Skanda Shasti Vratam

Monthly Shasti

Lord Muruga (aka Skanda) is a popular Hindu deity especially among Tamil Hindus. Lord Skanda is son of God Shiva and Goddess Parvati and younger brother of Lord Ganesha. God Skanda is also known as Murugan, Kartikeyan and Subramanya.

Sashti Tithi is dedicated to Lord Skanda. Devotees observe fast during “Shukla Paksha” Sashti day. As to “Skanda Sashti Vratam”, the day when “Sashti Tithi” is combined with “Panchami Tithi”, it is observed. Hence “Skanda Sashti Vratam” might be observed on Panchami Tithi.

Skanda Sashti is also known as Kanda Shashti.

The Hindu is sunrise-sunrise, i.e., it begins with sunrise. Therefore, the monthly Shasti fasting begins at sunrise. It is broken the next day at sunrise after offering obeisances to Lord Surya. Aspirants go to Murugan Temple on Shasti.

According to the Hindu scriptures, “fast” refers to complete fast, i.e., without food and water. And, of course, no siesta, entertainment, watching movies, tittle-tattle, unnecessary travelling, reading the dailies and engaging in humdrum things that usually take our minds away from God and spiritual living.

However, not everyone might be able to observe a full fast owing to his constitution and other congenital debilities, for instance. They shall subsist on water and fruit throughout the day; but the point to note is, that too should be once a day. That is to say, there should only be one meal a day: either at noon or at moonrise.

But what about those who are not even able to do this, especially those who have not observed any spiritual discipline, viz., vegetarianism, vratas (=observance of vows and austerities)? People of this category are, apparently, those who are not inherently spiritual or have a spiritual or religious bent of mind, but take to the vrata for a reason. Even they have a place in this vrata. Lord Sri Krishna Paramatma has declared in Gita 7:16

Chaturvidhaa bhajante maam janaah sukritino’rjuna;
Aarto jijnaasurartharthee jnaanee cha bharatarshabha.

“Four kinds of virtuous men worship Me, O Arjuna! They are the distressed, the seeker of
knowledge, the seeker of wealth, and the wise, O lord of the Bharatas!”

The Lord who regards the wise “is dear to (Him)” [Gita 7:17], does not however make light of the efforts of the remaining three categories of people for He says on Gita 7:18 “Noble indeed are all these”.

In other words, even if one cannot observe the full fast, or even subsist on single water/fruit meal, one stands to benefit from the vrata if one does what one can within one’s abilities. People who are not vegetarians, on this score, eat only vegetarian meals during shasti. Nonetheless, the other rules, consumption of non-vegetarian food and indulging in the usual activities like those mentioned in the earlier paragraph are strictly proscribed for everyone.

In order to fully engage in spiritual activities, aspirants read and study Skanda Purana or any authoritative texts that concern Lord Murugan. It is a must for aspirant to recite Kanta Shasti Kavasam in the morning and once in the evening.

Shanda Shasti Vratham in the Month of Aipasi (October/November)
Skanda Shasti or Kanda Shasthi Vratham is an important observance dedicated to Lord Muruga. It is observed in the Tamil month of Aippasi. Devotees fast (the way that it has been mentioned in the earlier paragraphs) during these 6 days. Athough all Shashti is dedicated to Lord Murugan but “Shukla Paksha Sashti” during lunar month Kartika (which is during Solar month Aippasi or Karthikai) is the most significant one. Devotees observe six days fast which lasts on Soorasamharam day. Next day after Soorasamharam is known as Tiru Kalyanam.

The day after Soorasamharam is known as Subramanya Shashti which is also known as Kukke Subramanya Sashti and falls during lunar month Margashirsha.

The following are some general rules to observe during these six days:

  • Non-vegetarian food is completely avoided during the period.
  • Avoiding garlic and onions. (Please refer to the article on “Garlic and onion”). For those, especially those who are new to vratas, and who are not vegetarians may not strictly observe this rule. Still and all, the food that they offer the Lord as prashad should not contain these two vegetable. (Again, refer to the article on them.)
  • Recite Skanda Shasti Kavasam in the morning and evening.
  • Go to Lord Murugan’s temple or any temple where He is. (If this too is not possible, visit any temple, leastways).
  • A single meal a day. (For those who cannot observe this—refers to “people who are new to this vrata”—may eat their usual meals; but only vegetarian or water/fruit meal.

Medical Benefits
Besides its spiritual benefits, Shasti vratam has various medical benefits too. It cleanses the body of all impurities, and cures the body of a lot of dangerous diseases.

Other Miscellaneous Information about the Vratam

When “Panchami Tithi” ends or “Shashti Tithi” starts between sunrise and sunset then both Panchami and Sashti are conjugated and this day is chosen for Skanda Sashti Vratam. This rule has been mentioned in Dharmasindhu and Nirnayasindhu. Many Murugan temples in Tamil Nadu, including famous Sri Subrahmanya Swami Devasthanam in Tiruchendur, follow the same rule and Soorasamharam day is observed one day before Sashti Tithi if on previous day Sashti Tithi is combined with Panchami Tithi.

Temples Dedicated to Lord Murugan

Following six abodes, which are known as Arupadaiveedu, are the most important shrines for Murugan devotees in Tamilnadu, India.

  1. Palani Murugan Temple (100 km south east of Coimbatore)
  2. Swamimalai Murugan Temple (Near Kumbakonam)
  3. Thiruthani Murugan Temple (84 km from Chennai)
  4. Pazhamudircholai Murugan Temple (10 km north of Madurai)
  5. Sri Subrahmanya Swami Devasthanam, Tiruchendur (40 km south of Thoothukudi)
  6. Thirupparamkunram Murugan Temple (10 km south of Madurai)

Marudamalai Murugan Temple (a suburb of Coimbatore) is another important shrine.

Kukke Subramanya Temple, near Mangalore, Karnataka, India is also very famous shrine dedicated to Lord Murugan

End Note

It must be noted that ‘Vrat’ or ‘Vratam’ in Sanskrit means ‘vow.’ Vratam should not be misunderstood as mere fasting. By observing a Vratam a person is trying to purify his mind through meditation, worship and by sticking to some ‘vow’ that he/she has taken. Now, this vow can include fasting, not telling lies, not getting anger etc. A vratam should be seen as a deliberate attempt on your part to bring back discipline into your life.

Fasting should be voluntary and it should not be done unwillingly. If you are taking medicines, do not observe intense fasting and stick to the routine suggested by your doctor.


Fasting on Ganesha Chaturthi

Each lunar month in Hindu calendar has two Chaturthi Tithis*. [The fourth day of the bright fortnight is called “Chaturthi”; and “Tithi” means “lunar day”]. According to Hindu scriptures, Chaturthi Tithi belongs to Lord Ganesha. The Chaturthi after Amavasya (=new moon) is known as Vinayaka Chaturthi and the one after Purnimasi (=full moon) is known as Sankashti Chaturthi.

Serious aspirants, especially those whose “chosen deity” is Lord Ganesha, fast twice a month on the said two Chaturthis. The most significant of these fasts is Ganesha Chaturthi. Ganesha Chaturthi is celebrated by Hindus all over the world as the birthday of Lord Ganesha. On this auspicious day, Lord Ganesh is worshipped as the God of wisdom, prosperity and good fortune. It is believed that Lord Ganesh was born during Shukla Paksha (the period after new moon, and at Madhyahana Kaalam (=midday). Therefore, Ganesh Puja is preferred during Madhyahana.

The scriptures, to wit, Agni Purana and Ganesha Purana, have said that one ought not to see the moon on Ganesh Chaturthi. If one, however, does it creates Mithya Dosham or Mithya Kalank (=false accusation of stealing something).

According to Ganesha Purana, on Chaturthi the placement of the Sun and the Moon is in a manner that it encourages us to do things that can be detrimental to our progress. To avoid such situations, you must worship Lord Ganesha and observe a fast in honour of him.

Observation Of Fast On Ganesh Chaturthi
Lord Ganesha is the Lord of wisdom, knowledge and peace. He removes all forms of hardship.

