Faith comes to us in various ways but there is always a beautiful soul in the story of faith.
Do you know the Skanda Shashti Kavacham? Its a song or a sloka comprised of 244 lines, written by Devaraya Swamigal in praise of Lord Muruga, where he asks the Lord to protect him and grace him. Whenever Skanda Shashti Kavacham is mentioned, it is Sulamangalam Sisters who come to my mind. Their rendition of this slokam (the tune, music and the pauses inclusive) is what I learned from and it’s what I will remember forever. Kavacham means armor and the words in the sloka are the perfect armor to us.
I learned this Skanda Shashti Kavacham when I was about 8 or 9 years old. My appa’s cousin sister, Viji athai was the beautiful soul that brought this Skanda Shashti Kavacham to my life. She taught me and my sister in the same tune as what the Sulamangalam sisters have sung. When I think of Viji athai, all that comes to my mind is her beautiful eyes full of life, her long hair plaited and the simple down to earth attitude of hers. She is one of the persons I adore with all my heart.
Is there a reason for learning this slokam? Maybe there was which I understood much later in life.
As I hit puberty, along came the cramps which were very painful. Generally in a Tambram household, the rules were very strict and menstruating women were not allowed to go inside the house and touch anyone. They were not allowed to pray, cook or do anything inside the house.
But my paati was an angel. Even though we were not allowed to go inside the house or touch anyone, I was so happy when my patti said that I can recite the Skanda Shashti Kavacham. To allow me to pray during the cycle days was indeed a great thing that my paati did. My thatha encouraged my paati to give me hot food, which again was not the norm. My paati was more broad-minded than others in many ways. Even though she couldn’t overcome her self-laid rules on touching us during those menstrual days, she did give us a lot of levy on other things. We, I and my sister, were attended to with much respect and taken care of nicely.
Reciting the Skanda Shashti Kavacham was a boon for me, as I saw myself being relieved of my pain. Whether it was my belief in the sloka or in Lord Muruga or the mere fact that I got used to the pain and in due course overcame it – whatever, I loved the recital of that slokam. It pacified my mind and maybe numbed me to the pain.
Even today, as an adult, I automatically start reciting the Skanda Shashti Kavacham the moment I feel there is a need to heal the body. Its a kind of faith in those 244 lines, which the brain accepts as medicine to heal. Its the faith of a small girl who healed herself to her greatest astonishment. And it is a faith with which I live.