Skanda Sashti is the six-day worship of Lord Skanda or Karthikeya. Skanda in Sanskrit or Kanda(n) in Tamil refers to Lord Muruga or Karthikeya, the divine child of Lord Shiva and Parvati.
Lunar calendar is widely used in Hindu tradition. The sixth day after new moon and full moon are called Sashti in this calendar. Shasti is a favorite day for Lord Muruga. Several devotees of Lord Muruga observe partial or full fast and offer prayers to Him on each Sashti day.
The days in a fortnight of the Hindu lunar calendar are – 1. Prathamai, 2. Dwithiyai, 3. Thrithiyai, 4. Chathruthi, 5. Panchami, 6. Sashti, 7. Sapthami, 8. Ashtami, 9. Navami, 10. Dasami, 11. Ekadasi, 12. Dwadasi, 13. Thrayodasi, 14. Chathurdasi, 15. Pournami(Full Moon)/Amavasya(New Moon).
The Sashti falling on the new moon period in the Tamil month of Aippasi (October-November) is the day on which Lord Muruga is believed to have killed the demon, Surapadma. During the battle between the Asuras (Demons) and the Devas (Divine beings), the Devas were defeated several times. Then, in despair, Devas prayed to Lord Shiva sincerely to give them an able leader to lead them to victory over Asuras. Lord Shiva granted their wish by creating Lord Skanda, out of His Divine power. Through the guidance of Lord Skanda, the Asuras were routed and destroyed within six days, at the end of which the Lord vanquished asuras – Taraka, Simhamukha and Surapadma.
Esoteric meaning or Spiritual Significance of Skanda Sashti:
As Swami Sivananda says, the inner life of the spiritual aspirant is a constant struggle between the divine and the demonic aspects in him. The seeker’s sadhana or spiritual practice is this battle against the demonic or asuric forces that tries to drag him down into deeper darkness and take him away from his ideal. At times, he becomes totally helpless under the violent attacks of his lower nature. During those times, the sadhaka or the spiritual aspirant should make a whole-hearted surrender to the feet of the Divine as the Devas surrendered to Lord Shiva. And like them pray earnestly and sincerely. The Lord’s grace will manifest in sadhaka in the form of inner Soul-force. This power is Skanda manifesting in inner being to aid the battle against the demonic tendencies. Therefore Lord Karthikeya is the very embodiment of the Divine Grace.
Significance of Six or Sashti:
The number six is a symbolic representation of the human mind. The mind has six faculties or allies – 1. Reason, 2. Emotion, 3. Thought, 4. Awareness, 5. Knowledge and 6. Intelligence and six enemies – 1. Lust, 2. Anger, 3. Greed, 4. Pride, 5. Delusion, and 6. Envy. As the most potent force in humans, it is the seat of the knowledge and ignorance and thereby the cause of liberation and bondage. The Vedas, Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita repeatedly emphasize the importance of having a pure mind in the realization of Brahman. Quoting a few verses from Upanishad – “Samsara, the duality of life, happens in the mind. Let therefore one keep one’s mind pure, for what a man thinks so he becomes. This is the mystery of eternity”. “The mind of a man is of two kinds, pure and impure, impure when it is bound to the desire and pure when it is free”.
The six heads of Lord Shanmukha or Muruga represents the 6 chakras or vital centers of nervous activity in the human body. Whenever an aspirant attempts to rise above his human limitations and experience oneness with the Eternal, Lord Muruga gives him all the strength to conquer the evil inside him and for the acquisition of the final truth. The Spear or Vel is the weapon which pierces through the demon of ignorance. The shape of Vel also shows that knowledge in the form of Jyoti will start from the muladhara(Basic) chakra, represented by the bottom of the Vel, pass through the intermediate Nadis and chakras which are represented by the body of the Vel and pierce through the crown, which is represented by the sharp, leaf shaped end of the Vel, and in the end will shine resplendent in the top beyond all these chakras and Nadis.
Spiritual practices during Skanda Sashti:
The significance and the spiritual message embodied in Skanda Sashti is the message of Supreme importance of self-surrender, the Supreme efficacy of sincere prayer and the unfailing compassion of the Lord.
During the time of Skanda Sashti, starting from Amavasya till Sashti (for the year 2012, Skanda Sashti is from Nov14 to Nov 19), devotees strive for purity through self- discipline and control of senses i.e. by observing fast, through devotion i.e. by offering prayers or chanting Skanda Sashti Kavacham and Skanda Guru Kavacham sincerely, through selfless actions, through contemplation and meditation. The grace of the compassionate Lord, when prayerfully and sincerely invoked, manifests as such irresistible Divine Power that all asuric forces fly away in holy terror at its mere approach.
Salutations to Lord Skanda! Salutations to the Guru!