Surrendering everything before Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala, Kerala, Thantri (high priest) Thazhamon Madom Kandararu Rajivaru undertook the parental role of the Lord in 1991. Taking up the task of thantrihood at the age of 32, Thantri Rajivaru’s attitude in performing rituals is one filled with total dedication.
Even at 3 a.m. when the sreekovil (sanctum sanctorum) opens for darshan for the waiting thousands during the peak pilgrimage season, he is there to serve the Lord, even though he has no proper sleep and rest. “Lord Ayyappa gives the strength, including physical and mental, to serve the crores of pilgrims who worship here after undergoing severe challenges,” says Thantri Rajivaru.
Vested with total powers in the matters connected with the Lord, the thantri’s presence is a prerequisite for all the important rituals held at Sabarimala, including special poojas like Sahasrakalasam, Kalabhbabhishekam and Padi pooja.
During the annual festival, the thantri conducts kodiyettu, utsavabali and arattu rituals. “I always understand the severe pain of the lakhs of pilgrims who stand in long queues for eight to 10 hours for the darshan of Lord Ayyappa,” says Thantri Rajivaru. “After observing celibacy for 41 days before offering worship, the pilgrims should be given maximum assistance.”
The pilgrims get a soothing effect when they meet the thantri at the Thantri Madom (where the high priest lives) after the darshan of Lord Ayyappa. “I hear their worldly problems patiently and advice them to pray to the Lord to ward off the evil eye,” says the thantri.
Thantri Rajivaru has the role of thantrihood in other 100-odd Lord Ayyappa temples across the world, including the ones in Ohio (US), Indonesia, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and the UAE.
Thantri Rajivaru is also the most sought-after thantri for the Lord Ayyappa temples across the country. “I am facing severe problems in meeting the time schedules of many a temple in undertaking rituals,” the thantri said.
In Kerala, Kandararu Rajivaru has about 800 temples under his thantrihood, including Ettumanoor, Kollam Sree Anandavalliswaranam, Erumely, Nilackal and Pattazhi.