Shashthi also referred to as Chhath is the sixth day or tithi of a Paksha or fourteen-day phase of the moon. The word comes from the Sanskrit cardinal sas (six), whence the ordinal number (linguistics) sastha, fem. sasthī (days of the paksha are feminine gender). The sixth tithi, especially in the waxing period (shuklapaksha), is important in several rituals including:
  • Durga Puja (September–October, east India, Bengal)
  • Sitalsasthi (May–June, Orissa, neighbouring regions)
  • Skanda Shashti or Subramanya Shashti (November–December, south India, Tamil Nadu)
  • Chhath, a major sun-worshiping day of Hindus is celebrated on sixth day Shukla Paksha of Kartika.
Skanda Shasti Vratham The Skanda Shasti or Kanda Shasthi Vratham is an important observance. It is especially for Lord Muruga. The festival is observed in Aippasi. Devotees fast during these six days. Although the festival is dedicated to Lord Murugan, Shukla Paksha Sashti in the lunar month of Kartika is the more significant one of the two. Devotees fast for six days. This lasts on the Soorasamharam day. The day after Soorasamharam is Tiru Kalyanam. The day after Soorasamharam is known as Subramanya Shashti, or Kukke Subramanya Sashti. It falls during lunar month Margashirsha.

Rituals during Shasti

Fasting is the most important ritual of the day. On Shasti, devotees keep a partial or full fasting to appease Lord Murugan. The Shasti vrat begins at the time of sunrise and comes to an end on the following day after offering prayers to the Sun God.

Those who keep strict vrat do not eat food for complete 24 hours of fasting. Partial fasting can be done by eating fruits. People who have health problems can even keep Shasti fasting by eating s single meal during the day.

The observer of the Shasti vrat is restricted from eating certain spices on the day. Eating non-vegetarian food and consumption of alcohol is strictly prohibited.

On Shasti, Murugan devotees also read ‘Skanda Purana’ and recite the ‘Skanda Shasti Kavacham’. On this day it is considered very auspicious to visit the temples of Lord Murugan in the evening.

On this day, Abhishekam is performed for Lord Muruga (Karthikeya / Subhramanya)

PROSTRATIONS and humble salutations to Lord Subramanya, the Supreme Being, who is theruler of this universe, who is the indweller of our hearts, who is the second son of LordSiva, who is the beloved of Valli and Deivayanai, who bestows boons easily on Hisdevotees, who is the embodiment of power, wisdom, love and bliss.

The great demon, Tarakasura, was oppressing the celestials. He drove them out fromheaven. 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 MyGrace through severe penance. But let Me give you a suggestion. Get the help of Cupid, theGod of Love. Induce him to tempt Lord Siva, who remains absorbed in His Yoga Samadhi. LetLord Siva unite with Parvati. A powerful son, Lord Subramanya, will be born to them. Thisson will destroy the demon that harasses you."

Indra, the chief of the gods, thereupon requested Cupid to go with his wife, Rati, andhis companion Vasanta (the season of spring), to Mount Kailas, the abode of Siva. Cupidcarried out the instruction at once, for it was already springtime. Standing behind atree, Cupid shot his arrow of passion towards Siva, whilst Parvati was placing someflowers 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 crouchingbehind the tree.

The Lord opened His "third eye", the inner eye of intuition, and Cupidwas burnt to ashes by the fire that emanated from it. That is why the God of Love is alsocalled Ananga, which means "bodiless".

After burning Cupid, the Lord ascertained by His Yogic vision that the birth of LordSubramanya was absolutely necessary to destroy the powerful Taraka. Siva's seed was throwninto the fire which, unable to retain it, threw it into the Ganges, which in turn threw itinto a reed forest. This is where Lord Subramanya was born; hence, He is calledSaravanabhava--"born in a reed-forest". He became the leader of the celestialhosts and the destroyer of Taraka as Brahma had ordained.

Lord Subramanya is an incarnation of Lord Siva. All incarnations are manifestations ofthe 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 sakeof establishing righteousness and subduing wickedness.