Aspirants who observe this fast should take bath early in the morning. The fast is observed from dawn to moonrise. According to smriti kaustubha, the sankanthara vrata has to be done without eating food and water. Now smriti kaustubha grantha says that the vratha has to be broken at the moonrise time after doing puja to the Lord. For those who cannot observe the fast owing to medical condition or other compelling reasons, the Smriti allows them to drink water but not too often. The common vrata paribhasha says, “Drinking too much fluid (often, even water), eating tobacco, or betel nuts, or betel leaves, or any other activity prohibited by vrata” will break the fast. One cannot smoke or consume alchohol or eat meat of any kind during vrata or after breaking the fast, and the fast cannot be broken with meat products.

Are menstruating women allowed to observe this vrata?
The Nirnaysindhukar clearly addresses this issue: whenever sutaka (ashoucha) appears one can continue doing vrata by following sharirika dharma. It means you can observe the fast. Do manasika (in your mind) puja but actual puja can be performed on your behalf by their family members. They can take sankalpa on your behalf.

How you should worship Lord Ganesha

  • Cleanse your body: Taking a bath in the Name of the God is said to wash away the sins and miseries of life. It brings happiness, health, wealth, increases progeny and salvation.
  • Offer white flowers: Offering white flowers to the Lord brings success and fame.
  • Offer Arugam grass (=Cynodon dactylon, also known as dūrvā grass, Dhoob, Bermuda grass, dog’s tooth grass, Bahama grass, couch grass, and scutch grass): Offering Arugam grass brings good luck, prosperity and children.
  • Offer vermilion: Offering Vermilion or Sindoor brings good fortune.
  • Light incense: Offering incense brings fame.
  • Offer sweets (Laddoo): Offering sweets will help you fulfil your desires.
  • Mantra Pushpanjali: Offer flowers to Lord Ganesha and ask His forgiveness for the mistakes you have made.

Here is a list of Chathurthi in the coming year. Keep this list handy so that you don’t forget the dates, and ensure offering pooja to Lord Ganesha on these pious days.

Sankashti Chaturthi during 2014-2015

  • 29th August 2014 (Friday) Ganesha Chaturthi
  • 12th September 2014 (Friday)
  • 11th October 2014 (Saturday)
  • 10th November 2014 (Monday)
  • 09th December 2014 (Tuesday) Angarki Chaturthi
  • 8th January 2015 (Thursday) Sankat Chauth
  • 7th February 2015 (Saturday)
  • 9th March 2015 (Monday)
  • 8th April 2015 (Wednesday)
  • 7th May 2015 (Thursday)
  • 5th June 2015 (Friday)
  • 5th July 2015 (Sunday)
  • 3rd August 2015 (Monday)
  • 1st September 2015 (Tuesday) Angarki Chaturthi
  • 1st October 2015 (Thursday)
  • 30th October 2015 (Friday)
  • 29th November 2015 (Sunday)
  • 28th December 2015 (Monday)

Note: If Sankashti Chaturthi falls on Tuesday it is called Angarki Chaturthi and it is considered highly auspicious. 

What is the significance of Angarika Chaturthi

Once in Kailash, Lord Shiva was immersed in great Penance (Tapasya). While in penance, three drops of sweat fell from his fore head on the ground. The sweat drops transformed into a child with red complexion, with four arms. The Earth gave this kid to Sage Bhardwaja. As he was given by Earth he was named as Bhauma, “The son of Earth”.

When Bhauma was in his teens, Sage Bhradwaja told him about “Ganesh Mantra”, and explained to him how it should be chanted. Sage Bhardwaja advised Bhauma to go to the banks of Narmada and perform Penance or Tapasya to seek the blessings of Lord Ganesha.

Bhauma performed great penance in honour of Lord Ganesha, reciting the Ganesh Mantra. Lord Ganesha, after few years, pleased with the penance, appeared before Bhauma on the fourth day of Krishna Paksha, i.e., on the fourth day of waning phase of the moon.

Lord Ganesha made Bhauma the head of Mangala Loka. Lord Ganesha also said that Bhauma would become famous by the name of Angaraka. Lord Ganesha further added that, those who observe the Sankashti Chaturthi Vrat on a Mangalavara (=Tuesday) would be blessed, much more than what they get if they fast on normal Sankashti Chaturthis.

Lord Ganesha also declared that a Sankashthi Chaturthi which would falls on a Mangala Vara or Tuesday would be known as Angarika Chaturthi or Angaraka Chaturthi.

How to Develop the Will-Power by Swami Sivananda

Attention, power of endurance, overcoming aversion, dislikes and irritations, fortitude in suffering, Tapas (austerities such as standing on one foot, sitting in the hot sun) or Panchagni Tapas before five fires, standing in cold water in piercing winter, raising the hands above and keeping in the same position for an hour, fasting, patience, command of temper, forbearance, clemency, mental power of endurance, firmness in meeting danger, power of resistance or attack, Satyagraha, keeping up daily diary—all pave a long way in developing the will. One should patiently hear the words of others even though they are not interesting and charming. He should not fret and fume. Patient hearing develops will and wins the hearts of others. One should do actions or tasks that are uninteresting. This also develops the will-power. The actions that are not interesting will become interesting after sometime.

Never complain against bad environments. Create your own mental world wherever you remain and wherever you go. There are some difficulties and disadvantages wherever you go. If the mind deludes you, at every moment and at every step, try to overcome the obstacles and difficulties by suitable means. Do not try to run away from bad, unfavourable environments. God has placed you there to make you grow quickly.

If you get all sorts of comforts in a place, you will not grow strong. Your mind will be puzzled in a new place when you cannot get these comforts. Therefore, make the best use of all places. Never complain against surroundings and environments. Live in your own mental world. Nothing can upset your mind. You will find Raga-Dvesha even in the eternal snowy regions of the Himalayas, near Gangotri. You cannot get an ideal place and ideal surroundings in any part of the world. Kashmir is very cool; the scenery is very enchanting; but Pissus (small insects like fleas) trouble you at night; you cannot sleep. Varanasi is a centre of Sanskrit learning, but it is notorious for hot winds in summer. Uttarkasi in the Himalayas is beautiful, but you cannot get vegetables or fruits there; the cold is so very biting in winter. This world is a relative plane of good and evil. Remember this point at all times. Try to live happily in any place, under any condition. You will become a strong and dynamic personality. This is a great secret. Keep this in your pocket and unlock the Elysian regions, the spiritual realms and the immortal abode. You can get sanguine success in any undertaking. You can conquer any difficulty.

The practice of concentration is of great help to strengthen the will. You must have an intelligent understanding of the habits of the mind, how it wanders and how it operates. You must know easy and effective methods to control the wandering of the mind. The practice of thought-culture, the practice of concentration, the practice of memory-culture, are all allied subjects. All these are of immense help in the practice of will-culture. You cannot draw a line of demarcation to denote where the practice of concentration or memory-culture ends and the practice of will-culture begins. There is no hard and fast rule. For further particulars on the practice of concentration, please see the article “Control of Mind-wandering.”

Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Balfour could go to deep sleep the moment they went to bed through mere willing. They had such a strong will. Even Mahatma Gandhi had this practice. They could get up in the morning at any time they wanted, to the very minute. They had so trained their subconscious mind. The subconscious mind was their obedient servant. It would wake them up at the very second. Every one of you should develop this habit through will and become a Gandhi, a Gladstone or a Balfour. Generally, the vast majority of persons simply roll in their beds for hours together and do not get sound sleep even for half an hour. It is the quality of sleep, and not the quantity, that gives refreshment. Sound sleep for even an hour is quite sufficient to refresh the body and revitalise the mind. The moment you go to bed, simply relax the mind and give the suggestion, “I will have good sleep now.” Do not think of anything. Napoleon had this habit. Even when the bugle was blowing and the drums were beating on the battlefield, he would be snoring. His subconscious mind would wake him up at the very second he wanted to get up. With a cool mind, Napoleon would appear like a lion on the battlefield.

One should train himself to sleep in running cars, trains, and when moving in the aeroplanes, even in a sitting posture. This practice is of immense help for busy medical practitioners, advocates and businessmen, who have to do immense work daily and a good deal of travelling. Life has become so very complex nowadays that busy people do not find time to get enough sleep. Whenever they find some leisure, even for five minutes, they should close their eyes in any place and go to sleep for a short time. This would give great rest. They can continue their further activities. This kind of practice is a blessing to busy people. Their nerves are under great tension and pressure. By relaxing them every now and then, they could refresh themselves and keep quite fit for further activities. One should be able to sleep on the platforms of Howrah or Bombay railway stations when trains are moving at all times. This is a wonderful practice that gives immense strength.

Dr. Annie Besant used to write editorial columns when moving in the cars. There are some busy doctors who read newspapers even when they are in the water closets. They keep their minds fully occupied. The practice of keeping the mind fully occupied is the best of the practices for keeping up physical and mental Brahmacharya. Those who want to become magnetic and dynamic personalities or prodigies should utilise every second to the best possible advantage and should try to grow mentally, morally and spiritually, every second. Idle gossiping should be given up entirely. Every one of us should realise the value of time. Will is bound to become dynamic if one utilises his time very profitably. Application and tenacity, interest and attention, patience and perseverance, faith and self-reliance, can make a man a wonderful world-figure.

(pgs. 222-225, How to Cultivate Virtues and Eradicate Vices)

Significance of All Ekadasis


According to the Bhavisya Uttara Purana, Utpanna Ekadasi appeared from the transcendental body of the Lord while He was taking rest. The Lord had a fight with a powerful demon named Mura, who wanted to kill the Lord. After a long fight, the Lord tired and left to take rest in a cave. Mura followed the Lord to the cave to kill the Lord while at rest. At that time a female personality appeared from the transcendental body of the Lord and killed the demon. When Lord found that the demon was killed by the female, He offered her a boon. To this the female asked, “Anyone who fasts on my appearance day should receive liberation from this material world.” She had appeared from the Lord’s body on the eleventh day of the month, that is why her name became “Ekadasi.” The complete detail of this Ekadasi can be read in the book named “Ekadasi, The Day of Lord Hari,” written by the His Holiness Krsna Balaram Swami.


Another name of Ekadasi is Harivasara, meaning “The day of Lord Hari.” Actually fasting on the Ekadasi day means fasting from all categories of eatables and drinks. But in this jet age, people eat foods that are grown with chemicals. That is why sages have subsidized the fasting on Ekadasi with moderate acceptance of non-grain eatables on the Ekadasi day. As it is confirmed by Srila Vyasadeva in the Mahabharata Udyama Parva thus:

astaitani avrataghnani hy apo mulam payo dadhi
havir brahmana kamya ca guror vacanam ausadham

“The eight following exceptions do not break one’s fast: drinking water, eating potatoes, sweet potatoes, drinking milk, eating yogurt, eating butter, eating things by the request of a traditionally authentic Brahmana following the orders of a Vedicly authorized Guru, and consuming the prescribed medicines.”

According to the Padma Purana, sin personified (Papa-purusha) was told by the Lord to live in food grains on the Ekadasi day. Sin personified retracts himself from all other places and enters into grains on the Ekadasi day. When a person eats grains on the Ekadasi day, he solemnly consumes sins. There are twenty four (two extra for leap year) Ekadasis in a year and each has a specific name. Anyone who performs Ekadasi following the instructions of a scripturally authorized Guru enters into the spiritual kingdom of the Lord.


The history of Moksada Ekadasi is quoted from the Brahmanda Purana. Lord Krsna narrated the history about the discussion between King Vaikhanasa and Parvata Muni, that took place in the age of Satyayuga. King Vaikhanasa’s father had fallen to hell for having sex with his wife while she was passing through her menstrual period. As a remedy, Parvata Muni advised the king to perform the Moksada Ekadasi fast, so his father could be delivered from hell. The complete details of this Ekadasi can be read in the book named “Ekadasi, The Day of Lord Hari,” written His Holiness Krsna Balaram Swami.


Human beings have been given the responsibility of pleasing the Supreme Lord. When the Lord becomes pleased, He in turn rewards liberation to the soul. The formulas to please the Lord are stated in the Vedic scriptures. One of the remedies to please the Lord is performing the Ekadasi fast. According to the Padma Purana, the Lord says, “Ekadasi day is very dear to Me. In all circumstance eating normal food on Ekadasi is forbidden for all human beings.” The Agni Purana states, “Ekadasi day is very dear to the Supreme Lord Sri Hari, that is why eating food on this day is forbidden for all human beings, in order to receive the Lord’s blessings.” The Brhan Naradiya Purana states, “It does not matter what category of special birth one has, either born as a Brahmana, Ksyatriya, Vaisya, Sudra, Mleccha or Yavana, male or female, everyone must perform the Ekadasi fast.”


The history of Saphala Ekadasi is found in the Bhavisya-uttara Purana. Lord Krsna tells Yudhisthira the history of Prince Lumpaka who fell into material consciousness and preformed sinful deeds, but was elevated to the stage of pure consciousness by the observance of Saphala Ekadasi. The complete details of this Ekadasi can be read in the our book entitled, “Ekadasi, The Day of Lord Hari,” written by His Holiness Krsna Balaram Swamiji.


One may ask, up till what age one must follow the Ekadasi fast? The answer to this is found in the Agni Purana where it states, “As long as one is alive one must fast on Ekadasi.” One may then ask, “Why is eating normal food forbidden on Ekadasi?” The answer is found in the Naradiya Purana where it states, “All categories of sins live in food grains on the Ekadasi day, anyone who eats them becomes filled with sins.”


The history of Putrada Ekadasi is found in the Bhavisya Purana. Lord Krsna narrates the history where King Suketuman asks Visvedevas how to remedy his problems. Visvedevas replied that if he observed Putrada Ekadasi, his problems will be solved. The complete detail of this Ekadasi can be read in our book named “Ekadasi, The Day of Lord Hari,” written His Holiness Krsna Balaram Swami.


All material and spiritual problems can be solved if one seriously observes the Ekadasi fast. As long as one is filled with sin, no solutions to one’s real problems can be reached. Therefore one must first try to become free from sins.

The Padma Purana states, “Once Papapurusha (sin personified) reached the Lord and asked Him for a place where he could live.” To this the Lord replied, “O Sin Personified, You can live in food grains on the Ekadasi day, anyone who eats grains on Ekadasi will eat sin only.” One may ask, what about eating Mahaprasad (eatables offered to the Deity of the Lord) on the Ekadasi day? The answer to this question is found in the Narada Pancharatra where it states, “If Mahaprasad includes grains, it should be kept for the next day.”


The history of Sat-tila Ekadasi is mentioned in the Bhavisya-uttara Purana where Pulastya Muni tells Dalabhya Muni how Lord Krsna took the form of a mendicant and went to ask for some eatables from an austere lady. It is mentioned how she dealt with the Mendicant and what result she received in her next life. The complete details of this Ekadasi can be read in our book entitled, “Ekadasi, The Day of Lord Hari,” written by Mahant Krsna Balaram Swami.


The Brahma Vaivarta Purana states, “Sins cannot be mitigated by more sinning. All categories of sins reside in food grains on the Ekadasi day. Therefore, any person, even if pious, who eats regular food on Ekadasi day becomes filled with sins.” The Visnu Dharmottara states, “In each morsel of regular food eaten by anyone on Ekadasi day, the person receives the equal amount of sin of eating cow’s meat. There is no atonement for those who eat regular food on Ekadasi.” The Gautamiya Tantra states, “Those who eat regular food on Ekadasi will fall to hell.”

One should be very careful how one deals with a traditional devotee. The consequences of offending a serious devotee offends the Supreme Lord. The scriptures state, “Just as one can tolerate scorching heat upon one’s head, but cannot tolerate scorching heat underneath one’s bare feet, similarly a devotee may forgive offenses committed to him, but the Lord does not forgive offenses committed against His serious devotee who worships His Lotus feet.”


The history of Jaya Ekadasi is found in the Bhavisya Purana where Lord Krsna tells Yudhisthira how Malyavan, the famous celestial singer, was cursed by Indra to become a hobgoblin. While singing in the assembly of Indra, Malyavan became lustfully attracted to Puspavati, which disturbed the assembly. Thus being cursed by Indra, both Malyavan and Puspavati fell from heaven and suffered on earth until they performed the Jaya Ekadasi fast. This history indicates if Jaya Ekadasi is followed properly, one can become free from all categories of curses. The complete details of this Ekadasi can be read in our book entitled, “Ekadasi, The Day of Lord Hari,” written by the His Holiness Krsna Balaram Swamiji.


The Visnu Dharmottra states that “anyone who suggests that normal food can be eaten on Ekadasi, or that nothing happens to a person by eating regular food on Ekadasi, become ghosts after their death.”

One must be very cautious for hypocrites while on the devotional path. Even if a person unknowingly guides one on the wrong path, his direction should be avoided as much as a hypocrite, as both will misrepresent the scriptures. They create the illusion that staunch followers of the Vedic Scriptures are zealots, thereby justifying their compromised adherence to the scriptures. Through cunning words, they attempt to make the true purport of the scriptures appear incorrect, and try to instill a meaning more convenient that meets their own lifestyle. In finality both reach the destination for misleading innocent people, hell. Therefore it cannot be stressed too often that to find a authentic Guru cannot be compromised. A guideline to find a bona-fide guru can be found in our book entitled, “The Guru Nirnaya Dipika, Who Can Become Guru and Who Cannot.”


The history of Vijaya Ekadasi is found in the Skanda Purana, where Lord Krsna reveals how His fasting on Vijaya Ekadasi, in His incarnation as Lord Rama, enabled Him to cross the Indian Ocean and defeat the undefeatable Ravana. This Ekadasi indicates that no matter how big a danger one has ahead him, it can be mitigated by observance of the Vijaya Ekadasi fast. The complete details of this Ekadasi can be read in our book entitled, “Ekadasi, The Day of Lord Hari,” written by His Holiness Krsna Balaram Swami.


The Narada Purana, the Padma Purana and the Agni Puranas state, “Everyone, including Gurus, Acharya, Sanyasis, Grahasthis, widows and the contaminated woman with her menstrual period, must not eat food grains on the Ekadasi day. Undoubtedly everyone must fast from food grains on the Ekadasi day.”


The history of Amalaki Ekadasi is mentioned in the Brahmanda Purana, where Vasistha Muni states to King Mandhata about how King Vasuratha observed the Ekadasi fast properly and was saved from his previous enemies. This history indicates that devotional life has to be free from disturbance from enemies. The complete details of this Ekadasi can be read in our book entitled,”Ekadasi, The Day of Lord Hari,” written by His Holiness Krsna Balaram Swami.


One may ask what is the minimum age and the maximum age for fasting on Ekadasi? The answer to this can be found in the Katyayana Smruti where it states, “Beginning from the age of eight till one completes the age of eighty, he or she must fast on Ekadasi.” The Naradiya Purana states, “The authority of observing Ekadasi is given to those who have entered their age of eight and continue till they reached the age of eighty. Everyone must perform Ekadasi.”


The history of Papamochani Ekadasi is mentioned in the Bhavisya Uttara Purana where Lomasa Rishi narrated the history to King Mandhata. In the history, a young sage named Medhavi became attracted to a beautiful celestial girl named Manjughosa,. and broke his spiritual vow of celibacy with her. After realizing his mistake, he observed Papamochani Ekadasi, and regained his pure state again. This Ekadasi indicates that every trouble can be solved on the spiritual path, provided one is serious in the following. The complete details of this Ekadasi can be read in the our book entitled “Ekadasi, The Day of Lord Hari,” written by His Holiness Mahant Krsna Balaram Swamiji.


One may question if the Ekadasi fast is only for Vaisnavas, or intended for others as well? In answer, the Vishnu Dharmottara states, “Those who claim to be devotees of Lord Vishnu, as well as those who worship Lord Siva, everyone must follow the Ekadasi fast.” The Skanda Purana states, “Either one is a devotee of Lord Krsna, Lord Vishnu, Lord Siva, Skanda, Ganesha, Durga or Surya, everyone must fast on the Ekadasi day.”


The history of Kamada Ekadasi originates from the Varaha Purana, where Vasistha Muni narrates the history of a celestial singer named Lalita. He describes that Lalita was cursed by King Pundarika to become a cannibal and suffer on earth. But through the advice his wife received from the Sage

Sringi, he acquired the merits of Kamada Ekadasi and thus received liberation. This Ekadasi indicates that merits earned for following Ekadasi can be transferred to a loved one. The complete detail of this Ekadasi can be read in the book entitled, “Ekadasi, The Day of Lord Hari,” written by His Grace Krsna Balaram Swamiji.


One may ask, what if due to illness one is unable to observe the Ekadasi fast? To this the Vayu Purana states, “If, due to illness, one is genuinely unable to perform the Ekadasi fast, he or she should give charity to a traditional Brahmana with the request that he perform the Ekadasi fast on his/her behalf.”


This history is taken from the Bhavisya Uttara Purana where Lord Krsna tells Yudhisthira how one should be cautious of whom he gives charity. Only a traditionally born pure Brahmana is Scriptually allowed to accept charity. If someone gives charity indiscriminately, the result is unrewarding. As it is stated:

danam grhnati yah sudro mahatyam api capadi
yasca tasmai sampradadyad tau ubhau narakau dhruvam

“If anyone born in a low class family, even if they have converted to a devotional life, cannot accept charity. If by chance he accepts charity, he falls to hell, and the donor must follow him there.”

This is scriptural evidence. The complete detail of this Ekadasi can be read in the book named “Ekadasi, The Day of Lord Hari,” written by Mahant Krsna Balaram Swamiji.


One may inquire, what if one needs medication on Ekadasi? To this the Tattvasagara states, “Medicine consumption does not break ones fast.”


The history of Mohini Ekadasi is found in the Kurma Purana where Lord Krsna speaks about the conversation which took place between Lord Rama and Vasistha Muni. Vasistha Muni stated to Lord Rama how the sinful Dhrstabuddhi received liberation by observing this Ekadasi. This history indicates how even by inattentively observing Ekadasi one can receive merit. The complete details of this Ekadasi can be read in our book entitled, “Ekadasi, The Day of Lord Hari,” written by H.H. Krsna Balaram Swmaiji.


Now one may ask, what should one do on Ekadasi after one passes the age of eighty? To this the Bodhayana Smruti states, “After the age of eighty, if one is unable to fast on Ekadasi, eating one meal in the afternoon of Ekadasi day is allowed.”


The narration of this Ekadasi is explained in the Brahmanda Purana where Lord Krsna speaks to King Yudhisthira in reference to the result one obtains by performing this Ekadasi. The rules one is to abide by while doing Ekadasi is stated in this chapter. The complete details of this Ekadasi can be read in our book entitled “Ekadasi, The Day of Lord Hari,” written by H.H. Krsna Balaram Swamiji.


It is stated in the Padma Purana, “If `Sraddha day’ of one’s parents falls on the Ekadasi day, it should be postponed to the next day (Dvadasi), because even the celestial beings (demigods) do not eat food grains on the Ekadasi day.”

It is stated in the Brahma Vaivarta Purana, “If someone performs `Sraddha’ on the Ekadasi Day, the giver of the charity, the taker of the charity, and the deceased person for whom the charity is being given, all three go to hell.”


This Ekadasi is narrated by Srila Vyasadeva to Bhimasena in the Brahma Vaivarta Purana. Among the Pandavas, Bhimasena was the veracious eater among them and could not follow the Ekadasi fast. When he learned that those who do not observe the Ekadasi go to hell, he wanted to know what he should do. Srila Vyasadeva explained Nirjala Ekadasi to him. The complete details of this Ekadasi can be read in our book entitled, “Ekadasi, The Day of Lord Hari,” written by the H.H.Krsna Balaram Swamiji.


It is stated in the Varaha Purana, “If someone becomes contaminated due to a death in the house, still one should perform the Ekadasi fast, after first taking a clean bath and paying homage to Lord Hari.”

It stated in the Visnu Rahasya, “Even if one’s home is contaminated by a new birth of a child, or a recent death of a relative, still the Ekadasi fast should be observed.”

One may wonder what the result of observing Ekadasi is? To this Vasistha Muni states in the Naradiya Purana, “If Ekadasi is observed correctly while worshipping the Supreme Lord Sri Hari, the acquired sins of the follower’s previous life get destroyed.”


The history of Yogini Ekadasi is found in the Brahma Vaivarta Purana, where Lord Krsna tells Yudhisthira how Hemamali, a servant of Kuvera, became free from the curse of Kuvera. The complete details of this Ekadasi can be read in our book entitled, “Ekadasi, The Day of Lord Hari,” written by H.H. Krsna Balaram Swamiji.


The Brahma Vaivarta Purana states, “In this world there are only two concrete procedures for attaining liberation and atoning for one’s sins. These two things are– fasting on the Ekadasi days and chanting of the names of Supreme Lord Sri Hari.”


This chapter is quoted from the Bhavisya Uttara Purana where Lord Brahma explains to Narada how King Mandhata relieved his kingdom from trouble by fasting on Padma also known as Harishayani Ekadasi. It signifies that occurring troubles can be mitigated by properly fasting on Padma Ekadasi. The complete details of this Ekadasi can be read in our book entitled, “Ekadasi, The Day of Lord Hari,” written by the H.H.Krsna Balaram Swamiji.


The Supreme Lord is quoted in the Hari Bhakti Vilasa pertaining to the following Ekadasis, “What to speak of eating normal food containing grains, if someone eats fruits or vegetables on Padma, Parivartini or Haribodhini Ekadasis, I do not forgive, and send him/her down to hell.”


This chapter is quoted from the Brahma Vaivarta Purana where Lord Brahma explains to Narada the importance of performing devotional service and worshipping Tulasi while performing the Kamika Ekadasi fast. The result of performing this Ekadasi is unlimited. The complete details of this Ekadasi can be read in our book entitled, “Ekadasi, The Day of Lord Hari,” written by the Mahant Krsna Balaram Swamiji.


Lord Siva tells Parvati the following in the Padma Purana, “If someone ignores the Ekadasi fast and instead observes other fasting days, he/she is liked to a person who reaches for mud, bypassing diamonds.”


This chapter is found in the Bhavisya Uttara Purana where Lord Krsna tells Yudhisthira how Lomasa Rishi told King Mahijit to fast on Putrada Ekadasi to mitigate the curse that had been put on him by a thirsty cow. The complete details of this Ekadasi can be read in our book entitled, “Ekadasi, The Day of Lord Hari,” written by the His Holiness Krsna Balaram Swamiji.


It is stated in the Skanda Purana, “If one puts the merits obtained from performing the Ekadasi fast on one side of a scale, and the merits obtained from performing other fasts on the other side of the scale, the merit obtained from performing the Ekadasi fast will definitely be heavier.”

The Visnu Purana states (also confirmed in the Hari Bhakti Vilasa), “Once the Supreme Lord Sri Hari placed the merits of all sacrifices on one side of a scale, and the merits obtained from performing the Ekadasi fast on the other side, the merit obtained from performing the Ekadasi fast were found to be heavier.”


The narration of this Ekadasi is found in the Brahma Vaivarta Purana where Gautama Muni tells King Harischandra to fast on Aja Ekadasi in order solve his problem. Sometimes envious people create problems for others on the devotional path, as was the case of King Harischandra, but by properly fasting on this Ekadasi, such situations can be peacefully eradicated. The complete details of this Ekadasi can be read in our book entitled, “Ekadasi, The Day of Lord Hari,” written by the His Holiness Krsna Balaram Swamiji.


There are many calendars distributed including the Ekadasi fast dates, and everyone claims their calendar is calculated correctly. Discovering that there are different dates on different calendars, one may ask, what is the proper way to determine the correct day to follow the Ekadasi fast? In answer to this question, the Siva Purana states, “There are two categories of overlapping days which help to determine the proper fasting day–Ekadasi mixed with previous days (the Dasami tithi), and–Ekadasi mixed with the next day (the Dvadasi tithi). The later day (Ekadasi mixed with Dvadasi) must be accepted for fasting.”

Srila Sanatana Goswami states in the Digdarsini Tika (20.203), “Ekadasi mixed with the previous day destroys the merits earned by the observer.”

We calculate intricate tithi details by following the ancient Vedic scriptures and by using age old traditional Vedic astrology. We are systematically educated in this science since childhood.


This Ekadasi chapter is found in the Brahma Vaivarta Purana where Lord Krsna tells Yudhisthira how Lord Vishnu rests on the serpent, Sesha, in the Milk Ocean, and while asleep on this day that He turns over from sleeping on one side to His other. There is a history in this chapter referencing Lord Vamanadeva punishing King Bali Maharaja. The complete details of this Ekadasi can be read in our book entitled “Ekadasi, The Day of Lord Hari,” written by the H.H.Krsna Balaram Swami.


The Supreme Lord is quoted in the Hari Bhakti Vilasa, “What to speak of eating normal food consisting of grains, if someone eats even fruits or vegetables on Padma, Parivartini or Haribodhini Ekadasis, I do not forgive, and send him (her) deep down to hell.”


This chapter is found in the Brahma Vaivarta Purana where Narada Muni tells King Indrasena to perform Indira Ekadasi so his suffering father can be released from hell. Fasting on Ekadasi does not only benefit the performer, it also helps one’s relatives who may be suffering in hell. The complete details of this Ekadasi can be read in our book entitled, “Ekadasi, The Day of Lord Hari,” written by the H.H.Krsna Balaram Swami.


The Visnu Dharmottar states, “One should fast on Ekadasi mixed with Dvadasi, but never fast on Ekadasi mixed with Dasami.” Following this rule we astrologically calculate the Ekadasi fasting days. Sometimes it is seen that many Vaisnava calendars differ with our dates because others do not measure their calculation with established Vedic scriptures. Because of the consequence of incurring sin rather than merit from performing Ekadasi on an incorrect day, we say that calculating the correct date is more important than the fasting itself.


This chapter is found in the Brahma Vaivarta Purana where Lord Krsna speaks very important points about how to observe Ekadasi and what merit one obtains by doing so. The main condition in performing the Ekadasi fast is following the correct date. The complete details of this Ekadasi can be read in our book entitled “Ekadasi, The Day of Lord Hari,” written by the H.H.Krsna Balaram Swami.


It is stated in the Naradiya Purana, “Due to illusion (or being proud), if someone fasts on an incorrect date, rather than gaining merits, one looses merits, looses health, and family members.”

The Brahma Purana states, Once Dhrtarastra asked Maitreya Muni why all his sons were dead, to which Maitreya Muni replied, “You, together with your wife, had observed an Ekadasi fast on an incorrect day, that is why not even one of your sons remained alive.”

The Brahma Purana states, “When Lord Rama vanished Goddess Sita, She lived in the Ashram of Valmiki Muni. While living there, She asked Valmiki, ‘O sage! I am completely pure and devoted to Lord Rama, Why am I suffering?’ To this Valmiki meditated deeply on the topic and said, ‘You had previously observed an Ekadasi fast on an incorrect day, that is why Your suffering has occurred.'”

In Satyayuga Queen Saivya, the wife of King Hariscandra, asked Vasistha Muni the cause of her suffering. To this Vasistha Muni replied, “Your suffering from separation from your son and husband is due to your observing an Ekadasi fast on an incorrect date.” He further said, “Anyone who fasts on Ekadasi mixed with Dasami will surely loose his family members and also suffer in hell.”


The history of this Ekadasi is found in the Brahma Vaivarta Purana where Lord Krsna tells King Yudhisthira about the history of Chandrabhaga and her deceased husband Shobhana. How Chandrabhaga could transfer the merits of her Ekadasi fast to her husband is stated in this chapter. The complete detail of this Ekadasi can be read in our book entitled, “Ekadasi, The Day of Lord Hari,” written by Mahant Krsna Balaram Swamiji.


The Brahma Vaivarta Purana states, “Just as a pot of Ganges water is rejected if a drop of wine falls in it, similarly an Ekadasi date should be rejected if it is tinged with Dasami.” It is stated in the Skanda Purana, “Anyone who indicates or suggests to follow the Ekadasi on an incorrect date is certainly bewildered by the illusion created by Sukracharya.” This is confirmed by Lord Siva, speaking to Parvati in the Skanda Purana thus, “O Devi, Whoever fasts on an incorrect date for Ekadasi (Ekadasi mixed with Dasami), he or she is asking to go to hell.”

