Contributed by Mr. C. I. Sivasubramanian
Skanda Sashti falls on the sixth day of Amavasya in the Tamil month of Eippasi, or Asadha sukla Sashti (Oct 15 – Nov 15). It is celebrated with great pomp and splendour in the temples dedicated to Lord Muruga, the second son of Siva and Parvati. Muruga, or Murugan takes various other names as Subramania, Skanda, Karthikeya, etc. In northIndiahe is better known as Karthikeya. Lord Muruga is an important deity for the Tamils especially.
Skanda Sashti commemorates the destruction of the demon Soorapadman by Murugan. This festival is celebrated in a grand manner at the ‘Aru padai veedugal’ [the six houses of the Lord where temples have been consecrated in His honour viz. Tirupparanmkundram, Tiruchendur, Tiruvavinankudi (more famously known as Palani), Kundruthoradal (commonly known as Tiruttani), Tiruverakam (better known as Swami Malai in Kumbakonam) and Pazhamutircholai, near Madurai], where the ‘Soora samhaaram’ (the defeat of Soorapadman) is enacted. It is an important festival wherever temples have been built for Lord Muruga, including one inDelhi. These temples are usually built over a hill.
In countries likeMalaysia,Singapore, where many Tamils reside for centuries, this is an extremely popular and widely observed festival.
When the ‘devas’ couldn’t contain the evil doings of Soorapadman, they approached Lord Muruga. The kind Lord went on a war against Soorapadman. The war was waged for six days, at the end of which the Lord vanquished the asura. He threw his weapon at him and Soorapadman was split into two halves. At his own request, one half became a peacock, which He took as His ‘vaahana’ and the other became a cock and transformed into a flag.
Lord Skanda married Deivanai immediately after the defeat of Soorapadman. It is the custom to dramatize this marriage during the Skanda Sashti celebrations.
The ‘devas’ were very happy over this victory and praised the Lord and prayed to him for six days. Devotees usually narrate the Skanda Sashti ‘kavacham’ (a hymn in praise of the Lord), during this period. Whoever fasts for these six days of Skanda Sashti and prays to Lord Muruga steadfastly, it is said that their prayers would be answered. Those who are unable to fast for a whole day for six-day duration are recommended to eat just one meal during this period.
Devotees who want to get over great calamities in their life taka a vow to carry the ‘Kavadi”, a sort of palanquin with two baskets at either end. The baskets contain sacred water and milk. They observe strict celibacy, beg their food and offerings for the Lord and walk barefooted all the way to the famous shrine. After reaching the sanctum sanctorum they ceremonially offer the sacred water and milk to the Lord. It is quite common even for the laymen to take Kavadi.
Like in Kumbakonam, there is a Swami Malai In Delhi, better known as Uttara Swami Malai (popularly known as Malai Mandir) where Lord Muruga resides. Starting from the scratch this temple has grown to great heights and draws thousands of devotees. On Skanda Sashti day almost the whole Tamil population congregates here.
It is worth noting that almost all Hindu festivals celebrate victory of the Lord over the demon, who represents evil, or Good over evil. This is the common refrain of Hindu mythology.