Arupadaiveedu, are the most important shrines for Murugan devotees in Tamilnadu, India.
- Palani Murugan Temple (100 km south east of Coimbatore)
- Swamimalai Murugan Temple (Near Kumbakonam)
- Thiruthani Murugan Temple (84 km from Chennai)
- Pazhamudircholai Murugan Temple (10 km north of Madurai)
- Sri Subrahmanya Swami Devasthanam, Tiruchendur (40 km south of Thoothukudi)
- Thirupparamkunram Murugan Temple (10 km south of Madurai)