When the Lord in His Varaha form was fighting with the Demon Hiranyaksa and found the demon undefeatable, the Lord told Brahma the following as stated in the Padma Purana, “O Brahma, being influenced by illusion created by Sukracharya, the Brahmanas have fasted on an incorrect date for Ekadasi. That is why the demon has become more powerful.” He further said, “Anyone who fasts on an incorrect date for Ekadasi increases demoniac influences. As long as one fasts on a wrong date of Ekadasi he undoubtedly gives his spiritual potency to demons and obtains their negative potency in return.” When, by the advice of Lord Brahma, all the sages and Brahmanas observed proper Ekadasi days, then only the demon Hiranyaksa was killed. The readers are advised to study our book, “The Vaisnava Kantha Hara” in which we have vividly described how to decide which is the correct fasting day.


This chapter is narrated by Lord Brahma to his son Narada in the Skanda Purana, where Lord Brahma tells how Lord Visnu and other demigods get up on this day. Kartika month ends on this day. The complete details of this Ekadasi can be read in our book entitled,”Ekadasi, The Day of Lord Hari,” written by Mahant Krsna Balaram Swamiji.


One may ask what rules to follow on Ekadasi day? In answer to this, the Hari Bhakti Vilasa states,”Beginning from the day before Ekadasi till one day after Ekadasi, one should avoid every category of sex, avoid bleeding inside the mouth, sleeping in the day time, and activities which are forbidden by the scriptures.” To this one may ask, what activities must be done on Ekadasi day? To this the Hari Bhakti Vilasa states, “Worshipping the Lord, chanting His names, studying those scriptures which glorify Lord Hari, and speaking the truth, are the main activities to be done on Ekadasi.”

One should avoid bleeding in the mouth the day before, the day of, and the day after a fasting day. Because brushing one’s teeth with a toothbrush may cause bleeding in the mouth, it is advised to clean one’s teeth by applying toothpaste with one’s finger on these days.


In this chapter Lord Krsna describes the rules and regulations, as well as the benefits regarding the Ekadasi to Yudhisthira. Lord Krsna also narrates about the history of Kartaviryarjuna’s mother Padmini, which Pulastya muni recites to Narada. This Ekadasi appears on the extra month of every leap year, and hence very special. Whoever observes this Ekadasi will have all his desires fulfilled and surely attain to the spiritual abode of Krsna. The complete details of this Ekadasi can be read in our book entitled, “Ekadasi, The Day of Lord Hari,” written by His Holiness Krsna Balaram Swami.


According to the scriptures, “On fast days one should avoid sea salt because Agastya muni once drank the ocean and passed it out as urine.”


Like padmini Ekadasi this Ekadasi also appears on the extra month of every leap year. fasting on this Ekadasi bestows the great benediction of an enjoyable life and ultimate liberation from birth and death, nullifies all kinds of sins and removes all miseries caused by poverty. The history of a brahmana Sumedha and his wife Pavitra is narrated by Lord Krsna to Yudhisthira.

(Source: Swami Krsna Balaram)

“Be Fiery In Your Determination” by Swami Sivananda

Be Fiery In Your DeterminationBe always cheerful and smile away your worries. Follow the correct principles of living. Be temperate in eating, drinking, sleeping, amusements and in all other things. Cultivate a very strong faith in God.
Silence the surging emotions and bubbling thoughts. Do not be carried away by the temptations of the world. Be careful. Be wise. Get away from the company of worldly-minded persons. Put your heart, mind, intellect and soul even in your smallest act. Always act with faith and determination. Be firm in your resolve and fiery in your determination.

Be Firm In Your Vows\

Do your duties properly. Be firm in your vows and true in speech. Possess good character. Be kind to all. Conquer wrath. Become master of self. Get rid of envy. You will soon attain God-realisation.

Take refuge in the Name of the Lord. Do not think very often of your defects and weaknesses. Aspire fervently. Grow in spirituality. You will attain Divinity.

Meditate on the glory and splendour of the Supreme Being who illumines everything, who is indivisible, the Existence-Knowledge-Bliss-Absolute. You will attain the Supreme.

Never Despair

You have got Svatantrya in action. You can do your Karma in any way you like. You can become a Yogi or Jnani by right thinking and right action. Man is not a helpless being. He has a free will of his own. Therefore overcome all your unfavourable circumstances. Have courage. Be bold. Never despair. You will succeed. There is nothing in the world which cannot be achieved by a man by the right sort of efforts.

Wake up now. Open your eyes. Become a virtuous man. Do good actions. Sing Hari’s name. Have constant Satsanga. All evil habits will be eradicated. Purify. Concentrate. Meditate. You will realise the goal.

As You Think, So You Become

“As a man thinketh, so he becometh” is one of the greatest laws of nature. Think you are pure, pure you will become. Think that you are a man, man you will become. Think you are Brahman, Brahman you will become.

(An excerpt from “Light, Power and Wisdom”: pgs 25-26)

Powers of Fasting

Fasting is a natural method of healing. When animals or savages are sick, they fast. The bodily machinery thus has an opportunity to cleanse itself and to obtain a much-needed rest. Most diseases can be cured by judicious fasting. Unless one has a weak heart, regular short fasts have been recommended by the yogis as an excellent health measure. Another good method of physical healing is through suitable herbs or herb extracts.

In using medicines, one often finds that they are not powerful enough to bring about a healing, or that they are so powerful that they irritate the bodily tissues instead of healing them. Similarly, exposure to certain types of “healing rays” will burn the tissues. There are so many limitations in physical methods of healing!

Better than medicines are the rays of the sun. In them is a wonderful healing power. One should take a ten-minute sunbath every day. Ten minutes a day is better than only occasional exposure for longer periods. A short sunbath daily, reinforced by good health habits, will keep the body supplied with sufficient life energy to destroy all harmful microbes.

Healthy persons possess a natural resistance to disease, and particularly to infections. Illness comes when the resisting power of the blood has been diminished by wrong eating or by overeating, or when overindulgence in sex has depleted the vital energy. To conserve the physical creative energy is to supply all the cells with vibrant life energy; the body then possesses a tremendous resistance to disease. Sexual overindulgence weakens the body and renders it vulnerable to illness.

(pgs. 86-89, Man’s Eternal Wisdom)

Skanda Sashti By Sri Swami Sivananda

PROSTRATIONS and humble salutations to Lord Subramanya, the Supreme Being, who is the ruler of this universe, who is the indweller of our hearts, who is the second son of Lord Siva, who is the beloved of Valli and Deivayanai, who bestows boons easily on His devotees, who is the embodiment of power, wisdom, love and bliss. The great demon, Tarakasura, was oppressing the celestial. He drove them out from heaven. All the gods then went to Brahma to appeal for help.

Brahma said to the gods, “O Devas, I cannot destroy Taraka, as he has obtained My Grace through severe penance. But let Me give you a suggestion. Get the help of Cupid, the God of Love. Induce him to tempt Lord Siva, who remains absorbed in His Yoga Samadhi. Let Lord Siva unite with Parvati. A powerful son, Lord Subramanya, will be born to them. This son will destroy the demon that harasses you.”

Indra, the chief of the gods, thereupon requested Cupid to go with his wife, Rati, and his companion Vasanta (the season of spring), to Mount Kailas, the abode of Siva. Cupid carried out the instruction at once, for it was already springtime. Standing behind a tree, Cupid shot his arrow of passion towards Siva, whilst Parvati was placing some flowers in His hands. The moment their hands met, Siva experienced a distracting feeling. He wondered what it was that disturbed His Yoga. He looked around and saw Cupid crouching behind the tree.

The Lord opened His “third eye”, the inner eye of intuition, and Cupid was burnt to ashes by the fire that emanated from it. That is why the God of Love is also called Ananga, which means “bodiless”.

After burning Cupid, the Lord ascertained by His Yogic vision that the birth of Lord Subramanya was absolutely necessary to destroy the powerful Taraka. Siva’s seed was thrown into the fire which, unable to retain it, threw it into the Ganges, which in turn threw it into a reed forest. This is where Lord Subramanya was born; hence, He is called Saravanabhava–“born in a reed-forest”. He became the leader of the celestial hosts and the destroyer of Taraka as Brahma had ordained.

