Friday, October 23, 2009

Skanda Sashti Festival

Today the surasamhara festival is being celebrated at Tiruchendur. Thought of sharing the details about the Skanda Sashti Festival. Please read on to know more…

The Tiruchendur Temple is the celebrated seashore temple of Lord Subrahmanya. It is situated in the Tiruchendur taluk of the TiruneIveli District. The distance from Madras is about 443 miles. The temple is on the shore of the Gulf of Mannar. The surging cool tides of the sea wash the foot of the temple. There is no other shrine in Tamil Nadu with such a beautiful natural setting. The Gulf of Mannar is shallow and is safe for sea bath.

Before entering the temple pilgrims either wash their feet or take a bath in the sea. The bathing that contains nine teerthams according to the sthalapuranam. A bath in any of these teerthams is believed to confer miraculous benefits on a devotee. It is said that once, when Brahma lost one of his five heads due to the anger of Siva, he came to this teertha, took a holy dip in it and had his head restored. Similarly one Angasundari, a Pandyan princess born with the face of a horse, was blessed with a beautiful face after a bath at Vathararamba Teertham.

Nazhi Kinaru

About 200 yards south of this temple, at the seashore, there is a rare natural phenomenon inside a square. It is a well 14 sq. feet in area and with a flight of 34 steps. Inside this well, there is another small well, one square foot in extent and seven feet deep. The water in the smaller well is crystal clear and sweet to taste whereas that in the bigger well is highly sulphurous in smell and brackish. It is said that when Shanmukha’s troops returned to the shore after vanquishing Surapadman at Mahendragiri, they felt thirsty and wanted fresh water. To quench their thirst, Shanmukha planted his Vel on this spot and caused fresh water to gush out.

Skanda Sashti Festival

The advent of Shanmukha and the chastisement of the asura in his three manifestations of Surapatuman, Singha-mukhan and Târakan, which are but the three evils in man Anava, Mâyâ, and Kanma and the extermination of these evil forces is yearly celebrated by the Skanda Shasti festival in the month of Aippasi in October-November. The festival at Tiruchendur is of six days, commencing on the sixth day of the waning moon of the month, as in every celebration of it in the Tamil land.

The events leading to the vanquishment of Surapatuma are demonstrated on the seashore on the evening of the Sashti-day by actual representations of the several transformations of the asura and of his defeat every time. Senthil Nâyakar the processional deity officiates for Arumukha-Nainar in this festival, and receives worship at the Tiruvâvaduthurai Skanda Sashti Mantapa.

The annual Tirukkalyâna festival to Teyvayânai is celebrated the next day after the Soora Samhara in the Tirukkalyapa Mantapa of the Melagopuram. On such occasions, the people fast for all the six days and the Skanda Puranam is read and explained with solemnity, in temples and also at times in private houses. Such reading is deemed efficacious, apart from spiritual benefits, in warding off or alleviating disease and danger and bringing good fortune to the bhaktas of Muruga is general.

The Puranic Account

Muruga, the earliest and sublimest Tamilian concept of Godhead has been as long cherished and venerated in the Tamil land as its Sanskritised concept Subrahmanyam, which means “the all pervading spirit of the Universe, the essence from which all things are evolved, by which they are sustained and into which they are involved.” He, in gracious pity for humanity takes form sometimes as the youthful God of Wisdom—Swâminâtha; God also of war when wicked Asuras have to be destroyed: Kârttikeya; sometimes as the holy child Muruga, the type of perennial tender beauty, always and everywhere at the service of his devotees.

The puranic account runs thus: The Devas were hard pressed by the asuras Surapatuma and his brothers. Siva in Mount Kailâsa was appealed to by the Devas for deliverance. Six sparks of fire issued from the frontal eye of Siva and answered their prayers. These divine sparks of grace were received by Agni, the God of fire, and cast into Ganges from which they passed into the Himalayan lake Saravana. Here they were transformed into six babes. These were suckled by the six Krittikâ nymphs of the constellation Pleiades, and, became one by name Skanda; on being fondly clasped into one by Pârvati, the divine inseparable sakti of Siva. He came to be called Shadânana, Shanmukha, and Arumukha as being six faced, and on account of his youthfulness, beauty and godliness.

As the Warlord of the Gods, as became his divine commission, he was known as Kârttikeya. He then proceeded from Kailâsa to the South on his mission of subduing the Asuras, and freeing the Devas from their cruel bondage. At Tiruchendur, He and his hosts encamped. Kârttikeya desired a shrine of Siva for his worship. Mayan the celestial architect constructed the shrine for Siva at this sea-front.

Kârttikeya, as the son of the supreme Siva Mahadeva, then led his hosts and proceeded with the war against the asuras. For five days Surapatuma's sons, brothers, and their mighty hosts gave battle on land, under the sea, and in the air and most of them perished. On the sixth day, Surapatuma alone survived. The Lord's last bid to show the asura His grace was His Visvarûpa darshan. The asura realised Whom he was fighting but his pride prevailed. He would not give in and be subdued. He still gave battle from region to region.

Kârttikeya now took Indra as his charger in the form of a peacock; and his lance, the Vel sought the foe out in his hiding in the ocean. Surapatuma rose at last out of his island fortress 'Vîra-mahendram,' as a frightful and enchanted mango tree and attacked him. The lance pierced the tree and broke it in twain. The broken pieces instantly transformed themselves into a mighty peacock and a chanticleer (rooster). The former attacked Indra who was serving as the Lord's bearer. The asura had spurned his last chance for submission!

Shanmukha's grace however prevailed. As an act of forgiveness, he took the peacock as his permanent charger (relieving Indra) and the chanticleer on his banner. The story goes that the two (cêvalum mayilum) live in His presence ever after. Shanmukha's mission was now fulfilled, and the Devas were freed. He turned again to Tiruchendur, halted and worshipped Siva at the shrine Mayan had built for Him.

“The events leading to the vanquishment of Surapatuma, with the moral significance of the expiation of sin are yearly celebrated by festivals and feasts in Tamil land in the month of Aippasi (October-November) ending on Skanda Shashti the sixth day of the waxing moon. On such occasions, the Kanda Purânam is read and expounded with solemnity; also at times in private houses such readings are deemed efficacious, apart from spiritual benefits, in warding off or alleviating disease and danger and bringing good fortune.”


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