Lord Skanda is one of the most popular deities amongst the Tamilian Saivites, or the devotees of Lord Shiva.
Lord Skanda is said to be the son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi. He is also known by other various names such as Murugan, Kartikeyan and Subramanya.
When is Skanda Shasthi observed?
Skanda Shasthi is observed on the sixth day as the name suggests, on the bright fortnight of the Tamil month of Aippasi; which coincides with October- November. It is celebrated by all the Saivites with extreme fervor all over Tamilnadu, and with particular fanfare in the temples of Subramanya, or Murugan.
Who is Skanda?
As ancient lores go, Skanda, is an ancient deity, whose mentions have been found in stone inscriptions from first to fifth century. His mention is found in epics such as Mahabharata, Shiva PUrana and is again retold is Kalidasa’s Kumar Shambhava. In Tamil, Arunagiri’s Thiruppugazh, Nakkeerar’s Thiru Murugātrupadai and numerous other literary works have mentioned and praised Murugan or Skanda.
How did then Skanda come into being?
Skanda or Kumara was born to fulfill his destiny of divine reincarnation. When the Gods were harassed and deeply perturbed by the demon Tarakasura, Lord Brahma, after numerous failed attempts by the Gods to defeat him proclaimed that only a spark of Lord Shiva can defeat the demon. Unfortunately Lord Shiva was in deep meditation and no one dared disturb him in the fear of his tremendous wrath. Upon Brahma’s suggestion only the Gods then took the help of Parvati and the Lord of Love- Kama. Parvati, engaged herself in severe penance to arouse Lord Shiva from the stupor of his meditation and Kama, in a suicidal mission shot his arrows of Love at Lord Shiva. Shiva woke, and the fire of his wrath burnt down Kama to ashes.
No one could bear the angry seeds of Shivas fiery energy and it fell in the mouth of Agni, later on received by Ganges, who threw it to the Sara Vana, or the forest of grasses like arrows. Saravanabha was born in this way. He was Skanda.
Skanda was brought up by six mothers of the six mothers of the divine constellation of Krithika. Karthikeya divided himself into six babies to be nursed, and when Parvati came and picked up all the six babies, he became Shanmukha, the one with six faces.
Shanmukha was Kumara, the beautiful and the handsome- Muruga. He was made the senapati or the general of the Divine army. The Gita quotes him as saying: “Of the army generals I am Skanda.” Skanda from his mother Parashakti, received a vel or a lance, thus he is called Shaktivela. He got involved in a fiery battle with Simhamukha, Surapadman and Tarakasura and their armies, and finally on the sixth day defeated and vanquished them; and all the Devas gained liberation. Thus the sixth day is celebrated as Skanda Shasthi.
How does one celebrate the Skanda Shasthi?
Skanda Shasthi is celebrated with lot of fanfare all across Tamilnadu. In many places the festivities start from six days earlier and reach a pinnacle on the shasthi day. People fast religiously, often for a period of six days for six or twelve years. Skanda Sasti kavas am is recited in the morning, afternoon and in the evening. Devotees recite other hymns, read stories of the great Subramanya and also put up the Lord’s exploits on stage in theatrical forms. Thousands of people gather to catch these and arrive for feasts and burn incense and camphor.
What are the most popular places where the Skanda Shasthi is celebrated?
Grand celebrations are held at Tirupparankunram, Tiruchendur, two of the six ‘Padai Veedu’ temples of Murugan. Celebrations are also seen at the well known Lord Subramanys temples at Udupi, Tiruchenu and Kathirgamam. At Sikkal, the festival image of Subramanya receives a spear.