Lord Subramanya is a ray born of the Divine Consciousness of Lord Siva. Valli andDeivayanai are His two wives. They represent the power of action and the power ofknowledge respectively. He is a Godhead easily accessible in this dark age of ignoranceand lack of faith. In this He is no different from Hanuman. He gives material andspiritual prosperity and success in every undertaking of His devotees, even if they show alittle devotion to Him. He is worshipped with great devotion in South India. LordSubramanya'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 thetrident. 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 absolutelyfearless, immortal and wise. Valli is on His one side, Deivayanai on the other. SometimesHe stands alone with His spear. In this pose He is known as Velayudhan; this is HisNirguna 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 controlover the five organs of knowledge as well as the mind. They denote that He is the SupremeBeing with thousands of heads and hands. His head turned in all directions signifies thatHe 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, inCeylon, and in Tiruparankundrum. Lord Subramanya spent His days of childhood inTiruchendur 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 willgrant you His vision. You will get rich spiritual experiences. A huge festival is held inthe temple every year on Skanda Sashti. Thousands of people visit the place. Massiveamounts of camphor are burnt on this occasion.

Skanda Sashti falls in November. It is the day on which Lord Subramanya defeated thedemon 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 fedsumptuously. Many incurable diseases are cured if one visits Palani and worships LordSubramanya 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 andmonthly days in His honour. Every Friday, or the Kartigai Nakshatram day every month, orthe sixth day of the bright fortnight,--all these are sacred days for His devotees. Thesixth 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 concludeson the day of the Sashti. During these days, devotees recite various inspiring hymns andread stories connected with Lord Subramanya. They worship the Lord and take Kavadi. Theygo 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 inlife as well as peace and prosperity. The Tiruppugal is another well-known book inTamil, which contains the inspiring devotional songs of Arunagirinathar in praise of LordSubramanya. The Kavadichindu songs are also in praise of the Lord. The SkandaSashti Kavacham is another famous hymn in praise of Lord Subramanya and is sungparticularly on festive occasions.

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

Generally, people take a vow to offer the Lord a Kavadi for the sake of tiding over agreat calamity. Though this might, on the face of it, appear a little mercenary, amoment'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 theceremony he gets so God-intoxicated that his inner spiritual being gets awakened. This isalso 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 costlypalanquin structure, profusely flower-bedecked and decoratively interwoven with peacockfeathers. In all cases the Kavadi has a good many brass bells adorning it and announcingit 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 articlesthat the devotee has vowed to offer the Lord. The more devout among them, and especiallythose who do it as a Sadhana, collect these articles by begging. They travel on foot fromvillage to village, and beg from door to door. The villagers offer their articles directlyinto the basket of the Kavadi. The Kavadi-bearer continues begging until the baskets arefull or the avowed quantity is reached, and then offers the Kavadi to the Lord. Some keendevotees 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 ahundred miles sometimes! The people who place the articles in the baskets also receive theLord's blessings.

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

The Kavadi-bearer observes strict celibacy. Only pure, Sattwic food is taken; heabstains 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, imposevarious forms of self-torture. Some pass a sharp little spear through their tongue, whichis made to protrude out of the mouth. Others may pass a spear through the cheek. This sortof piercing is done in other parts of the body also. The bearer does not shave; he grows abeard. He eats only once a day. The spear pierced through his tongue or cheek reminds himof the Lord constantly. It also prevents him from speaking. It gives him great power ofendurance.

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

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

At the Sivananda Ashram in India, Skanda Sashti is observed for six days, preceding andincluding the Sashti day. Devotees of Lord Subramanya live on milk and fruit and dorigorous 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, OmSaravanabhavaya Namah, as much as possible. They even greet one another with thisMantra.

Yogis and learned scholars deliver lectures on Subramanya Tattwa, or the divine sportof 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 singinspiring songs on the Lord.

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

Pray from the bottom of your heart: "O my Lord Subramanya, O all-merciful Lord, Ihave 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 ThyName. Is it not Thy duty, O compassionate Father, to take me back? O Mother Valli, willyou not introduce me to Thy Lord? Thy love for Thy children is deeper and truer than thatof anyone else in this world. Though I have become Thy worthless and undutiful child, Obeloved Mother Valli, pardon me! Make me dutiful and faithful. I am Thine from this verysecond; always Thine. All is Thine. It is the Mother's duty to correct, educate and mouldHer reckless child when it strays aimlessly on the wrong path. Remove the gulf or the veilof delusion that separates me from Thee. Bless me. Enlighten me. Take me back to Thy holyfeet. I have nothing more to say. This is my fervent prayer to Thee and Thy Lord, mybeloved and ancient Parents."

