By Swami Harshananda
Sometimes transliterated as: Subrahmanya-sasthi, SubrahmaNya-SaSthi, Subrahmanya-shashthi
Subrahmaṇya-ṣaṣthi is the Aṣāḍha śukla ṣaṣṭhi which is dedicated to the worship of Subrahmaṇya or Skanda, the brave son of Śiva. Subrahmaṇya is the commander-in-chief of the devas or gods. Hence it is called Subrahmaṇyaṣaṣthi or Skanda-ṣaṣṭhī. It is an extremely popular and widely observed festival in Tamil Nadu. Those desirous of getting a good son or desirous of health for their sickly children are specially advised to observe this festival. Offering of lamps, garments and live cocks as playthings is a specialty of this festival.
Features of Subrahmaṇya-ṣaṣthi
Devotees who want to get over great calamities in their life take a vow to carry the kāvadi, a wooden stick with two baskets at the ends. They observe strict celibacy, beg their food and offerings for the Lord and walk bare-footed all the way to a famous shrine of Subrahmaṇya like the ones at Tirucandur or Palani. These both the temples are presently located in Tamil Nadu. After reaching the place they ceremonially offer the things they have brought.
Subrahmaṇya-ṣaṣthi at Tirucandur Temple
The Subrahmaṇya temple at Tirucandur commemorates his victory over Surapadma or Tārakāsura. Corresponding to the six days of the war, a six days’ severe penance is prescribed for the devotees who are willing to undergo it. They stay within the temple complex and fast on all these days. On the day of the Skandaṣaṣṭhī they do not partake even water. On that day, events leading to the conquest of the demon by Lord Subrahmaṇya are dramatized and enacted on the sea-beach.
Subrahmaṇya-ṣaṣthi as per other Works
According to some works, the festival falls on Caitra śukla ṣaṣṭhi in March/ April but is rarely observed on that day.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore