In Hinduism, you blink for half a minute or so, and it is time for another festival. This time it is Skanda Shashti. Skanda Shashti is dedicated to the God Skanda who is also knows as Lord Muruga, Murugan and Karttikeya.
Skanda is a difficult god to get to know, it might take you some time. Although once he lets you into his heart, his loving vice-like grip will hold you fast indeed. He is also hard to pin down, always dashing here and there. Announcing his arrival in no uncertain way, his departure is just as swift but incredibly quiet and without any fanfare.
Skanda Shasthi is in contrast to the sumptuousness of the previous festivals – Ganesha Chathurthi, Navarathri, Deepavali. Rather than a time of eating, it is a time of fasting. Rather than a time of reaching out and visiting others, it is a time of reaching in and spending a lot of time with your Self.
Vel Vel Muruga, you have a special place in my heart.
What is Skanda Shashti?
Skanda Sashti is a six-day South Indian festival to Skanda, the Lord of Religious Striving, also known as Murugan or Karttikeya.
It begins on the day after the new moon in the month of Karttika (October/November) with chariot processions and pujas invoking His protection and grace. The festival honors Skanda’s receiving His lance, or vel, of spiritual illumination, and culminates in a victory celebration of spiritual light over darkness on the final day. Penance, austerity, fasting and devout worship are especially fruitful during this sacred time.
Who is Skanda?
Skanda is a God of many attributes, often depicted as six-faced and twelve-armed.
Saivite Hindus hail this supreme warrior, the commander-in-chief of the great army
of devas, or beings of light, a fearless defender of righteousness. They honor Him as the
mystic healer of ailments and master of yoga, guiding those who persevere on enlightenment’s path.Legends say He was the first to renounce the world and step onto the path of kundalini yoga. God Siva bestowed upon His son Skanda dominion over the chakras of willpower, direct cognition, and the purest, child-like divine love.
Murugan is the tutelary Deity of the Tamil community.
What do Hindus do for Skanda Sashti?
It is considered meritorious to undertake a six-day fast, known as the Skanda Sashti
Vrata, or vow, in empathy for Skanda’s titanic struggle. Many abstain from all foods, while
some permit themselves fruits and simple, unsalted foods. Following immediately after
Diwali, the fast is an ideal antidote to that festival’s feasting, revelry and overindulging.
On the day the fast is broken, families enjoy a sweet pudding called payasam along with
fried delicacies. A six-part prayer for protection, called the Skanda Sashti Kavacham,
is chanted. Six is a number associated with this God. Another discipline is to stand in a river, facing upstream, draw a six-pointed star and write “Saravanabhava,” His supreme
mantra, on the water before bathing.
Special decorations adorn home shrines, featuring images of the peacock and
the fighting rooster. Devotees pilgrimage to Murugan’s temples, especially the temple in the seaside sanctuary at Tiruchendur in South India.
- Download this flyer for more information about Skanda Shashti and a great Kesari recipe.
Food for Skanda Shashti
All food consumed during the 6 day Skanda Shashti festival is vegetarian, and cooked without onions or garlic.
It is a time for complete fasting in many places. But this might not be quite possible for many people due to work, health and other reasons. So many people consume a single meal each day during this time — usually at noon, in the afternoon or night. For many, it is a single rice meal at noon; In India, this may be provided by the temple. The cooked rice is consumed without any major side dishes.
Others opt for a fruit diet. Some avoid solid food. The method and traditions of fasting differ from region to region.
Breaking the Fast on the 6th Day
Foods for breaking the fast include thinai maa, kantharappam, sarkarai pongal, payasams and kesari.
- Rava Kesari and here and here
- Thinai appam
- Kantharappam and here
- Sakkarai Pongal and here and here
- Several different Payasams and a Kheer
You can also make thinai maa vilaku, a lamp from rice flour, jaggery and ghee, that is then served as prasadam to devotees.
My Previous Skanda Shasthi Post
Read some more:
More Cooking, Food and Recipes:
- Sashti Viratham Date in November 2011 – Fasting for Hindu God Muruga (hindu-blog.com)
- Story of observing 108 Sashti Vratam (hindu-blog.com)