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Tradition Meets Technology


The Significance of Skanda Sashti

Foreword: Skanda Sashti, 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.

tirupor.jpg (44353 bytes)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 poetry.
The 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. 
Shanmukha 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 inmurug.jpg (77598 bytes) 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."