Archive for the ‘Fasts’ Category

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.



Most people are aware of only the Ganesh or Vinayaka Chaturti that comes in the months of  August-September. Quite like other vratas like Ekadasi, Kartigai, Pradosham, etc., Chathurti comes twice in a month: they are known as Sankashti (aka Sankatahara) and Vinayaki Chathurthis. The fourth day after new moon and full moon, Chaturthi is observed. It is a day dedicated to Lord Ganesha.

The monthly Chaturti day that comes after full moon (or what is known as “thei-pirai” or “Krishna Paksha” Chaturti) is called Sankashti (aka Sankatahara) Chaturthi. The Chaturthi that comes after new moon (or “valalar pirai” or “sukla paksha”) is known as Vinayaki Chaturthi. Ganesha Bhaktas observe a fast on these days: it begins at Brahmamuhurta and ends after moonrise.

The scriptures say that those who fast on these days gain material progress, happiness and fulfillment of desires. It also helps to overcome problems and tribulations in life. People who are suffering from troubles caused by the bad effects of Mars and Moon would find relief from these.  In one of the Puranas Lord Krishna explains to Yudhishtira, the eldest of the Pandavas the importance of this vrata. It is also similarly extolled in Narasimha Purana and Bhavishaya Purana.


Swami Sivananda explains the significance of Kartigai vrata in His “Shanmukha and His Worship(pg. 8): “……there are some Vratas, or observances. There was once a king, Muchukunda by name. He was a staunch Saivite. He approached Sage Vasishtha to advise him on the importance and methods of observing some Vrata by which he could gain personal success, peace and prosperity. Vasishtha indicated the Vratas of Lord Skanda and detailed their significances.

“One of them is the Vrata observed on every Friday. By observing this Vrata of Friday for three years, Bhagiratha overcame his enemy Gora. On Friday, after a clean bath, one should do Puja and Archana for the Lord with extreme devotion. He who does this is bound to achieve success in all his undertakings.

“Another Vrata is the Karttikai Vrata. On every Karttikai (3rd constellation of the 27 stars) day, this Vrata is to be observed with faith and devotion, and with external purification by a bath, before the Puja, etc. This Vrata was observed by Narada Rishi as per the advice of Lord Ganesa. After a period of 12 years, Narada gained his ambition, viz., the supreme position among the great Sapta Rishis.”

Guruvaaram (aka Guruvara)

Guruvarvar meaning “day” and Guru refers either to Brihaspathi, the guru to the gods (devas) or to the planet Jupiter. Generally, the day is regarded very auspicious for the worship of one’s Diksha Guru.

According to Hindu traditions, Thursdays are regarded as auspicious to start any educational endeavours. It is on Thursdays that special worship services are offered to Dakshinamurthy in many Saivite temples. Some temple traditions hold full moon nights, particularly the night of the Guru Poornima as the appropriate time for worship services to Dakshinamurthy.

Swami Sivananda says, “Thursday or Guruvara is the sacred day for a disciple to worship his Guru.” (pg. 67, Guru Bhakti Yoga).

Swami Sivananda and Paramahansa Yogananda have said that one should observe fast once a week. This is over and above the monthly fast, e.g., Ekadasi, etc. Thursday is a good day to fast. .

Incidentally, the followers of Judaism and Islam consider Thursday an auspicious day to fast.