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India is a land of festivals. Every month or season there is one festival or the other. While some of these festivals are celebrated all over the country (or, in some cases, some particular states), there are some others that are central to a particular state or region.
This type of festival is less popular than the others. However, this does not mean that they are less important than others. The reverence with which each of these festivals is celebrated is something that is indeed commendable.
This article speaks about one of the most important festivals of Tamil Nadu that is not much popular in the North. We shall talk about Skanda Shashti, which falls on 12 March 2019.
One of the most elegant festivals of the state, Skanda Sashthi marks the day when Lord Murugan incarnated. Lord Murugan is known by various names such as Kartikeya, Subramanyam or Subramanyan. Lord Skanda is also just another name of Lord Murugan. Hence the name of the festival, Skanda Shashti.
Like all the other festivals, ritualistic prayers are offered on this day and the devotees throng the temples. Other than the customary prayers, dedicated fasts also form a part of the rituals. The sheer length of all the festivity and the way in which the fasts ought to be kept, tell us about the importance of this festival.
So, read on to know more about the special significance of the different aspects of this festival.
The Spiritual Significance Of Skanda Shashti
As popular as the festival is, the means of celebration of the same varies. The central idea behind this is the emphasis of victory of good over evil through the divine descent of Skanda. This is believed to put an end to the demonic and satanic forces and ultimately save mankind from being perished. It is believed that people who fast on this day are bestowed, in abundance, with the grace of Murugan. This fast is particularly recommended to people who seek progeny in their lives.
Unlike the typical Hindu fasts which last for a day or lesser, the Skanda Sashthi fast goes all the way up to six days. During this fast, one is allowed to consume water and milk and eat fruits. However, any form of carbohydrate intake during this period is not encouraged at all. As we all know, Prathama is the first day of the lunar calendar. This fast starts on Prathama Tithi and goes for all the way up to Shashti. Due to its prolonged nature, the rigorousness of the fasting varies from person to person. This is often dictated by his or her age and the physical state they are in.
The Demon Brothers
Mythology has a host of stories behind many festivals that are celebrated by the Hindus. The Skanda Shashti is no different. It is believed that long ago, the demon brothers Surapadma, Taraka and Simhamukhasura were creating havoc on the planet. Such were their tantrums that the Gods and the humans were equally troubled by the same. The elder brother Surapadma had received invincible powers from Lord Maheshwara and was misusing the same and thus creating problems.
Finding A Solution
When the torture went uncontrolled, the gods approached the other two Supreme gods - Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu. The issue here was the fact that according to the boon that Surapadma had received from Lord Shiva, he could be killed only by the powers of Lord Shiva himself. When approached by his counterparts, Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu, and taking into account the sincere prayers of all the gods and the humans, Lord Shiva decided to create a divine child using his powers. This child was supposed to have all of Lord Shiva's glory and powers and his primary purpose in life was to put an end to the demon.
Birth Of Skanda
Legend has it that Lord Shiva gave out six sparks from his divine third eye. The god of fire gladly transported the same and deposited them along the banks of a river near a forest called Saravana. The sparks, after some time, turned into six babies who were then nurtured by six sisters known as the Kritika sisters. Lord Karthikeya is also known as Saravana because he was born at this place.
The Visit Of The Mother
One evening, Mother Parvati decided to pay a visit to her six children. In all her over-enthusiasm, she embraced all of them into a tight hug. It was her divine love that made the six children turn into one. The six children thus became a single figure with six faces, twelve hands and two feet. This majestic figure was given the names of Karthikeya, Skanda and Subramanyam. Mother Parvati nurtured him with wisdom, skill and prowess. Soon, Karthikeya became the apple of the eye of everyone around.
The Call Of Duty
Over the years, Murugan grew up to be an able lad. When he came of age, Lord Shiva ordered him to go and vanquish the demon. In recognition of her love for him and to bless him for the task he was created for, Mother Parvati presented him with the divine spear, the Vel. Armoured with his parent's blessings, Subramanya waged a war against the demon. He was able to vanquish all the three demon brothers. In celebration of his victory, the young Karthikeya graciously made the demons turn into a peacock and a cock.
Peacock Became Lord Murugan's Vehicle
After this particularly important life event, the peacock became Murugan's vehicle and remained so forever. The cock was not neglected either and it attained a permanent place in Murugan's flag. It is the event of killing this demon that is colloquially termed as Suru Samharam. This Suru Samharam is often enacted by young boys and girls in a virtual ceremony, wherein the demon is killed. All of this is done with the view of encouraging maximum participation from the people and also in ensuring that folklores like this stand the test of time. Indeed all of this is what makes the festival of Skanda Shashti all the way more significant in today's context.