Skanda Sashti Fasting or upavaas in an important observance dedicated to Lord Muruga. Sashti is the sixth day of the lunar fortnight in traditional Hindu calendar. Sashti occurs during the waning phase of the Moon and the waxing phase of the Moon.
The Sashti that falls on the waxing phase of the Moon in the Hindu lunar month of Ashwin (Oct- Nov) is observed as Skanda Sashti. It is on this day that Lord Muruga killed the demon, Soorapadman. The Skanda Sashti fasting or Viratham is observed for 6 days from Prathama, the first day after the New Moon of Diwali to the sixth day of Sashti tithi. Each of the six days is spent in devotion to Lord Muruga by way of reciting the glory of Muruga from the scriptures, visiting his temple, observing fast and performing pooja to please him and attract his blessings. Devotees of Lord Muruga observe partial or full fast throughout the Skanda Sashti period.
Ways to observe fast on Skanda Sashti
- Fasting begins with sunrise. It is broken on the next day morning sunrise after praying to Sun God.
- After bath, the house and the pooja room are cleaned thoroughly. A picture or idol of Muruga is chosen for worship. Prayers are offered to Muruga by lighting a ghee lamp, offering any food preparation or naivedya like sweet pongal, lighting incense and showing arati with camphor to the Lord.
- Pooja materials like sandal paste, rose water, kumkum, turmeric, flowers - form an important part of ritualistic worship.
- Muruga`s Vel or Lance is important in worship. Abisekham or anointing the Vel with scented rose water or clean water brings great merit upon the devotee. Muruga used this almighty weapon to destroy Soorapadman. Prayers offered to this divine weapon helps to wipe away the strong negative karma in our lives.
- The day is spent on purification of the mind through thinking spiritual thoughts and reciting the glory of Muruga. All activities should be done to make one conscious of Muruga.
- Fasting plays an important role during the six days. Fasting is not just about abstaining from food but it is an attempt to instil positive thoughts. Fasting is a means to fight against impurities like anger, passion, impatience and other negative tendencies. It helps to get rid of toxic wastes accumulated in the system.
- Vow of fasting is an intense effort to realize Muruga in oneself. It also confers immense merit, destroys sins of past lives, grants wishes, and fulfils the desires of the heart.
- Method of fasting depends on each person and varies accordingly. It is a complete fast for some, while rest observe partial fasting. Some take a single meal alone on each of the six days.
- Some avoid solid food and opt for a diet of milk, fruits and liquids. Food should be sattwic in nature.
- Non vegetarian food is strictly forbidden on these sacred days. Some avoid onion and garlic in their food preparations.
- Most people who observe the fast pay a visit to Murugan temple to take part in the pooja and seek his blessings.
- The most important activity during the day is reciting Skanda Sashti Kavacham by Devaraya Swamigal, reading and listening to stories related to Skanda, reading Skanda Purana, reciting Subramanya Bhujangam by Adi Sankara.
- Meditations, worship, abstaining from telling lies, shunning greed, malice, envy are spiritual efforts to discipline the mind during the period of fasting. Fasting is a method to bring about self-control and self-discipline.
- The fasting ends on the sixth day which is the soorasamharam day. The next day is Thirukalyanam, where Lord Muruga marries Devasena, the daughter of Indra.
Lord Muruga is the presiding deity of Planet Mars. Those with mangal dosha or afflictions from Planet Mars in their birth charts will get great relief if they observe Skanda Sashti fasting. It removes all impurities and bestows immense blessings. Constant consciousness of Muruga finally makes the devotees strong and fearless to wage a battle of life. The devotees emerge as righteous beings. Only a pure body and mind can receive positive vibrations of nature.