Skanda Shashti (Surasamharam)
Skanda Shahsti is observed on the sixth day during the Shukla Paksha or bright phase of moon in the Karthikam/Thulam/Alppasi month of traditional Hindu calendar. The vratha is a celebration of Lord Muruka’s victory over demon Surapadma. Surapadma was the elder brother of Tarakasura. In the battle, Lord Murugan destroyed all the forces of Surapadma and at last Surapadma took the form of a monstrous mango tree and stood on the bottom of the ocean. Skanda hurled his Vel (sakthi) and fragmented the mango tree. The Vel cut Surapadma's indestructible body in to two, one half becoming a cock and the other half a peacock. Lord Murugan made the peacock as His vehicle and the cock as the emblem on His Dwaja(battle flag). The Surasamhara story is detailed in the Skanda Purana.
The war between Skanda and Surapadma lasted for six days. The Skanda Shashti vratha therefore lasts for six days (from shukla paksha prathama to shuklapaksha shahsti in Karthikam/Thulam/Alppasi month) in remembrance of the six days of the war over the evil forces. Devotees observe upavasa (fasting) for six days and usually most of them devote their time in Subrahmanya temples by chanting prayers and devotional songs of Skanda. Special pujas and rituals will be held on all the six days in Muruga Temples and Shashti day will be celebrated with great enthusiasm and special rituals like Kavadi, Abhishekam, Surasamharam etc. are performed. Skanda shashti festival in Tiruchendur and Tiruparankundram temples has legendary significance too and the events leading to the defeat of the Surapadma and other demons are dramatized and enacted.
Vaisakha Pournami (full moon day in Vaisakha month) is also famous as Vaikasi Vishakam or Vaigasi Vishakham. It is the birth day of Lord Subrahmnaya or Muruka. Vaikasi Visakam is a major festival observed in Lord Muruga temples. The asterism Visakam is the birth star of Lord Muruka. So Muruka is called Visaka.
Sati, the consort of Shiva immolated herself at Daksha Yaga, which was later destroyed by Shiva. Shakti was reborn as Uma, or Parvati the daughter of the mountain king Himavaan (the Himalayas). Shiva withdrew himself from the universe and engaged himself in yogic meditation in the Himalayas. In the meanwhile, the demon Surapadman ravaged the earth and tormented its beings. It was realized by the gods that only the son born of Shiva and Parvati could lead the gods to victory over Tarakasuran, Surapadman and their demon companions. They plotted with Kaama, the lord of desire, to shoot a flower arrow at Shiva, as he sat in meditation, so as to make him fall in love with Parvati. When Kaama aimed his arrow at Shiva, he opened his third eye and burned him to ashes instantly. Upon hearing the pleas of Kama's wife Rati, he brought back Kama to life, in flesh and blood for her sake, and in a formless state for others. The Devas manage to get Shiva married to Parvati (who was Dakshayani, reborn) by having Manmatha (also known as Kama), the god of love awaken him from his penance, incurring his wrath by opening his third eye of destruction, and being destroyed and resurrected. Shiva hands over his effulgence of the third eye used to destroy Manmatha to Agni, as he alone is capable of handling it till it becomes the desired offspring. But even Agni, tortured by its heat, hands it over to Ganga who in turn deposits it in a lake in a forest of reeds(Shara). The child is finally born in this forest(vana) on Vaisakha Pournami(Vaikasi Vishakam) day with six faces (hence Muruka is also called Shanmugha and Sharavanabhava). He was raised by the six Kartika damsels. He thus got the name Kartikeya. Worship Lord Muruka on vaikasi vishakam day.