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

In the history of language and literature, the most outstanding works are the Epics ofthe various nations. The superb literary productions of Greece are the writings ofHomer,--the Illiad and the Odyssey. In Italy, similar Epics were produced byDante and Virgil,--Dante's "Divine Comedy" and Virgil's "Aeneid". InEnglish literature, the best Epic examples are Milton's poems and Shakespeare's plays. InIndia, we have the Itihasas and also the Puranas. Here, in this type ofpoetry and expression, the soul rises to the maximum of its virility and portrays in themost majestic manner the picture of creation. The intention of these poets, whether of theWest or of the East, is to describe in soulful language and in picturesque style, theprocesses of creation, the comedy and the tragedy of evolution and involution, the storyof the life of man which is painted sometimes with the optimistic colours of comedy andsometimes with the pessimistic ones of tragedy. Life is both, and it can be pictured fromtwo different angles of vision. The central motif of all the Epics of the world hingesupon a conflict which gets resolved in the end. Somehow, the feature of a clash betweenforces seems to have caught the vision of the poets and the adepts as the pivotal point oftheir observations. When a careful attention is paid to the processes of nature and thehistory of human life, one observes that nature outwardly and man inwardly have toconfront situations which can be best described as a series of conflicts. Every day is aconflict before us, an opposition, a confrontation and a question which demands an answer.Our struggles throughout the days and the nights of our life are our attempts to answerthe question of life which is the great enigma or mystery. Life poses a problem which manhas not succeeded in solving with all his intellectual endowments. The deeper vision oflife, which you may call philosophical or mystical, spiritual or religious, has revealedthe basic or the foundational features of creation as a movement towards and a movementaway from a Centre. This seems to be the secret behind and an answer to all the questionsof life. There is a Centre somewhere towards which everything seems to be gravitating andwhich at the same time seems to be repelling everything. This simultaneous feeling of thepull and the repulsion is the conflict. This is at the basis of all problems.

The Epic language describes this dual warfare of the pull and the repulsion as thebattle between the divine and the undivine powers. The divine forces are those factors,impulses and aspirations which urge everything towards the Centre, and the undivine onesare the opposite ones which compel everything to be driven away from the Centre. There isthis double urge in man, in everything and in all Nature, nay in the whole of creation.Everything seems to be moving in two directions at the same time, an impossibility tounderstand and explain. How can one thing move in two directions at the same time! Thisexactly is the mystery of life. We are 'impulsive' towards two different directions.'Impulsive' is the only word, because it is an irresistible urge or desire that we feelwithin ourselves, to do two things at the same time. Nothing can be worse than thissituation, because it is an impulsion towards an impossibility. No one can do two contrarythings at the same time and one cannot have a conflicting desire operating at the sametime in one's own mind. But this is what is happening. If this did not happen, we wouldnot have been what we are today. Man exists because of the existence of this conflict inhis own mind pulling him in two different ways--one urge moving in one direction andanother in another direction. So man is divine and also undivine at the same time. We havea divine aspiration beckoning us towards the Centre, though it is invisible to our eyes.There is also in us an equally powerful urge, perhaps, which drives us outward towards theobjects of senses, in the direction of the activities of life, forcing us to entangleourselves in the social norms and the calls of life. Which is unimportant--the calls oflife, or the aspirations which we regard as religious and uplifting? Actually, it is theexpression of a single impulse in two different directions. This is a cosmical impulse andalso a psychological one. The whole Nature feels this impulse, the whole universe isfilled with it and each one of us is also full with it.

