Lord Muruga is worshipped in a significant and grand manner in Tamil Nadu, India. The festival of Kandha Sashti Viratham lasts for six days, starting with the day following the new moon in the month of Aswin, and is extremely important for devotees of Lord Muruga. This year the festival is from November 12 to 17, 2004.
The ‘sashti’ or sixth day of the full moon and the sixth day of the new moon are favorite days for Lord Muruga. Some devotees of Lord Muruga observe partial or full fast on each Sashti day and throughout the Kanda Sashti period.
The Sashti falling in on the waxing moon period in the Hindu lunar month of Aippasi or Aswin (October-November) is the day on which Lord Muruga is believed to have killed a super-demon called Sura Padman. This is commemorated in the six-day festival of Kanda Sashti as a symbol of perpetual destruction of evil by God. Each of these six days is, by custom, set apart to recite the glory of Lord Muruga from one of the six scriptures in His praise, namely: Tirumurukarruppadai, Kandar Kalivenba, Kandar Anubhuti, Kandar Alankaram, Kanda Sashti Kavacam and Kanda Puranam. Giant-sized images of four demons (asuras) are moved on uplifted chariots, and these are symbolically encountered and destroyed by the Lord.
For this festival only, the deity of Chinnakumarar comes down from the hill temple, kills the demons (asuras) at the corners of the four direction while on a festive procession around the hill, and triumphantly returns to His abode in the hill. This is on the sixth day, i.e., the sashti day. All the other events of the festival take place in the hill temple. On the seventh day, Muruga marries Valli. This divine marriage is celebrated both in the hill temple and in the Periyanayaki Temple.
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.