The Kantha Sashti Fast
The 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 beSahasranaama 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.