Devotees throng temples as pilgrimage season begins
By Express News Service | Published: 18th November 2013 03:51 PM |
The holy pilgrimage to Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala began on Saturday with the beginning of the month of Vrischikam as per the Malayalam calendar. The period of pilgrimage called Mandala Kalam falls between the first day of the month of Vrischikam and Makaravilakku day which is on January 14, 2014 this time. As special occasions like Mandala pooja and Makaravilakku fall between these periods, the number of pilgrims reaches millions every year. The temple is open to all faiths and attracts people from all parts of the country and abroad.
Lakhs of people from the State visit the temple every year. Ayyappa temples across the region saw a large number of devotees on Sunday beginning their 41-day austerity for the pilgrimage by wearing the beaded garland. “Close to 3,000 people were garlanded on Saturday and today more than 2,000 people have been garlanded. The numbers will rise further as the month progresses. We have all arrangements in place for Kettunira and other rituals in the temple,” says K K Ramachandran, President, Ayyappa Seva Sangam, SiddapudurAyyappan Temple. “A greater number of children visit the shrine these days than in the past. We have more travel facilities these days and climbing is not as difficult as it was. Children no longer need to travel on the shoulders of their parents as the roads are good,” he said.
Several other temples in the region witnessed a rush on Sunday, the first day of the Tamil month of Karthikai. Temples have special programmes like bhajans to mark the occasion. Mettupalayam Sivanpuram temple, Ayyappa temple in Ooty and Tirupur had many special poojas.
“I visit the shrine every year and it is a divine feeling to be there. I was garlanded in the presence of my guru. My family members adjust their habits since I am observing austerity. They don’t eat non vegetarian food and avoid visits to distant or inauspicious places,” says Arul, on his seventh visit to the shrine.
Priests advise devotees not to breach the austerity rules. “Lord Ayyappa is very powerful and austerity should be followed strictly. The devotees must keep away from all social activities and spend time in prayer. They must abstain from meat and physical or verbal violence. They should strictly follow celibacy,” says Venkiteswaran, a priest.
The occasion is helpful for many sellers to make some quick money. Many were seen selling flowers, black clothes and lockets of lord Ayyappa. “There are many takers for new clothes. It is a custom to buy new clothes when you start your Vritham. There is a high demand for coconut and banana as usual,” says A Velayudham, a seller. While a medium-sized garland costs between `30- `50, good quality ones cost `90.
Sabarimala is believed to be the place where Lord Ayyapa meditated soon after killing the powerful demon, Mahishi.
Another story says that it is Parasurama Maharshi who lifted Kerala from the sea by throwing his axe and he installed the idol of Ayyappa at Sabarimala.
To enter the Sabarimala temple, the pilgrim has to cross Pathinettampadi (holy eighteen steps) at Sannidhanam.