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Shasti Vratam or Upvaas is an important fast dedicated to Lord Muruga or Kartikeya. There are two Shastis in a Hindu lunar month. One Shasthi after Amavasya and another after Purnima (Pournami). The Shasti coming after Amavasya (new moon night) is the one meant for fasting. In simple terms, the Shasti coming during the increasing or growing phase of the moon. Lord Muruga is also known as Subramanian or Skanda or Kanda.
How to observe Shasti Vratam?
The Shasti fasting begins with sunrise. The fast is broken on the next day morning after praying to Lord Surya (Sun God).
Most people observing the fast make it a point to visit Murugan Temple on this day.
It is a complete fast in many places. But this might not be quite possible for many people due to job, health and other reasons. So many people take some sort of vegetarian food on this day – this is usually a single meal in the afternoon or night.
Many people also opt for a fruit diet on the day. Some avoid solid food.
In several Kerala Muruga temples, many devotees eat a single rice meal at noon given from the temple. The cooked rice is consumed without any major side dishes.
The method of fasting differs from region to region. But all non-vegetarian food is avoided on the day.
Devotees listen to stories related to Skanda and reading of Skanda Purana. Another activity during the day is the reciting of Kanta Shasti Kavasam.
Fasting is not just abstaining from food but it also an attempt to instill positive thoughts. Many people use fasting as a means to fight against anger, lust, impatience and other negative tendencies. All Vratas associated with Hindu religion is an attempt to realize the Brahman.