sabarimala

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January is come . Thousands of pilgrims will go to Sabarimala i.e. Sabari hills in kerala, to view the makara vilakku. This Makara vilakku is a celestial light which is seen descending from the sky behind sabarimala for just two seconds. Some years back there was a dispute regarding this sabarimala issue. It was felt that some tribals were lighting the bonfire behind the sabari hills . When the flames rises it looks like celestial light and so on. This too did not have any proper evidence. The sabarimala case was closed. EVEN TODAY THOUSANDS OF PILGRIMS FLOCK TO SABARIMALA TO SEE THIS CELESTIAL LIGHT.

Going to the SABARIMALA temple is not easy. The preparation starts before 45 days. On the first day the devotee gets up early takes bath and goes to nearby temple and offers puja to his family deity, ista devatas, ayappa and all navagrahas i.e. nine planets. The aspirant wears a beaded mala or chain made of tulsi or rudraksh to show he is away from material temptations and looks forward to visit sabarimala. This mala or chain is generally put on the lst day of vrichikam a month in Hindu calendarwheen the devotee starts yearning to go to sabarimala. AFTER PUTTING THE MALA THE ASPIRANT SURRENDERS HIS THOUGHT WORDS AND DEEDS TO THE POWERFUL DEITY AYAPPA and prepares for his visit to sabarimala. Getting up early, taking bath three times, meditating, chanting slokas and name of the lord, singing praises of the lord becomes part of his daily schedule before going to sabarimala. He shuns all social activities and immerses in visiting temples, feeding the poor & sick,listening to spiritual lecturesbefore visiting sabarimala. He is forbidden from eating meat, other non vegetarian foods including onion or garlic for going to sabarimala. He abstains from taking alcohol,drugs,betel leaves and smoking to make him eligible to go to the shrine in sabarimala. He refrains from hurting anybody physically or verbally during the fortyfive days before visiting sabarimala. He does not use slippers and does not sleep on bed for 41 days before going to sabarimala. When somebody takes the 41 day fast for visiting sabarimala he must go about it quietly without much ado so as not to cause any inconvenience to the family.

There are other events associated with this sabarimala pilgrimage like AAzhi puja and kettunira. AAzhi puja means the attainment of aspirants frame of mind and his perseverence to reach sabarimala. It is done before the holy trek to sabarimala begins. This ritual is also known as vellamkudi or drinking water in Malayalam or daham veppu means unquenched thirst in Malayalam language that means his unquenched thirst is satiated by his trip to sabarimala just like drinking water to quench thirst. Actually the aspirant begins this journey to sabarimala to get his material desires resolved. The 41 days fast before going to sabarimala enables him to progress spiritually and these desires which are impediments to god realisation fades and his desire to reach sabarimala and see the god reaches saturating point. A pandal or tent is erected in some places where shasta preethi is held an function held before leaving for sabarimala. Fuels for aazhi is stored in front of the pandal and camphor is used to light fire by the devotees heading towards sabarimala. Riceflakes, parched rice, coconut,etc are put in this fire and all the devotees circumambulate saying ‘swamiye saranam ayyappa’ Gods name enabling you to reach sabarimala without any problem. The fire blazes reach the sky like celestial light of sabarimala. Some devotees in spiritual fervour to reach sabarimala walk through the blazes totally oblivious of the surrounding.

Kettunira means a travel kit which they carry on their heads while going to sabarimala. This contains sliced coconut with ghee, 2-3 coconuts, beaten rice, betel leaves , betel nuts, coins, jaggery, cashewnuts, raisins, cardamom, honey, turmeric, and dates as good deeds and sins to be surrendered at the foot of sabarimala god ayappa . These items are used to prepare neivaidya or offering to the god for sabarimala god ayappa after reaching sabarimala. Then the pilgrimage to sabarimala starts by going to all temples and in the end go beyond hills like erumeli, azutha, karimala and on reaching pampa which is the river below sabari hills.

After taking bath in Pampa river the aspirant proceeds towards sabarimala to have a glimpse of the lord ayappa and this celestial light which is seen on January 14 every year. The whole year the shrine at sabarimala is kept open for devotees only between 14 th and 17th of the month. Women between ages 11-40 are not allowed to enter sabarimala as it is their fertility age and sacredness of the shrine is to be protected. Now there is a dispute about women of all ages entering the Shrine at sabarimala.

From pampa river the aspirant has to cross several barriers like forests, small hills, rough roads say a distance of 5 kms covered in 5-6 hours depending on your speed to reach sabarimala. It is said many snakes, wild beasts attack, on the way to sabarimala so people move in groups. On reaching the temple at sabarimala the shrine is situated on the top and to reach the shrine the devotee has to climb 18 stairs which is called padinettu padi in malayalam.

The significance of this is that even after reaching sabarimala , the stairs made of granite have to be climbed and is very slippery because of the ghee spilled by the devotees and the rush to enter the sanctum sanctorum. At sabarimala there is also a ritual called padi puja means a ritual where the steps are decorated with flowers and lamps. There are two Gods in the same place. Dharma Shasta and Ayappa at sabarimala.

It is said Ayappa the lord of sabarimala is the son of lord Shiva and mohini I.e. Avatar of Vishnu. He was born at sabarimala to kill Mahishi a she buffalo demoness who was sister of mahishasura the demon who was killed by durga during dussehra. Dharma sastha another lord of sabarimala is said to be a brahmachari or bachelor in this avatar even though the ancient scriptures called Purana describe Shasta having two consorts Pushkala & Poorna. To get more information about sabarimala you can visit sabarimalaayyappan.com http://www.sabarimalaayyappan.com/pilgrimage.htm

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