Sabarimala Pilgrimage – Maladharana

This is the first part of the series on Sabarimala Pilgrimage, process and vrata anushtanas

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.

Puja to the Divine
Seeking Blessings of my Guru
Mala Puja
Mala Dhaarane

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)

Shasta Puja and Deeparadhane in a Devotees Home
Shasta and the Holy 18 steps – Tastefully decorated

Lalji Nagar Ayyappa Temple, Bengaluru
Ayyappa Bhajan by our Team in Lalji Nagar Ayyappa Temple, Bengaluru
Ayyappa Bhajan by our Team in Lalji Nagar Ayyappa Temple, Bengaluru
Ayyappa Bhajan by our Team in Lalji Nagar Ayyappa Temple, Bengaluru

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.

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.

We are on Top of the World Because…

It is that time of the yet again, when things get a bit difficult, for I am lost for words to thank the Divine for the wonderful Gift who was sent down to the earth and to be my fellow passenger with me to celebrate her birthdays with me (this is 35th Birthday spent with me – No I am not going to reveal how many before that – I don’t want anything happening to me on a day like this)

For someone very very special, Dearest Aparna, May your Birthday be blessed with everything God wants to give you! Not everyone is lucky enough to have someone as special as you in one’s life… I’m one of the lucky few! May beauty and happiness surround you today and beyond. I hope your Birthday is awesome, wonderful, full of love and laughter… just like you!

When Cakes Come as Gift, You count it as Blessings and cut it at midnight.
Then it was a competition and choice for her to make. Who First! She found this way – Apple of our eyes. One Best gift she gave me apart from herself


The Formality got to be done!


My Share, after the Kids
Return Gift
Kiddo! Who made it special for her, apart from getting the new home in Order
Kiran, a permanent fixture – an invisible hand behind organizing every such celebration
Arun, she had to jump high to reach him!

We missed having Sindhu this year at the midnight, after nearly 13 or so birthdays. She is blissfully settled into her marital home and I am sure she terribly missed the evening too.

Now for my customary tribute! As always I have nothing else to add, year after year and after each birthday and wedding anniversary, except to say that it has only got better, like the wine. It has been an amazing journey for me with her presence. As they say in Mechanical Engineering, a perfect fit. People ask me how does it work, the relationship that kept blossoming, the love that multiplied, family and no of extended family getting larger and larger, yet what clicks and where do you find the time to nurture the relationship. My honest answer was “I don’t know! It is her and all credits to her”  For no rhyme or reason, it is simply working well and Thank Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji of the Art of Living and also the Divine who chose to shower infinite blessings on me, by bringing her into my life.

No blues for anyone, if this woman in blue is around. Ask anyone who knows her

What makes her so special? What is that we all see in her that makes her a fantastic soul? It is the way she lives every moment. A wonderful human being! A great mum to biological and huge number of manasik ones, a lovely friend and wife to me, great sister to her brothers and so on. All the kids could not have asked for a better and no Non-Sense Mum!

What is exemplary is her commitment to fulfil what she has resolved to achieve. Examples galore on the persistence and diligent efforts that she invests, that is worth emulating for anyone. That is the kind of infectious quality she brings to those in her circle of influence.

If I were to emulate and advise anyone else what would be the best she has – her ultimate clarity on the priority – Absolutely unshakeable, selfless loyalty to the family and all her near ones.  I have never seen her frown whenever anyone has sought out for any help. Be it within or outside the family. In a dog eat dog world that is not a quality anyone finds so often. Thank you Aparna for being an example that all the kids and friends and myself can look up to, to try and live!

Happy birthday dear one my darling wife. Someday I hope to match up to what you are! Until then Love you loads and May God and Gurudev bless you with health, peace, happiness in abundance.

To sign off! My usual song dedicated to you – Top of the World

Star you were, Star you are, Star you will be – Just shine

Cannot help but rewind to this day 26 years ago each time we reach this day on the calendar. It has been a exhilarating experience and a day of Gratitude reinforced each time to the Divine for He chose us to be your parents.

From that helpless tiny baby to an ‘I can do anything’ independent gem you are now, what a journey it has been! I recall the joy of that moment when the little gem was carefully gift wrapped and handed over to me and I will never tire looking at this photograph, again and again. Those blissful days when you snuggled in my arms are unforgettable. It is never easy task to express that feeling in words. You need to experience it to feel it.

A click that I cherish

They say, No father can realise the meaning of life or the world until he has children and once he has, everything changes and life is never the same again. When we have a daughter like Divya, it is doubly so. World becomes such a beautiful place to live and if you have any doubts on this, come and see it through my eyes.

Now for some Gyan 😛 without which I can never finish anything. Your large heartedness is a known thing and I am proud of what you have done for the society thus far. First thing I would like to say is to Love your self like no one else. Remember, as I keep telling people around me, you can never love anyone else if you don’t love yourself first. I learnt it along in my journey and I guess this is something you don’t have to live through all over to realise and hence this suggestion.

Never accept disrespect whoever it is from, including me of course. If you sell yourself low, society seeks a discount and bids even lower. You are far more precious than what you think. People will run you down and get close again, but one thing I learnt proudly from you is that fact that you lived with an unknown realisation that, you had yourself, at the end of the day, evident by how easily you forgave folks who roughshod you and moved on. That is something I am proud of quoting as a lesson for myself and others.

As you grow up, priorities change and many obvious things are overlooked. Remember! Love of all of us is always there, come rain or sun. Obviously you know this. I was proud when you took upon your broad shoulders to accompany your brother abroad all by yourself to settle him into University and the long emotional solo return journey that you strongly embarked upon. Let me confess, it would have been next to impossible for me to do that and taking up that humongous responsibility required a lovely soul like you. Be brave and count on family’s love to tide over any choppy seas and keep the boat sailing.

And I had to share a wonderful WA Family group message and the response your brother gave. That is what makes the family click. Ability to laugh under any circumstance. God Bless us all! And touch wood, we will retain that ability to laugh at, and with ourselves forever.

And thanking the Divine once again for the wonderful gift that you are for us. Happy Birthday dear one. Words alone are not enough to express my happiness that you are celebrating another year of your life! My wish for you on your birthday is that you are, and will always be, happy and healthy!

Happy birthday & Wish you many more to come, from all of us

Chase your dreams but always know the road that’ll lead you home again.
Go on, take on this whole world.
But to me you know you’ll always be, my little girl.