Lord Subramanya is an incarnation of Lord Siva. All incarnations are manifestations of the one Supreme Lord. Lord Subramanya and Lord Krishna are one.

Lord Krishna says in the Gita: “Among the army generals, I am Skanda“.

The Lord manifests Himself from time to time in various names and forms, for the sake of establishing righteousness and subduing wickedness.

Lord Subramanya is a ray born of the Divine Consciousness of Lord Siva. Valli and Deivayanai are His two wives. They represent the power of action and the power of knowledge respectively. He is a Godhead easily accessible in this dark age of ignorance and lack of faith. In this He is no different from Hanuman. He gives material and spiritual prosperity and success in every undertaking of His devotees, even if they show a little devotion to Him. He is worshipped with great devotion in South India. Lord Subramanya’s other names are Kumaresa, Kartikeya, Shanmukha, Guha, Muruga and Velayudhan.

In His picture, Lord Subramanya holds a spear in His hand, just as Lord Siva holds the trident. This is an emblem of power. It indicates that He is the ruler of the universe. His vehicle is the peacock. He rides on it. This signifies that He has conquered pride, egoism and vanity. There is a cobra under His feet, which indicates that He is absolutely fearless, immortal and wise. Valli is on His one side, Deivayanai on the other. Sometimes He stands alone with His spear. In this pose He is known as Velayudhan; this is His Nirguna aspect, which is free from the illusory power of Maya.

The six heads represent the six rays or attributes, namely, wisdom, dispassion, strength, fame, wealth and divine powers. They indicate that He is the source of the four Vedas, the Vedangas and the six schools of philosophy. They also indicate His control over the five organs of knowledge as well as the mind. They denote that He is the Supreme Being with thousands of heads and hands. His head turned in all directions signifies that He is all-pervading. It indicates that He can multiply and assume forms at will.

Lord Subramanya’s temples can be seen in Udipi, in Tiruchendur, in the Palani Hills, in Ceylon, and in Tiruparankundrum. Lord Subramanya spent His days of childhood in Tiruchendur and attained Mahasamadhi at Kathirgamam. If you go to Kathirgamam with faith, devotion and piety, and stay in the temple there for two or three days, the Lord will grant you His vision. You will get rich spiritual experiences. A huge festival is held in the temple every year on Skanda Sashti. Thousands of people visit the place. Massive amounts of camphor are burnt on this occasion.

Skanda Sashti falls in November. It is the day on which Lord Subramanya defeated the demon Taraka. On this day elaborate festivals are held with great pomp and grandeur. Devotees organise Bhajan and Kirtan programs on a grand scale. Thousands are fed sumptuously. Many incurable diseases are cured if one visits Palani and worships Lord Subramanya there. In South India, the Lord’s Lilas are dramatized on the stage.

In addition to the Skanda Sashti, devotees of Lord Subramanya observe weekly and monthly days in His honour. Every Friday, or the Kartigai Nakshatram day every month, or the sixth day of the bright fortnight,–all these are sacred days for His devotees. The sixth day of the month of Tulam (October-November) is the most auspicious of them all. This is the Skanda Sashti day.

In many places the festival commences six days prior to the Sashti itself and concludes on the day of the Sashti. During these days, devotees recite various inspiring hymns and read stories connected with Lord Subramanya. They worship the Lord and take Kavadi. They go on pilgrimage to the various Subramanya shrines.

The Tirumurukatrupadai has been composed in His praise by the famous Nakkerar. He who studies this eminent work daily with devotion and faith, gets certain success in life as well as peace and prosperity. The Tiruppugal is another well-known book in Tamil, which contains the inspiring devotional songs of Arunagirinathar in praise of Lord Subramanya. The Kavadichindu songs are also in praise of the Lord. The Skanda Sashti Kavacham is another famous hymn in praise of Lord Subramanya and is sung particularly on festive occasions.

Perhaps the most potent propitiatory rite that a devotee of Shanmukha undertakes to perform is what is known as the Kavadi. The benefits that the devotee gains from offering a Kavadi to the Lord are a million-fold greater than the little pain that he inflicts upon himself.

Generally, people take a vow to offer the Lord a Kavadi for the sake of tiding over a great calamity. Though this might, on the face of it, appear a little mercenary, a moment’s reflection will reveal that it contains in it the seed of supreme love of God. The worldly object is achieved, no doubt, and the devotee takes the Kavadi; but after the ceremony he gets so God-intoxicated that his inner spiritual being gets awakened. This is also a method that ultimately leads to the supreme state of devotion.

The Kavadi has various shapes and sizes, from the simple shape of a hawker’s storehouse (a wooden stick with two baskets at each end, slung across the shoulder) to the costly palanquin structure, profusely flower-bedecked and decoratively interwoven with peacock feathers. In all cases the Kavadi has a good many brass bells adorning it and announcing it as the Kavadi-bearer draws it along. As the Kavadi-bearer very often observes silence, the bells are the only eloquent signs of a Kavadi procession.

The two baskets hanging at each end of the Kavadi contain rice, milk or other articles that the devotee has vowed to offer the Lord. The more devout among them, and especially those who do it as a Sadhana, collect these articles by begging. They travel on foot from village to village, and beg from door to door. The villagers offer their articles directly into the basket of the Kavadi. The Kavadi-bearer continues begging until the baskets are full or the avowed quantity is reached, and then offers the Kavadi to the Lord. Some keen devotees undertake to walk barefoot from home to one of the shrines of Lord Subramanya, bearing the Kavadi all the way and collecting materials for the offering. He has to walk a hundred miles sometimes! The people who place the articles in the baskets also receive the Lord’s blessings.

The Kavadi-bearer is required to observe various rules between the time he takes up the Kavadi, and the day of the offering. He has to perform elaborate ceremonies at the time of assuming the Kavadi, and at the time of offering it to the Lord. He also puts on the dress of a Pandaram, a Saivite mendicant. It consists of a saffron-coloured cloth, a conical scarlet cap, and a cane silver-capped at both ends. Lord Siva, the Supreme Pandaram Himself, loves to wear this dress. The Pandaram lives on alms only. The bare chest of the Kavadi-bearer is covered with several rudraksha malas.

The Kavadi-bearer observes strict celibacy. Only pure, Sattwic food is taken; he abstains from all sorts of intoxicating drinks and drugs. He thinks of God all the time. Many of the Kavadi-bearers, especially those who do it as a spiritual Sadhana, impose various forms of self-torture. Some pass a sharp little spear through their tongue, which is made to protrude out of the mouth. Others may pass a spear through the cheek. This sort of piercing is done in other parts of the body also. The bearer does not shave; he grows a beard. He eats only once a day. The spear pierced through his tongue or cheek reminds him of the Lord constantly. It also prevents him from speaking. It gives him great power of endurance.

The Kavadi-bearer enjoys a high state of religious fervour. He dances in ecstasy. His very appearance is awe-inspiring; there is divine radiance on his face. Devotees often experience the state of feeling union with the Lord. Sometimes the Deity enters them and possesses them for some time.

The Agni-Kavadi is the most difficult offering. With the Kavadi hanging on his shoulder, the devotee walks through a pit of burning coals. Hymns are sung in praise of the Lord by those assembled all around the pit. Drums are beaten and incense is burnt. The entire atmosphere is awe-inspiring. The true devotee enters into ecstasy and easily walks over the fire.

At the Sivananda Ashram in India, Skanda Sashti is observed for six days, preceding and including the Sashti day. Devotees of Lord Subramanya live on milk and fruit and do rigorous Sadhana. They get up at 4am during Brahmamuhurta and meditate on the Lord.

On each of the six days, all the participants do Japa of the Mantra, Om Saravanabhavaya Namah, as much as possible. They even greet one another with this Mantra.

Yogis and learned scholars deliver lectures on Subramanya Tattwa, or the divine sport of the Lord. During the evening Satsang, hymns in praise of Lord Subramanya are sung. Readings are taken from my book, Lord Shanmukha and His Worship. Devotees sing inspiring songs on the Lord.