The Epics and the Puranas, the great heroic poems, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata andthe Puranas, or for that matter, Milton's 'Paradise Lost' and 'Paradise Regained',whatever be the name that you give to these Epic approaches, all these are enrapturing,poetic exclamations of moments of rapture, when there was a flash of insight from thebottom of the soul of the poet concerned. These are the poems which we call the Epics, andthis is why we are moved when we read them. Our hairs stand on end, our emotions begin tobe in a state of turmoil and we begin to tremble and shake, and we are forced to assumethe role of the personalities portrayed in the Epics. We begin to move with thosespecimens of individuality which the Epic poems describe. That is the power of the poet.The greater is the force of poetry, the more also we feel impelled to move with theindividualities described therein, and we become those individuals for the time being. Welaugh and weep, we feel happy and we are sunk in grief, as we move with the heroes and theheroines of these majestic Epics.

We have in India two great Epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, andalso eighteen Puranas, each one touching upon one aspect of this universal activity goingon in the form of evolution and involution, the warfare between the divine and theundivine forces. There is a perpetual conflict between god and devil, as the theologianssometimes tell us. The ruling divinity of the universe and the forces of darkness fightwith each other. A noble and sublime instance of this Epic event that is supposed to havetaken place aeons back in the history of the cosmos, is the Skanda Shashthi Festival,which is observed for six days and which concludes and consummates on the sixth day,dedicated to Lord Skanda. The great hero of this cosmic drama which is described in the SkandaPurana, and in certain other scriptures like the Mahabharata, is Skanda, the greatWar-God of India. Oftentimes, westerners compare Him with Mars, the Generalissimo of thecelestials, the angels in heaven. In the Bhagavadgita, Lord Krishna, the spokesman of thegreat poem, identifies Himself with Skanda among the generals--"Senaninam-ahamSkandah."

The religious history of this event commences with a magnificent portrayal of the greatGod Siva absorbed in meditation and deeply immersed in Samadhi, oblivious of what we maycall darkness, evil or the centrifugal forces. God's absorption in Himself in the 'I amthat I am' is the total cosmic opposition to the multifarious dark activities of the urgesin the direction of the senses whose leader is the ego and whose colleagues are desire andanger. The greatest forms which this impulse of externality can take in us are thesethree. The ego is the centrality of the urge, the central dynamo, as it were, which pumpsthe energy necessary for the movement of this impulse outwardly. And, desire and anger arelike the two arms of this adamantine centrality of individuals. So, in a way, we may saythat there are only two forces, and we may not be wrong when sometimes we say that thereare three forces. We have the Supreme Creator and the Satan in the 'Paradise Lost' ofMilton. We have the description of the Inferno, the Purgetorio and the Paradiso in thecomedy of Dante. We have Ravana and Kumbhakarna in the Ramayana, Duryodhana and Duhsasanain the Mahabharata. Mostly they are forms of a dual force, like Sumbha and Nisumbha in theDevi-Mahatmya, and Sunda and Upasunda in the Mahabharata. They are invincible for allpractical purposes.

There cannot be so forceful an energy as desire, anywhere. Desire is the greatest powerin the world. Of all the powers, the desire is the strongest, because nothing can movewithout desire. Hence desire should be regarded as the impulse for any kind of movement,in any direction. The nature of desire is so complex that in a poem called the KamaGita, in the Mahabharata, we are told that desire laughs at people who are trying toconquer it. Because, the attempt to conquer desire itself is a desire. This is the reasonwhy it laughs. Sri Krishna sings this Kama Gita to illustrate the difficulty of conqueringdesire of any kind, unless proper means are employed.

Gods were startled, and they were in a state of consternation when the demoniacalforces attacked them. The gods too had their own strength, no doubt. Virtue is supposed tohave power to overcome vice. But often we feel that the virtues of the world are incapableof confronting the vices of the nature. It is not enough if we are virtuous. The vices aretoo strong for us. We have seen with our own eyes human history, these days. Virtue doesnot seem to succeed. The gods were virtuous and the demons were vicious. But, the godscould not face them, just as the virtuous ones in this world are unable to defeat thevicious. The virtuous people are suffering and the evil ones are thriving.

