This is the first part of the series on Sabarimala Pilgrimage, Maladharana process and vrata anushtanas
You can read the Second part of the series on Sabarimala Piligrimage by clicking this link => Kettunira or Pallikattu
Disclaimer: There is no one right way for any of the processes of Sabarimala Pilgrimage. What is indicated here is the practice followed as handed out by my Guruswamy (my father and then my brother) over the years. Please follow what your Guruswamy prescribes
Maladharana begins the entire process – A Guruswami would put a Mala (Tulsi or Rudraksha beaded Chain) to the Devotee on 1st day of the Vrischika masa (this year, 2019 it is on 17th November). Generally a simple procedure carried out in a Temple. The devotee would first take blessings of his parents and elders by offering them a Dakshina (Betel Leaf with Nuts, and a Coin with the top of the leaf pointing towards the recipient) touching their feet, individually. Nothing of the Dakshina once given to a person should be use again for others.
Mala can be worn either in the Puja room at home or in the family temple or in some temples close by or even in Bhajan Mandali/Mathas that are set up during the season. If it is worn on 1st day of Vrishchika Maasa there are no restrictions on timings or day of the week, but avoiding Rahul Kala is advisable. If it is some other day due to any reasons, it is advisable that Mala is not worn on one’s Janma Nakshatra. Puja is performed to the Mala after Shuddheekarana and placed at the feet of the deity and then worn.
The following is chanted 18 times while wearing Mala
Jnanamudraam Shaastramudraam Gurumudraam Namaamyaham Vanmudraam Shuddhamudraam Rudramudraam Namaamyaham Shaantamudraam Satyamudraam Vratamudraam Namaamyaham Shabaryaashrama Satyaena Mudraampaatu Sadaapimaem Gurudakshinayaa Poorvam Tasyaanugrahaena Kaaranae Sharanaagata Mudraakhyam Tanmudraam Dhaarayamyaham Shabaryaachala Mudraayai Namastubhyam Namo Namaha
It is customary to directly go home, if Maladharana is performed anywhere outside home (like in Temple or Bhajana Mandali/Mathas). Visiting hospitals, hotels or homes where any death has happened is to avoided. No Funeral rites can be performed or participated in, while you have worn Mala. Avoid sleeping during the day time. Bhasma (Vibhooti) is applied on the forehead in the morning after wetting the same.
The Mala is never removed at any cost, until the Pilgrimage is completed. You would now be referred to as Swami and you would address all other adult males (whether Swami or not) as Swami, women as Malikappuram and children as Manikanta.
Swamis would wear black clothes (blue, saffron are other options) Avoid any kind of Cosmetics or other such adornments. You will lead a very frugal life as a Swami in terms of material needs and even food. You will not Shave or cut your nails
You would strictly practice Celibacy (Bramhacharya) & total refrain from any kind of Sexual activity (even mentally) during the entire Vrata period. You will eat only Vegetarian Food and generally have regular meal only once a day and snacks for the other
You start your day with a bath (preferably cold water to get used to it and as a help during pilgrimage) and perform a Puja before you undertake any other activity. Food has to be cooked after bath and consumed thereafter. In case any family member cooks for you, ensure they do after their bath
When you return home, you will bathe again and perform your puja in the evening. It is advisable to join other Swamis for a Bhajan session in a Mandali or in any Temple (I assure you, this is one of the best experiences of the whole process)
While it is not really mandatory to do these, in order to withstand the rigours of the Pilgrimage and get our body (and mind) get used to it :- Avoid wearing footwear (as the holy Sabarimala is trekked barefoot), Sleep on the mat/floor and if possible cook your own food.
(SPECIAL NOTE: Work is Worship. If you work in hazardous aread or in factories, you may not be able to enter the premise without your safety gears, including footwears. Please do wear all safety gears including uniform to avoid any injuries, which would in fact jeopardise your Pilgrimage. Any tradition and rules for this is to establish a comfort level to gear up to rigours of the Pilgrimage and today Sabarimala is far improved in terms of infrastructure, you get accomodation, the trek path is made well)
Penance or Vratam should be Manasa, Vacha and Karmana – Establish purity in Thoughts, Speech and Actions. Every single act of ours as Swami, should be Purity and Sacredness personified.
It is essential that we undertake a penance for 41 days prior to Irumudi rituals (Kettunira). Without Irumudi, you will not be allowed to do the most important and significant part of Pilgrimage – Going up 18 Holy Steps. Why leave that blissful Experience
During the entire process, we avoid even visual contact of ladies menstruating in order to prevent any harm to them. (Due to Sadhana and Vrata a Swami exudes high energy which may adversely affect ladies during those days) EMPHASIS – NOT DUE TO IMPURITY
During the entire period of Vratam, Swamis shall refrain from Alcohol, tobacco or any such intoxicants. Mental Strengthening & control is the very purpose of Vratam. Everyone would be treated respectfully and be worthy of the reverence accorded to the Swamis by others
Please inform all the devotees, restriction on Women Entry has nothing to do with Impurity at all, it is only due to the Naishtika Bramhachari nature of the Deity here, in #Sabarimala No other temples of Ayyappa this such restriction
Credits: Some contents extracted from an article by Sri PCS Menon that appeared in October 2019 Edition of Sree Ayyappan Magazine, published by Akhila Bharatha Ayyappa Seva Sangam.
However, please go by what your Guruswamy prescribes.