Soora Samharam - Victory over the evil - Thiruchendur temple festival

Soora samharam, Thiru Annamalai

 Sri Subramaniya Swamy Temple,]

The western tower,Thiruchendur Karthikeya

In the Hindu mythology there are innumerable legends that may be intriguing to westerners. Surprisingly, in each legend there underlies a moral or two that will have some relevance  with our lives. In variably almost all legends boil down to a few  essential facts of life. There is no room for violence in our society. This excludes inevitable  wars between nations.  Legends underscore the value of leading a contended life on the path of Dharma, devotion to God and charity. When the evils rule the roost, they will be dispelled by the good through the action of God.

The ''Kandha Shasti'' festival, an important event associated with six shrines (Aarupadai  Veedu in Tamil) of Subramanya Swamy (Karthikaya/Muruga) is celebrated with bakthi and devotion in the month of November and the festival may last 6 to 7 days,  depending on the temples.  The long-drawn festival commences with temple flag-hoisting on an auspicious day and time followed by  complex Yagasala  pooja  rituals and chanting of special  mantra appropriate to that occasion in Sanskrit by specially trained Veda Pundits during the festival days. Special poojas and prayers are offered by  the devotees from all walks of life  who  throng the  temple.  The highlight of this famous festival is an exciting event  attended by thousands of  ardent  devotees called ''Soora  Samharam''(Slaying of demon) a mock up battle between vicious demon Soorapadman and his troops on one side and Lord Karkhikaya on the other side in which the lord slays the demon, thus restoring peace and tranquility in the region.

Thiruchendur. Raja gopuram or Western

This year,  this colorful festival took place on the 17th of November, 2015 with great fanfare and religious fervor   on  the  beach of  Thiruchendur, in the District  of  Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu  adjacent to the  Kathikaya  temple.   Simply   this  festival symbolizes the victory of the good over the evil. The event commenced at 4.30 pm with the arrival of Uthchava (procession) Murthy (Bronze idol of Subramanya) on the shore from the temple  after offering special pooja to the deity and the exciting event lasted till 5.15 pm. Once the event is over, the lord's idol is ceremoniously taken back to the temple shrine. People, after this event, take a holy dip in the tank, purportedly to wash off their sins.  Special police forces were brought in to control the huge milling crowd.

During the festival days the devotees abstain from drinks and non-vegetarian food and do pooja (prayer) regularly  in the early morning after bath. They also fast by just taking one meal  a day. ''Kandha Shasti Vratham'' (fasting)  is observed once a year in the month of ‘Aippasi'(October–November), starting from the ‘piratamai' the 1st phase of the brightening 
moon. The mind  is  supposed to  be cleansed by fasting, pilgrimage, prayer, meditation and other devotional activities. An inspiring  combination of cleansed mind and body engaged in meditation is conducive to contentment and inner strength. A contended mind will give spiritual and divine enlightenment. Devotees  also practice  celibacy during the festival period.  Innumerable devotees walk long distance barefoot, covering more than 20 kms to the temple to fulfill their prayer/vow, a tedious task, but they do it without feeling the pangs of fatigue and pain, as their  devotion to God is just overwhelming.

The legend has it that an Asura (Demon) by  thename of Surapadma was ruling Veera Mahandrapuri, an island fortress, as his Capital. He  performed many tough austerities,  meditating on  Lord Siva, who, at last,  granted him many boons that gave him enormous power and immortality. Intoxicated with enormous power,  later he became arrogant and egotistical and captured three worlds and made the Heavenly immortals to do odd  task at his beck and call. Unable to bear his torture, Devas complained to Lord Siva. Lord Siva, losing patience, opened his eye on his forehead (in Tamil Netrrikkan/Gnakkan) to create a son to kill the Asura Six sparks of fire where emanated  from the third eye of Lord Siva, each one becoming a baby.

Nurtured by 6 nymphs - Karthigai  kannigal,  the child became Arumugam (in Tamil Aaru refers to six) with six faces and 12 arms. On orders from Lord Shiva, Subramaniya Swamy  (also Arumugam)  fought Surapadman along with Veerabahu and killed the Asura, thus  saving  the  Devas from torture and threats. This shrine is built for the child god to pray to Lord Shiva. Hence  in  the  Sanctum,  Lord Subramanya Swamy is seen in the posture of worshiping Lord Siva.