What is this mystery? The mystery is not known to many. The truth is that while virtueis generally understood as the opposite of vice, we forget the fact that it is also thecounter-correlative of vice. So, it has not got the strength to confront the vice. Vice orevil can be overcome by a power which is transcendent and not merely ethical and moral.The evils of the world are not afraid of mere morality and ethics. Mere goodness will notdo. There should be Divinity in our personality, and Divinity is far superior to meregoodness in the form of an ethical behaviour and a moral conduct. Divinity is anintegrating force, while virtue is only a counter-correlative of vice. There cannot bevirtue unless there is vice. Because, if there is no evil at all, there cannot be any suchthing called goodness. But Divinity is a different thing altogether because it transcends boththe good and the evil.

So, when the forces of darkness began to assault the angels, the Purana tells us that the forces were threefold. They are named, in the SkandaPurana, as Surapadma, Simhamukha and Taraka; and in the Mahabharata as Duryodhana, Kamaand Duhsasana. No one, however virtuous and good he may be, could stand these forces.These demoniacal forces were too much for all the angels put together. The Gods weretrembling in fear, just as virtuous men in this world tremble in the presence of the evildacoits and the unscrupulous thugs, who attack people inwardly as well as outwardly.Virtue seems to have no place in this world. Angels were driven out, the Gods ran awayfrom the heaven and evil reigned supreme. What is the solution? Not mere goodness, notmere virtue, not a little charity, not a little sweet speech,--none of these can standtheir onslaught. These things will not cut ice in this evil world. Angels are good enough and they are far superior to humans in virtue, ingoodness, in knowledge and in everything conceivable. But they could not stand thisvicious force. They had to invoke God Himself. And I may tell you that the solution forall the evils of the world today is God only and not anything that man can do. Not I, notyou, not anyone can solve the mystery of the evils of the world. Unless God is invoked,there is no hope. Lord Siva, the great Master of Yoga who was immersed in Samadhi, theabysmal universality of experience, was the only succour and the source of hope to theGods and angels, in the war depicted in the Skanda Purana. When this triple force,Surapadma, Simhamukha and Tarakasura, attacked the celestials from all sides, they did notknow whom to appeal for help. They ran to Brahma, the Creator. He said: "There isonly one solution which is difficult to conceive, but there is no other alternative. Theforce, the energy, the militant expression of Lord Siva is the only answer to this problemof yours." When God becomes militant, nobody can stand before Him. When the lionstands up, you know that there can be none who can face it. God always keeps quiet. He isalways in a state of Samadhi, as it were. He gives a long rope to everyone and neverinterferes with anybody's affairs. You may do anything that you like, you can hangyourself if you like and God is not bothered about it. But, when things become too bad andintolerable, when the whole world begins to cry, these great incarnations take place, Ifyou or I cry individually in a corner, that may not be sufficient to bring down theincarnations. God tolerates when one man cries or two people cry, because many others arehappy. But when everyone starts crying, He cannot bear it anymore. This was the conditionbefore the birth of Skanda. The whole world was in a state of travail, turmoil andagitation. The birth of the War-God, Kumarasambhava as Kalidasa puts it, is thestory behind this religious festival called Skanda Shashthi.

Without going into the details of the whole story here, I would like to pin-point onlythe significance of the occasion, viz., the impossibility to confront evil without thehelp of God, the power of Divinity. No one can face the world except with the help of God.Armaments, military and police are nothing before the evil of the world. No one canovercome it and it shall continue. So, the Skanda Purana says that the War-God was bornfrom the universal contemplation of the great Creator Himself. The Samadhi-Bhuta Sakti orthe energy born out of the great Samadhi of Lord Siva, whom we call Skanda, is theanswer for all the evils of the world. The force of cosmic desire became a cumulativefocussing weapon, as it were, and with a sixfold face the divine energy began to confrontthe multifaceted dark forces. We have a sixfold psyche within us. The central, pivotalfeature of it is the ego as I called it, or you can say the mind, which expresses itselfas the five senses. The five senses energised by the mind drive us outward in thedirection of the objects of the world. You would have heard it said that the occasion forthe birth of Skanda or the War-God was the stimulation by the god of Love, who darted hisweapons towards the great Siva, who was then in a state of deep absorption, in Samadhi.These mysteries are difficult to understand. Ordinary minds are not made in such a way asto probe into these intricacies of Divine action. The energies that are required to facethe evil of creation are potentially present inside us and they have to be worked up by aparticular means. Desire is neither good nor bad. But, it can become bad or good accordingto the circumstances and the way in which it operates, under given conditions, in thehistory of creation. The birth of Skanda had to be occasioned by the activity of desirepersonified as Kama or Cupid, for the sake of overcoming the evils, one of which isdesire itself, whose comrades are anger and other manifestations of egoism. TheBhagavadgita says: "Dharmaviruddho Bhuteshu Kamosmi." Here God refers toHimself as desire, bereft of or free from any contravention of Dharma. Here is a clue tothe mystery of how it became necessary for the Gods to employ Cupid as an instrument torouse the divine desire in Siva for confronting the evil desire of the demons. Desire islike a diamond which cuts itself.

