Thiruchendur Murugan Temple – Skanda Shashti Festival
The war against Surapadman and the success over him are celebrated every year at Thiruchendur on the days till Skanda Shashti, i.e. the sixth day of the waxing moon in the Tula month (October - November). These six days are considered to be very sacred in the Hindu religious calendar. The Kanda Puranam is read at this time with devotion, in private houses and in the temple, with the hope of getting both material and spiritual benefits from Lord Skanda. Many devotees observe nirjala fast on these days that are they do not drink even water.
Originally the temple was of a very modest construction, but during the course of about one thousand years many additions and alterations were made by different Pandya and Chera kings, their vassals, and the wealthy people of the locality, as a result of which the present gigantic structure has grown up.
'Thiruchendur' means a sacred and prosperous 'Town of Victory'. The temple was originally constructed on the sandstone reefs of the beach, but due to corrosion by the sea, the stone began to disintegrate. A noble sannyasin, Mauna Swami, took up the renovation work and it was followed by two others in succession for 72 years and the noble edifice of three prakarams was constructed anew in black granite stone.
The gopuram is on the west (instead of being in the east as usual because of the sea) and is a gigantic structure of nine storeys with a height of 137 feet, commanding a good view of the surrounding area. History states that the gopuram was constructed roughly 300 years ago by Desikamurti Swami, an Odukathu Tambiran of the then Head or Maha Sannidhanam of Tiruvaduthurai Mutt, Tanjore District.
The great and noble abode of Lord Subrahmaniyam measures 300 feet north to south and 214 feet east to west. The principal entrance of this great temple faces south, and opens into the first temple prakaram. It is Sivili Mantapa. It is a series of four long corridors running around the still inner second prakaram flanked on either with the familiar rows of columns of yalis. The Sivili Mantapa produces a fine effect of symmetry and grandeur. This prakaram 292' 6" north to south and 190' east to west branches off both ways to the west and the east of this grand portal.
The western portion has a number of rooms where are lodged a few vahanam, and in another portion in the temple stores. On the opposite row is the shrine of Dakshinamurti. As the corner is reached there is a mantapa where the processional deities are given the festival Alankara before starting out and when they return thereto after the processions. Here is also conducted the annual Tirukalyanam for Valli on the Panguni Uttiram day.
The advent of Shanmukha and the chastisement of the Asura in his three manifestations of Surapadman, Singha-mukhan and Taraka, which are but the three evils in man Anava, Maya, and Kama and the extermination of these evil forces are yearly celebrated by the Skanda Shasti festival in the month of Aippasi in October-November. The festival at Thiruchendur is of six days, commencing on the sixth day of the waning moon of the month, as in every celebration of it in the Tamil land.
The events leading to the vanquishment of Surapadma are demonstrated on the seashore on the evening of the Sashti-day by actual representations of the several transformations of the Asura and of his defeat every time. Senthil Nayakar the processional deity officiates for Arumukha-Nainar in this festival, and receives worship at the Tiruvavaduthurai Skanda Sasti Mantapa.
The annual Tirukalyana festival to Teyvayanai is celebrated the next day after the Soora Samhara in the Tirukalyana Mantapa of the Mela gopuram. On such occasions, the people fast for all the six days and the Skanda Puranam is read and explained with solemnity, in temples and also at times in private houses.
Such reading is deemed efficacious, apart from spiritual benefits, in warding off or alleviating disease and danger and bringing good fortune to the bhaktas of Muruga is general.
Devotees numbering about five lakhs will participate in Kanda Sasti festival at Thiruchendur. On this festival occasion, devotees fast for all six days. On the sixth day Surasamharam is enacted before a gigantic crowd of devotees on the very beach where Lord Murugan fought Sura Padman. On the seventh day, His Tirukalyanam (wedding) to Teyvayanai is celebrated in a grand manner.