Skandha Sashti is the festival ascribed to the worship of Bhagwan Muruga, who is also hailed as Sri Subramanya, Sri Skandha and Sri Karthikeya among other innumerable names. The festival marks the diminishing of the demon Surapadma.
Bhagwan Sri Muruga had destroyed the demon Sura-Padma at Thiruchendur, Tamil Nadu. As per the legend, Sura Padma had hid under the ocean. Sri Subramanya had dragged him from under the water and diminished him. The war lasted for six days. He had destroyed him at the end by splitting him into two parts. Surapadma had realized the enormity of his misdeeds and requested pardon from Bhagwan Muruga. Bhagwan Karthikeya made the asura into two birds, cock and peacock. He had put the cock on His flag and made the pea-cock as His vahan.
Skandha Sashti festival is believed to be mentioned in Sri Skanda Puran. The significant part of the festivities is the fasting observed by the devotees for six days. The Vrat commences on the Amavasya day of the Ashwin month (Tamil month Aippasi) and ends on the ensuing Shukla Paksha Sashti.
Skandha Sashti festival is observed on the day when the Shukla Paksha Panchami and the Shukla Paksha Sashti of the Ashwin month meet. For the year 2022, it occurs on Sunday, 30th October 2022. The exact duration of the Sashti Tithi has to be ascertained from the respective regional calendar.
Skandha Sashti festival is also called Kandha Sashti and Sura Samharam festival.
Fasting and reciting of Skanda Sashti Kavacham are of paramount importance.
Skandha Sashti Vrat is observed by some devotees for a year commencing from Aipasi Shukla Paksha Sashti. This year long Vrat is observed on all the twenty-four Sashti days that occur in the year. Those who cannot observe the Vrat may observe the vrat from Aipasi Amavasya to Aipasi Shukla Paksha Sashti by partaking six pepper corns with six handfuls water.
During Skandha Sashti Vrat os Aipasi month, the devotees take bath in cold water twice a day. They apply the holy ash, chandhan and Kumkum on their foreheads.
The Puja place at home is cleaned. The idol / picture of Bhagwan Muruga is decked up with flowers. Ghee lamps and incense sticks are lit. Slokams invoking Bhagwan Muruga are recited with devotion. Archana is done to Bhagwan Muruga with flowers.
The devotees also visit Sri Murugan temples nearby. They also have darshan of Bhagwan Muruga at Shiv temples.
The main event is the observation of fasting for six days. The fasting is mostly Nirjala. The devotees do not even swallow their own saliva.
Some of the devotees observe partial fasting. Only Sattvic vegetarian food is partaken that too only for lunch session. For other sessions, only fruits are eaten. Salt water, lemon juice, mosambi juice and tender coconut are totally avoided. The elderly, the kids and the infirm people are exempted.
Those who could not observe Vrat for the six days for medical or other reasons may observe Vrat atleast on Sashti day.
Reading and reciting of Sri Skandha Puranam, Sri Skandha Guru Kavacham and Sri Skandha Sashti Kavacham are considered auspicious. Even listening to these is considered virtuous.
The Vrat ends on the Sashti day. On that day, special pujas are done to Bhagwan Muruga. Sumptuous food is prepared and offered as Neivedyam. The practice of offering lamp made of rice flour and jaggery is followed in some places. After having darshan of Bhagwan Muruga, the fast is broken. The devotees in Thiruchendur break their fast only after having bath at the ocean there. Some devotees complete the Vrat on Sashti day and partake of food only on the next day.
It is believed that observation of Skandha Sashti Vrat shall bless and bestow the devotees with education, knowledge, wisdom, job, happiness, health, wealth, prosperity, marriage, peace of mind, progeny, long life and alleviation of all troubles.
Skandha Sashti is celebrated all-over the World at all the Murugan temples and at all the Shiv temples which have the separate shrine for Sri Muruga.
Apart from Skandha Puranam, some of the the Slokams for praying to Bhagwan Muruga are given below:
Sri Skandha Sashti Kavacham
Sri Subramanya Ashtothara Satha Namavali
Sri Kandhar Anubudhi
Sri Thiru Pugazh
Sri Skandha Guru Kavacham
Sri Muruga Gayathri
Sri Subramanya Ashtakam
Sri Subramanya Bhujanga Slokam
Sri Subramanya Pancharathnam
Sri Subramanya Shodasa Nama Stotram
Sri Subramanya Stotram
Sri Subramanya Managala Ashtakam