Religious adventure becomes more and more complicated as we proceed along with itfurther and further. In the earlier stages religion seems to be very simple, because itappears to be merely a question of going to the church or sitting before a deity in atemple or following a system of routine, a ritual, etc. But, when we enter into the heartof religion, it ceases to be any kind of routine of this kind. It becomes an inwardadventure of the spirit. It is not a doing of something, but a complete reshuffling ofone's personality and a transformation of oneself through a transvaluation of values, by aprocess in which we may have to submit to conscription the very same forces in the worldwhich appear as our opponents at present. The world is an enemy and also a friend. TheBhagavadgita, again, gives an answer to this interesting question, how the same thing canbe a friend and also an enemy. In the sixth chapter, we are told that the Self is thefriend and the Self is also the enemy. Desire is a friend and also an enemy. The world isa friend and also an enemy. By means of the instrumentality of Kamadeva, the DivineForce of Siva was roused up into action, which is otherwise Omnipresent. In the Vedantaphilosophy, a distinction is drawn between two types of consciousness, known as Sahaja-Jnana and Vritti-Jnana, which can be translated as a universally present impersonal,featureless consciousness and a directly operative consciousness acting in some given way,respectively. Or, to give a grosser example, the impersonal fire which is present in allthe five elements around us, is to be distinguished from the concrete fire with which wecook our meal and light our lamp. Energy in action is the fire that is burning through thecooking stove, and the energy that is merely existing in an impersonal manner is like thefire present in all the five elements. So, the force of Siva was impersonal in the Samadhistate and it had no concern with good or bad, or anything that is taking place anywhere;but when it had to be employed as a weapon to counteract the evils of creation, it had tomanifest itself and cannot merely remain as an impersonal featureless Samadhiconsciousness. So, the energy burst forth from Siva's third eye which is the power ofKnowledge or Chit-Sakti. It is not a manipulated energy created through machines orthrough the energies of any kind of physical body or substance. Only the energy of Wisdomcan counteract the evil of creation and not any other power, not anything that we do inthe form of charity, goodness or our so-called religiosity.

So we have in this great Epic of Skanda's incarnation, the 'Kumara Sambhava', themighty portrayal of the adventure of the Spirit through the processes of Sadhana,spiritual practice, wherein, we commune ourselves with the highest power that isconceivable, the energy of God Himself. We have to draw that energy forward and harness itto face this world. Then the power of externality gets transformed into the peace ofuniversality. What happened to the Rakshasas--Surapadma, Simhamukha and Taraka? Thoseforces which were externalised and which were the desires impelling themselves outwardlyin the direction of sense-objects, were transformed into the universal peace of creation.Peace reigned supreme. There is nothing called destruction anywhere. These demons were notdestroyed in the ordinary sense of the term. You know the law of conservation of energy.Energy is never increasing or decreasing in creation. It is only concentrated in differentforms and at different places. The concentrated form of it is what we call evil. So thevery same energy which was in the form of these demoniacal elements was transformed by theDivine energy, which means to say, all that was impulsive in the direction of externality,space, time, causality and objectivity and desire of every kind, got withdrawn into thepeace of the Absolute and the Goal of life was reached. This is, in my humble opinion, thegreat spiritual significance behind the religious festival called the Skanda Shashthi,which falls on the sixth day of the bright fortnight in the month of Kartika (October-November).There are other meanings which are manifold and interesting. Out of all this variety, Ihave placed before you one feature for your contemplation.