Sashti Viratham is Hindu term for the practice of fasting on the 6th lunar days after every Full Moon and New Moon phase of lunar months. Sashti Viratham is observed to pray and propitiate Lord Muruga or Karthikeya. The 6th day after No Moon or during the waxing phase of Moon is specially considered very auspicious.
How to observe fasting for God Muruga:
Sashti viratam or fasting is dedicated to the Hindu God Muruga, also known as Skanda, Kanda, Karthik and Shanmuga.
Fasting is practiced by abstaining from food for 24 hours – beginning from one sunrise to the other of the next day. Many people also maintain fast by eating fruits throughout the day. During the time of fast devotees of Muruga listen to stories of God Muruga, reading Skanda Purana or reciting Skanda Sashti Kavasam. Many have early morning bath and visit Muruga temples.
Kanda Shasti Vratam:
Though this Sashti fasting can be observed every month, Kanda Shasti celebration is the most important. It is a 6-day festival in the new Moon phase of the lunar month of Aippasi or Aswin that occurs between months of October- November.
Six temples in Tamil Nadu state of India is considered sacred for God Muruga and this festival is celebrated with grand decorum. The six temples are Tiruchendur temple (Sea-shore temple near Tirunelveli), Thirupparankunram temple (temple near Madurai), Palani Hill or Swami Malai temple (temple near Kumbakonam), Thiruthanigai Hill temple (temple in Chennai) and Pazhamudhir Cholai Hill temple (temple near Madurai).
Importance of six day fasting – Devotees of Muruga prefer to abstain from eating solid food and spend the days in meditation and other devotional exercises. So, after these practices, a true devotee is expected to emerge with a pure consciousness of Muruga, the righteous being. The devotee has a cleaner body and mind triumphing over negative thoughts and tendencies in his or her nature, preparing oneself to receive the pure energy of the Universe.
Mythology of Kanda Shasti:
Mythological stories in different religions relate about our souls journey, the highest pinnacle conquered and the means to reach it.
Once the Gods were being harassed by demons under the leadership of a demon named Surapadma. Unable to deal with these lesser beings, the Gods begged to Shiva for his help. Shiva and Parvati sent their son Muruga, endowing him with divine powers to fight the demons. Muruga is said to have defeated the demon Surapadma after a battle of six days. Therefore, the sixth day is celebrated as Sura Samharan in most of the temples. After singing in praise of Muruga for five days, in many Muruga temples, the incident of victory over asura is enacted by staging effigies of four asuras which are slayed by piercing the lance or Vel of Muruga.
Shasti fasting is considered very sacred because it signifies triumph of God’s consciousness within us over the negative bickering in our minds. God’s consciousness brings before us many possibilities to overcome hurdles and gain success in our missions.