An elaborate ceremonial worship is performed daily to the sacred image of Lord Subramanya. On the last day a grand havan is performed. The evening Satsang is devoted entirely to the adoration of Lord Subramanya.

Pray from the bottom of your heart: “O my Lord Subramanya, O all-merciful Lord, I have neither faith nor devotion. I do not know how to worship Thee in the proper manner, or to meditate on Thee. I am Thy child who has lost his way, forgotten the goal and Thy Name. Is it not Thy duty, O compassionate Father, to take me back? O Mother Valli, will you not introduce me to Thy Lord? Thy love for Thy children is deeper and truer than that of anyone else in this world. Though I have become

Thy worthless and undutiful child, O beloved Mother Valli, pardon me! Make me dutiful and faithful. I am Thine from this very second; always Thine. All is Thine. It is the Mother’s duty to correct, educate and mould Her reckless child when it strays aimlessly on the wrong path. Remove the gulf or the veil of delusion that separates me from Thee. Bless me. Enlighten me. Take me back to Thy holy feet. I have nothing more to say. This is my fervent prayer to Thee and Thy Lord, my beloved and ancient Parents.”

May Lord Subramanya shower His Grace upon you! May His blessings grant you peace, bliss and prosperity!

(pgs. 105-113, Hindu Fasts & Festivals)

Swami Sivananda Fasted, What About You?

Swami Chidananda, “Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji fasted on ekadasi all his life until the year 1960. It was only in the year 1960 that a very eminent physician from New Delhi, who was also the personal physician of the President of India, insisted that Gurudev stop this habit of fasting because of his diabetes. So up until the last few years of his life, Gurudev maintained this discipline. When such great souls, for some reason known to themselves, adhere to such disciplines, it is an indication, a pointer to us. We should emulate them and try to learn from them how very necessary it is for us to be serious, to be earnest and to be practical in our spiritual life.

“On this auspicious day, may the grace of the Divine and the choicest benedictions and blessings of beloved and worshipful Holy Master enable us to understand the essence of spiritual life and grant us the inner spiritual power to forge ahead towards the Goal Supreme. May we be blessed with all success in this great life of ascending from unrealities into the Reality, from darkness into Light, from death and mortality into immortality and everlasting life! God bless you all!”

(Special Insight into Sadhana, No.1)

"How to Spend Your Holidays" by Swami Sivananda

1. In the whirlpool of fleeting sensual pleasures you have forgotten the purpose of life and goal. You live more for the body than for the soul. In your pursuit after the phantom shows of worldly vanities, you have annihilated the spiritual instincts and longings of the soul. What a sad state! Mysterious is Maya! Mysterious is Moha! Open your eyes now. Wake up from the long slumber of ignorance. Realise the ultimate Reality and enjoy eternal bliss.

2. Spiritual wealth is the real inexhaustible wealth. Spiritual knowledge is the real knowledge. Spiritual life is the real life. Aspire. Know the Self and be free. Regain the Divine Glory. Meditate and realise the Immortal Atman the Indweller of your heart, the Inner Ruler, the self-existent, self-contained, self-luminous imperishable Soul.

3. Raja Janaka realised his Self within the twinkling of an eye. Raja Khatwanga attained Self-realisation within a Muhurta or forty-eight minutes. Raja Parikshit achieved the final beatitude of life within a week. You can also have Self-realisation within a week if you thirst for God and if you apply yourself diligently to spiritual Sadhana in right earnest with the right attitude of mind.

4. Holidays are not meant for playing cards, idle gossiping, feasting, sight-seeing or aimless wandering. It is very difficult to get a human birth. The aim of life is to attain God-consciousness. Holidays must be well spent. Every second must be utilised in worship and meditation. Delay in Self-realisation is practical death. You have wasted already your life till now. Will you waste the remaining portion of your life also? Will you waste your holidays also? Now wake up. Gird up the loins. Whenever you get holidays start your Sadhana with zeal and enthusiasm and march direct to the goal.

5. Here is a daily routine for you. Follow this tenaciously with faith and earnestness. You can select a quiet solitary room for you in your own house. If you can conveniently manage, you can do your Anushthana either in Rishikesh, Prayag, Benares or Nasik or you can select any convenient place on the banks of Ganga, Yamuna, Narmada or Kaveri. You will have pure spiritual vibrations in these places. These vibrations will help a lot in your spiritual practices. 

 The mind will enter into the meditative mood without any effort. You can put a small grass hut here. Live on milk and fruits. If you find it difficult to live on the regimen, you can take a little rice, vegetables, Dhal and bread. Live alone. Observe complete silence for a week. Shut yourself in the room. Plunge yourself in Japa and meditation. You can do Japa of either Om, Om Namah Sivaya, Om Namo Narayanaya, Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya, Hari Om, Sri Ram, Gayatri, according to your taste or temperament or repeat your Guru Mantra. Have sleep for three to four hours. You must get up at 3 or 4 a.m.

6. If you are not able to spend the whole time in Japa and meditation, you can combine Kirtan and study of religious books such as the Gita, the Ramayana, the Bhagavata, the Upanishads, etc. Whenever the mind gets tired take to Kirtan for one or two hours. Then study religious books. Then write your Ishta Mantra in a notebook for one hour. This will be a sort of relaxation for the mind. Again sit for meditation. Then again have Kirtan, study of books and Mantra-writing. Rotate in this manner. Have as many sittings as you can. You will have good spiritual experiences.

7. Wake up from your long sleep of ignorance. Get knowledge of the Self. O wanderer in the quagmire of Samsara! Go back to your original abode of eternal peace the fountain of infinite Joy and power, the spring of boundless ecstasy, the source of life, the origin of light and love, the immortal blissful Brahmic seat of illimitable splendour and pristine glory. Fill the mind with thoughts of Self. Saturate your feelings with purity and divinity. Let the Light of lights shine in every hair on your body. Let the infinite Godhead vibrate in every cell of your body. Let every breath sing the song of infinity and eternity with Soham or Shyam or Ram!

8. On some holidays you can arrange for a Sankirtan Sammelan or Religious Conference. You can invite great men, Sadhus and Sannyasins for Kirtan and lectures. On such occasions feed the poor, Sadhus, Sannyasins, Mahatmas, Brahmins and students. Publish some leaflets and pamphlets on Bhakti, Yoga and Vedanta for free distribution. Thousands of people will take part and get spiritual benefits. This is a wonderful way of spending the holidays by which the whole city will be spiritually benefited. 
(An excerpt from “Easy Steps to Yoga: Chapter 1, Section 5”)

"Eleventh Spiritual Instruction" by Swami Chidananda

Fast on Ekadasi
Fast on Ekadasi or live on milk and fruits only.

Fast two days in a month or live on milk and fruits only. That of course is incumbent upon all sadhakas, fasting on Ekadasi. Some fast every Monday or every Thursday or every Friday or every Sunday.
Gurudev says in His book Hindu Fasts & Festivals, that in this Kali Yuga, even if just one Ekadasi is observed with dispassion, faith and devotion, and if the mind is wholly fixed on Hari, one is freed from the rounds of birth and death. There is no doubt about this. The scriptures give us their assurance on this point.

Devotees fast on this day, observe vigil the whole night and do japa, Hari kirtan and meditation. Some do not take even a drop of water. Those who are unable to fast completely can take some light fruit and milk.

No rice should be taken on Ekadasi days. This is very important. The sweat that fell from the head of Brahma assumed the form of a demon and said to the Lord, “O Lord now give me an abode to dwell.”
Brahma replied: “O demon! Go and dwell in the rice particles eaten by men on Ekadasi day and become worms in their stomach.”

For this reason rice is prohibited on Ekadasi. If one observes the Ekadasi fast regularly, Lord Hari is propitiated. All sins are destroyed. The mind is purified. Devotion gradually develops.

Love for God becomes intense. Orthodox people in South India observe complete fasting and vigil even on ordinary Ekadasi days. For the devotees of Lord Vishnu, every Ekadasi is very sacred day.

[TWENTY IMPORTANT SPIRITUAL INSTRUCTIONS, A Series of talks on Swami Sivananda’s Twenty Important Spiritual Instructions.]