Part 3 – Observing the Kantha Sashti Fast
The Kantha Sashti fast is observed for six days in the month of Aippasi, beginning from the day after the new moon. The first day after the new moon is known as Pirathamai.
a. Those who observe the Kantha Sashti Fast should be vegetarian and take only one meal on the eve of the first day of the fast. At night they can take milk or fruits.
b. Those who observe the fast should rise early in the morning on the first day of the fast, have their bath, pray to God and make their sankalpam. When a person makes a decision that he/she is going to observe the fast in a particular manner, it is known as Sankalpam. The decision applies to the three faculties, namely, thought, speech and action. Sankalpam can be made on an individual basis, or in a group. To perform the sankalpam in a group, usually devotees gather in the temple and do it under the guidance of the priest.
Note: Sankalpam consists of wearing the ‘tharppai’ ring on the finger, doing the piranaayaamam (inhaling and exhaling air in a systematic manner), knocking the forehead with the knuckles as a gesture of worshipping Pillaiyaar and uttering the sankalpam statements. These are done to direct the devotees along the proper manner of fasting.
c. During the six days of the Kantha Sashti, those who fast should arise from bed early in the morning, have their bath and offer special prayers to Lord Muruhan. It is ideal to pray to Muruhan six times a day. It is difficult for devotees to prepare the kumbam at home and invoke Lord Muruhan therein. Therefore, it is better for the devotees to go to a temple and worship Muruhan all the six days. Apart from going to temple and praying to Muruhan, devotees should read or listen to the Kantha Puraanam, sing or listen to the Kantha Sashti Kavasam, Kantha Guru Kavasam, etc., and keep on chanting His name.
d. During the six days of the fast, devotees are to take a little bit of milk, fruit, young coconut water or a few seeds of black pepper (milahu) every night, after the prayers. Devotees are to choose any one of the above that is suitable for them, and in the morning of the seventh day they are to break their fast along with other devotees. This is known as ‘paaranai’.
Note: On the sixth night, devotees should take something that is different from what they have been taking during the previous five nights. For instance, if one has been taking milk for the first five nights, he/she may take young coconut water for the sixth night. One who has been taking young coconut water for the first five nights, may take milk or pepper on the sixth night. This is supposed to be the indication that one is completing his/her fast. Nevertheless, one is not supposed to take anything else during the night, before taking his/her meal in the morning of the seventh day.
In the morning of the seventh day there will be Sahasranaama Archanai for Lord Aarumuhar, after the morning poojaa. It is good for the devotees who fast to participate in the Sahasranaama Archanai. It is preferable for the devotees to have their meal after the Sahasranaama Archanai.
e. Devotees are not supposed to sleep during the daytime for the six days. Our Saivite elders would not sleep during the sixth night, too. In particular, those who have been wearing the ‘tharppai’ ring during the Soora Samhaaram, would keep awake throughout the sixth night. Moreover, after having taken the meal in the morning of the seventh day, it is ideal to keep awake until the nightfall. It is also habitual for our Saivite elders to bathe after the Sooran Poar, especially if they had been wearing the tharppai ring during the occasion.
f. The Kantha Sashti fast ought to be observed for six years,continuously. If one wants to stop observing the fast after 6 years, he/she should inform the chief priest in advance,and do the ‘poorthi poojaa’ according to his guidance. After the Soora Samhaaram, there will be abishegam and Shanmugaarchanai for Lord Aarumuhar. After this, once the evening poojaa is completed, kumbams will be set up on behalf of the corresponding devotees and special prayers will be conducted. It is ideal for devotees to bathe using the kumbam water.
The fast described above is the ideal one. Those who are not able to fast in such a strict manner still may fast, by taking one meal a day, for the first five days and fast on the sixth day. Those who are not able to fast should constantly keep their thoughts focused on Lord of Muruhan.
Part 4 – Soora Samhaaram at Sri Kandaswamy Temple
Soorapanman, his two brothers (Singgamuhaasuran and Thaaraahaasuran) along with more than 200,000 siblings and their armies were subdued by Lord Muruhan. The highlights of this battle have been enacted at Sri Kandaswamy Temple in the evening of the sixth day of the Kantha Sashti Festival for many, many years.
Let us look at the scenes enacted at Sri Kandaswamy Temple:
*On the eve of the day of Sooran Poar, Soorapanman surveys the battle-field and its vicinity.
* On the day of Sooran Poar, Lord Kanthan arrives in His chariot in preparation for the battle, initially.
* Lord Kanthan’s younger brother – cum – Commander-in Chief, Veeravaahu dhaevar, and Soorapanman take turns to survey the battle-field.
* Thaarahaasuran, the elephant-faced ‘asuran’, comes first to fight the Lord; his head is cut off by Lord Muruhan’s Vel.
(Devotees can see Veeravaahu dhaevar coming in front of Lord Muruhan and exhibiting his joy whenever Lord Muruhan defeats Thaarahaasuran, Singgamuhaasuran and Soorapanman).
* Singgamuhaasuran, the lion-faced ‘asuran’ comes next and is killed by Lord Muruhan.
* i. Finally, Soorapanman comes. He had been blessed with immense power because of his austere fast and worship.Therefore, due to his austere penance and the help of his mother, Maayaa, he tries to confuse the Lord Himself by using his magical power.
In order to show such efforts of Sooran, he is brought with light at one time, and with himself covered by a black cloth at another time.
Sooran comes in his original form and fights with Lord Muruhan. As he is defeated by Lord Muruhan, Sooran uses his magical powers to fight Lord Muruhan. At one time he would make the entire vicinity glaring; this is indicated by bringing him with light. At another time he would make the entire vicinity pitch dark; this is depicted when he is brought, fully-covered by a black cloth. All his tricks are subdued by Lord Muruhan’s ‘Nyaana Vel’.
ii. Soorapanman comes again in his original form. Since he is not able to win over the Lord, he becomes a mango tree and hides deep under the sea. When Lord Muruhan’s ‘Nyaana Vel’ splits the tree into two halves, one half becomes a peacock and the other a rooster and they get the divine fortune of permanently being with Lord thereafter, in accordance with Soorapanman’s prior request to the Lord.
These are the events of Soora Samhaaram that are enacted at Sri Kandaswamy Temple.
We leave you now with a short video from our 2013 Soora Samhaaram reenactment. Enjoy!