By Swami Harshananda
Festivals and sacred days break the monotony and add zest and color to the life of the common people. Out of the several festivals, Araṇyaṣaṣṭhī (also called Āraṇyaṣaṣṭhi, Araṇya-gaurī-vrata or Skandaṣaṣṭhī) is perhaps a minor one.
It is celebrated on the sixth day of the bright half of the month of Jyeṣṭha (around June). It is mainly centered round the worship of Saṣṭhī, the mother of Skanda (also known as Subrahmaṇya and Kārttikeya). Since she is the protector of children, mothers propitiate her for the well-being of their children.
Fasting or subsisting on lotus stalks, bulbous roots and fruits is prescribed as a discipline. It is usually performed in a wood or forest outside the village. Hence it is named Araṇyaṣaṣṭhī (araṇya = forest). In some parts of India, sons-in-law are invited and entertained with a feast and clothes, thus giving the festival another name, viz., jāmātṛṣaṣṭhī (jāmātṛ = son-in-law).
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore