Sabarimala Pilgrimage – Kettunira or Palli Kattu

This is the second part of the Sabarimala Pilgrimage series. This part covers the Kettu Nira or Palli Kattu process.

You can read the first part on Maladharana Process by clicking this link =>  Sabarimala Pilgrimage – Maladharana

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

Irumudi (literally meaning Iru = two and Mudi = Knot/Bundle) is the second most significant material process after Mala dharana (material process differentiated from Vrata Anushtanas, which is essential and mandatory spiritual practice explained in the first part). Before we come to the ingredients, the front compartment is called Munmudi (the bundle in the front) This has offerings for Lord Ayyappa and other Deities in Sannidhanam. The rear compartment called Pinmudi (the bundle at the rear) has the ingredients meant for Pilgrim’s use enroute. There is a practice at some place to carry offerings for Vavar in the middle portion.

Munmudi Circled in Red, Pinmudi in Yellow
Munmudi Circled in Red, Pinmudi in Yellow
Munmudi Circled in Red, Pinmudi in Yellow

 

Ingredients of Irumudi 

  1. Mudra Coconut/Theniganakayi/Thenga
  2. Ghee
  3. Kaani Ponnu (a Coin as offering)
  4. Golden Thaali (Mangalsutra) and Golden Choori (Dagger). This is offered only by a Kanni Swami, first time Pilgrim, a custom that we follow, and not seen others doing this.
  5. Betel leaf and Nuts
  6. Defibred Coconut (with water) – 3 nos
  7. Turmeric Powder
  8. Kumkum Powder
  9. Sandal Powder
  10. Puffed Rice (aralu/malar) (We carry it powdered)
  11. Vibhuti Powder
  12. Camphor
  13. Agarbatti
  14. Rose Water
  15. Rice
  16. Honey
  17. Jaggery Block (Acchu Bella)
  18. Paddy grains
  19. Turmeric Stem
  20. Black Pepper
  21. Sugar Crystal (Kal-sakkare)
  22. Sweet Rice Ball (Akki Unde)

Item 1-5 is offered to Lord Ayyappa,

Item 6 (1 coconut for breaking  at 18 Holy steps while ascending , 1 coconut for Malikapurattamma and 1 for breaking at 18 Holy steps before we leave Sannidhanam after all processes.

Item 7-10 is for Malikappuram

Item 11-13 is for performing and offering  Karpoora  Deepam.

Item 14 Rose water is sprinkled on tired Swamis which acts as a good refreshing wash

Item 15-17 Rice, Honey and Jaggery (in the earlier days this rice was used for cooking enroute. With enough eateries that have sprung up, this is offered to Temple Authorities for preparation of Payasam or Vellari Naivedyam)

Item 18-21 For offering to Vavar Swamy

Item 22 is Offered into the forest at Apacchi Medu (as a feed at the abode of Bhootas, guarding the shrine)

Mudra Coconut: Process of preparing it for Filling ghee. This is the Coconut that is defibred and cleaned, water removed and Ghee filled during the Irumudi Kattu process. Extremely important offering for Lord Ayyappa as this is the coconut into which we fill Ghee for performing Abhishekam to the moorthi of the Lord.

Defibring Coconut: In the left hand is cocunut soaked to soften. It is then scrubbed against rough surface like stone till the fibres are completed removed and smoothened. Result is seen in the right hand
Defibring Coconut. Soaked in water after defibring
Defibred Coconut soaked in water

The defibred coconut easily develops crack if not soaked in water As seen in photo above, once defibring is done coconut is soaked in water well until it is ready for draining of water within.

Piercing one of the three eyes of the coconut
Draining the coconut water after piercing the eye
Once it is totally drained, it is kept upside down to ensue it is completely drained
Defibred and drained Coconut kept for ensure complete removal of water.

Mudra Coconut or Thenginakai or Thenga is now ready for filling of Ghee during the Irumudi process

Significance of Mudra Coconut Thenginakkayi or Thuppada Kayi or Nei Thenga

Coconut represents the Human body that needs to be maintained in highest levels of purity since the Lord is Shuddha Chaitanya. Each Mudra Coconut signifies  Physically, mentally and spiritually cleansed devotee who himself is called Ayyappa throughout, signifying oneness with the Lord and Lord differentiating the devotee from Himself. Defibring signifies removal of external or physical impurities. The draining of sweetened water symbolizes the cleansing of inner sensual pleasures. Thus the container, the Body is now ready to accept and get filled with Life Source.

Filling of Ghee into Mudra Coconut (Called Nirakkal)

Ghee in general is used in most rituals due to it’s inherent Satvik qualities. Ghee is believed to have got created when  Prajapati, churned it with his hands, and used it to spawn his own offspring. In short, ghee is tied into the most fundamental life forces. Thus filling of Ghee into defibred and sweet water drained coconut signifies a Bhakta purified at all levels of Existence and also complete state of surrender to the Lord. In Sabarimala, the Ghee is removed from the coconut by carefully breaking it and offered to Lord Ayyappa for Abhishekam and the coconut is offered to the fires of Homa Kunda. Again this symbolises mortality and limits of physical body which is perishable, but cleansed inner self in the form of Ghee reaches and merges with the God.

Irumudi kettu Nira or the process

A basic puja is performed to Lord Ganesha and Ayyappa and other Deities and a Mangalarati is offered to the lamp in front of which the Kettu nira is performed. It is always done by the Pilgrim under the guidance of a Guruswamy, who plays a critical role in the entire process. While the Irumudi kettu is in process, Continuous Sharana Ghoshams are chanted by the team and all present there.

Mangalarathi to set the process in motion

Generally, during a pilgrimage as a group, Irumudi kettu nira starts with the Kanni Swami (the first time Sabarimala Pilgrim, if there are many, youngest among them starts).

Guruswamy helping the Kanni Swamy to fill the Mudra Coconut with Ghee

 For those who cannot make the Pilgrimage for any reason, they can take a vow to send the Ghee filled coconut through one of the pilgrims. As a rule a Kanni Swami cannot carry extra Mudra Coconut. In case any of his/her family members have taken a vow, someone else in the group will carry it in the Irumudi on their behalf

Mudra Coconut being filled as a part of the vow. This malikappuram, the author’s daughter has undertaken Sabarimala pilgrimage with 41 days Vrata 9 times, before she reached age of 10. She is now ready to wait till 50 years of age

In a designated sequence, each of the ingredients are filled into the Irumudi bag/sanchi and knotted by the Guruswamy into a shape that can be easily carried on the head of the pilgrim.

Filling of rice

Importance of offering rice in Irumudi.

In the olden days, in dense forests from Erumeli to Sabarimala, there were no means of food other than what is carried by the pilgrims. The entire family of the Bhakta offers a handful of rice into Irumudi (our practice, not sure if everyone else does that) and that is used enroute at camps to make fire and cook as their food. These days, the rice is exchanged in Sannidhanam for Vellari Naivedyam (White cooked rice) which is consumed as Prasada by the Devotee.

Once, all the ingredients are filled into the Irumudi sanchi, Guruswamy performs the kettu, or knotting

Handing over completed Irumudi Kettu for Viri

This completes the Irumudi Kettu Process. Last person to perform the Nira and Irumudi Kettu is Guruswamy himself and thereafter a mangalarati is performed to all the Irumudis that are arranged  (called the Viri)

Arati to all Irumudi that are in the Viri

 

Once all the processes are over, Guruswamy in the same order of Filling (Nira) places the Irumudi of the Pilgrim on their head. The Pilgrim offers a Dakshina to the Guruswamy prior to this and the pilgrim departs from the venue backwards, in order not to show his back to them lamp.

Kettu Enthal or carrying of Irumudi
A coconut is broken on the stone as we set off from venue of Irumudi kettu
A coconut is broken on the stone as we set off from venue of Irumudi kettu

And the Vahana Puja is performed once all pilgrims have boarded and they set off on to the Pilgrimage with continuous Sharana Ghoshams

We also have a practice of lighting a lamp to the stone on which the Coconut is broken during departure, every morning and evening by the family members. All conditions, reverence that is accorded to the Swamis on Vrat is accorded to this stone. This stone represents the entire group of pilgrims that have embarked on pilgrimage and the pilgrimage is considered over once they return and break a coconut on the same stone.

Note: I have attempted to explain the entire process based on my experience and practices handed over to me by my Guruswamies.  As I write this piece, I am on vrat for my 54th Pilgrimage with my Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji’s blessings and Lord Ayyappa’s grace, leading a group of 30 Pilgrims including 5 Kanni Swamis.

Please let me know if there are any errors, I would humbly accept them and make the corrections

Swami Sharanam

 

Sabarimala Pilgrimage – Maladharana

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

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.

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

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.

#SaveSabarimalaTradition-Potency of Protest

Reproduced from https://www.facebook.com/notes/wisdom/entry-of-all-women-into-sabarimala-temple/541142036358479/ Verbatim with permission from the author

ENTRY OF ALL WOMEN INTO SABARIMALA TEMPLE
An all out struggle which has the potency to develop into a no holds barred fight (JO MARJEE LADAAYEE) between the faithful community clinging to spiritual and traditional values and the rationalists bent upon breaking all existing norms has sprung now, from the month of October, 2018, in the entire state of Kerala, particularly in the approaches of Sabarimala hill area leading to the divine temple of LORD AYYAPPA. This struggle carries with it, the in-built potency to even obliterate the present constitution of India which was framed by a team, consisting of a majority of rationalists, presided over by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. We wish to enlighten the people of India in this matter, which is of transcendental nature. By going through this essay the readers would be able to develop an objective assessment without any sort of prejudice and finally arrive at a proper conclusion. Further, this would help Indian ethos to spiritually, socially and politically evolve towards the age old concept of RAMARAJYAM, the most ideal system of the rule of law. The people of India can ponder over this matter and feel highly rewarded.
Evolution of human intellect has two distinctive paths to progress. One is the Path of Faith and the other is the Path of Reason. The Path of Reason can take an individual to the border lines of reasoning capability in him or in her and not a millimetre beyond that. But life, in general, progresses very much beyond this border lines and finally, evolving further, extends into infinity. This becomes possible by following the Path of Faith alone.
There are innumerable riddles in front of the world of sensory perception, for most of which the Path of Reason has no satisfactory answers. At the same time, the Path of Faith has convincing answers for these riddles which are based on total faith in the Vedas of the Hindus. In fact, the Vedas (vast collections of knowledge) have come into being to enlighten humanity in all transcendental matters. The Smrutis (codes of conduct applicable to each and every individual belonging to various sections of society during different occasions) instituted by the near omniscient Seers (सर्वज्ञकल्पाः) like Manu, Yaagnyavalkya, and others which were put to practical application as Sutras by Bodhayana, Aapastamba and others are the codified essence of the Vedas and they become the extensions of the Vedas in guiding humanity. As time evolves steadily, application and modality ordained in each Smruti undergo a modification, a change in a small or great measure, to suit the requirement of the particular time and occasion, keeping the spirit behind the ordainment alone constant for all times. Cold water bath which is most welcome during summer would turn to be totally unwelcome during winter. This analogy is presented here to grasp the logic involved in this matter. This is the cause for the seeming difference in the ordainment in each Smruti. The ultimate aim of each Smruti is verily to keep India’s Sanatana Dharma, the eternal way of living, ever green and lively. As such, here lies the absolute necessity of FAITH in all spiritual matters. If one possesses a Saatvic (purified) intellect and maintains a positive approach everywhere, the injunctions would look to be wise and sane. The same injunctions would look to be insane, unjust and hostilely discriminative when interpreted with a Taamasic (mired) intellect coupled with a negative approach, towards everything, at the same time.
Faith alone takes humanity to the imperceptible and unknown realm of infinity. There is no room for Reason here. Total faith is nothing other than blind faith. By reasoning, no one can take his or her thinking process beyond the limits of the perceptible present which is the sensory realm. Mankind doesn’t know what or who one was before being born in this world and also what or who one would be after leaving this world of sensory perception. As such, if the rationalists stress that they would be convinced of anything through the faculty of perceptible reason alone, they won’t be able to evolve beyond a certain limit. The perceptible realm is always very limited and often misguiding and the imperceptible realm is static, infinite and eternal.
If we ponder over this matter repeatedly we can realise that one’s basic identity itself is existing in total faith and not in reason at all. No sensible person would go to a genetic test centre to get convinced of one’s real parentage, i.e. of which male’s blood he or she actually is. Faith in the mother’s statement alone provides here the necessary satisfaction for every individual. As such, it is evident that mankind is evolving through the Path of Faith alone and not through the Path of Reason, from day one of life.
Physics declares that there is no effect without its appropriate cause. Life on Earth is the effect of an appropriate cause that was generated in the past. Similarly the present life will have its appropriate effect in the future also. One can only infer how an individual would have lived during one’s previous existence from its present perceptible effect which is reflecting as incidents (both welcome and bitter) in one’s present life. Similarly, the present life would become the cause for future existences. As such, it becomes totally foolish for anyone to say that “I would believe and accept the perceptible present existence alone and nothing beyond than that”.
Religion is exactly similar to a torch light for humanity to evolve in total darkness i.e. intellectual gloom. Beings other than mankind don’t need religion as they don’t possess the faculty of discrimination to judge which would turn for the ultimate good or bad. Their fundamental requirements are to eat well, to pass the time in recreation and to engage in procreation. Beyond this they don’t seem to have a meaning for life. If humanity thinks that it doesn’t need Religion, which is based on total FAITH, and requires the path of Reason alone to progress and evolve in life, it degrades itself to the level of quadrupeds. Strict observance of religion alone makes a distinction between mankind and the rest. Now let us proceed to the Sabarimala issue.
There exists a legend in the Puranas, the mythological collections of the Hindus, concerning Lord Ayyappa. He happens to be the offspring of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu who assumed the form of a female to achieve a specific purpose. Vishnu assumed the form of a world bewitching damsel to delude and bewitch the Asura community, representing the dark forces of destruction, who are basically rationalists and materialists.
Once upon a time, on the advice of Lord Vishnu, the Devata community, the heavenly inhabitants, joined hands with the Asuras and toiled hard in churning the ocean of milk to obtain the symbolic Amrita, the rejuvenating tonic, an elixir, which would make the consumers immortal, in a sense. Finally when the pot of Amrita surfaced, the Asuras forcibly snatched the pot as they happen to be stronger in muscular power and fled away from the sight of the Devas in a trice. Hearing the laments and prayers of the Devata community, Vishnu, out of compassion for Devas, assumed the form of a world bewitching damsel, viz. Mohini, and won back the pot of Amrita from the Asuras through a clever scheme of intrigue, bewitching and stupefying them for a while, making them believe that she had verily fallen in love with them, through her enchanting form, sweet voice, captivating looks coupled with dancing steps and finally through her pretention of serving the ambrosia equally among the Devas and the Asuras. She finally served the elixir of immortality to the Devas alone in front of the very eyes of the stupefied Asura community. It took a little while for the Asura community to realise what was actually happening and when they finally realised the intrigue, it was too late for them to even trace the trail of the juggler. This story is mentioned in most of the Puranas similarly.
When Lord Shiva expressed to Lord Vishnu, his strong desire to perceive this enchanting form of Mohini, Vishnu verily acceded to appear in front of Shiva in the same form, once again. The form of Mohini was so enchanting for Shiva to make him lose his mental equipoise temporarily which resulted in Shiva embracing Mohini irresistibly. Finally this resulted in the ejaculation of semen, even in the case of Shiva who is known as one who has overcome his lust. Krishna says in Bhagavad-Geeta मम माया दुरत्यया which means that his deluding potency is invincible. Shiva was no exception to this statement in Geeta. Without getting wasted, this seminal energy got collected in a reed and subsequently Lord Ayyappa was born as a test tube baby.
This Spirit of Lord Ayyappa is presiding over the Sabarimala hill area. Lord Ayyappa’s first manifestation could be around the closing century of B C or the early century of A D. Bhagavatpaada Shankara has made a reference to Lord Ayyappa in his devotional hymn of शिवपादादि-केशान्त-वर्णन-स्तोत्रम्. There he mentions Lord Ayyappa as भूतभर्ता ruler or controller of all beings in the matter of upholding Dharma unflinchingly. In the same sense Lord Ayyappa is called Dharma Shaastaa (धर्मशास्ता) also. Lord Ayyappa thrusts upon all beings equally the Dhaarmic way of life, punishing the offenders in the process to maintain justice on Earth. The verse in the hymn is presented.
आरूढः प्रौढवेग – प्रजवित – पवनं तुङ्ग – तुङ्गं तुरङ्गं
चेलं नीलं दधानः करतल-विलसत्-काण्ड-कोदण्ड-दण्डः |
राग-द्वेषादि – नानाविध – मृगपटली – भीतिकृद् – भूतभर्ता
कुर्वन्नाखेटलीलां निवसतु मनः – कानने मामकीने ||
“Let the great God, the ruler of all beings, the unflinching dispenser of Dharma, mounted on a horse of a mammoth height and size capable of eclipsing even the wind-speed, adorning black cloth around his waist and upper body, holding bow and arrows in his hands, reside in the thick jungles of my mental realm, exhilarating in sport and pastime of hunting and in the process driving away the hostile wild animals residing there in the form of lust, greed, wrath, likes, dislikes, sensuality and all sorts of other vices.”
The name, Ayyappa, originated in the ancient Tamil language. Its usage became common in Malayalam language ever since its evolution into a separate language from Tamil, somewhere around A D 1200. Malayalam is the offspring of Tamil-mother and Sanskrit-father. The name of Ayyappa is derived from the Sanskrit word, Arya (आर्यः) meaning Acharya (आचार्यः) i.e. Guru or preceptor which would become Ayya (அய்யா) or Ayyan (அய்யன்) in the slanted version of Tamil. The same word, in an endearing sense of a pet child, became Ayyappa, as he manifested as an endearing and captivating infant of great lustre. He is also called Manikandan as he was found wearing a rare gem of invaluable worth over his neck at the time of his appearance on the bank of the Pampa river. The word Mani denotes a gem in Sanskrit and it is mistaken for a ringing bell made out of bell metal or bronze in Tamil Nadu.
The ruler of Pandalam kingdom accidentally came across this orphaned and abandoned child in Sabarimala hill area, on the bank of the Pampa river, during a course of his hunting expedition and brought the child to his palace with great compassion and care. Ayyappa became the adopted son of the king after undergoing a formal ritual for adoption. He was fostered with great affection by the king who was anguished by the terrible misfortune of childlessness till then. After this adoption, the king’s better half conceived and gave birth to a son in quick succession.
When the question of inheriting the throne arose after about 18 years, the queen was ill-advised by her coterie to eliminate, by any means, the adopted son who was elder and as such, the rightful inheritor to the throne, so that the son born out of her womb would inherit the throne. This was actually against the wishes of the king who wanted Ayyappa to become his heir apparent. To eliminate Ayyappa from this world of mortals a well planned intrigue was contrived by the coterie. According to that, the queen started pretending to be suffering from a serious ailment, almost unbearable in its nature, for which the remedy was prescribed by the prearranged royal physician as tigress-milk. The king was shocked to hear this prescription as tigress-milk was almost unthinkable for anyone to obtain.
At this juncture, the son, Ayyappa came forward, with youthful vigour, valour and exuberance coupled with unshakable determination, raring to go to the thick jungles to get the tigress-milk, against the prevention and wishes of his foster father, the king. In quick time he returned from the jungle with a vast herd of the big cats viz. the tigers, males, females and cubs, Himself mounted on the back of a ferocious looking tiger of a mammoth size. He stated without even alighting from his seat, on the back of the tiger, facing the big gathering assembled in the courtyard of the palace, that anyone among them could extract the milk from the udder of any suckling tigress, without the slightest fear, as they were fully friendly and domesticated like the cows.
On hearing these words, the queen fell unconscious instantly while the coterie remained trembling in fear, as they had no means to save themselves from the consequences of their treacherous design. Ayyappa, on the other hand, instead of showing any ill will towards the coterie and the queen, magnanimously pardoned them for their wrong doing and told the king that his Karma to remain as prince in the palace was over then and there and he was to concentrate thereafter on his eternal mission of redeeming the sinners, infusing optimism and confidence into various kinds of anguished and misery-stricken people, wiping out their tears, thereby uplifting the entire downtrodden masses (like Jesus Christ did in the past) irrespective of their religion, status, cast, creed and community, whose number would swell into gigantic proportions in the ensuing period. He told the king to meet Him in His eternal abode, in Sabarimala, where the shrine remains now.
Uttering these words of benediction, Ayyappa retreated to His hilly abode in Sabarimala, where He remains in his astral form. There, he has appeared in his luminous astral form many a time to bless His devotees, as promised earlier. These days, He appears as pure luminosity on the 1st day of the month of Makara (Capricorn) coinciding usually with the 14th of January. He, Himself, instituted all the disciplines for daily, seasonal and annual worship to be followed in the temple. Sabarimala-Ayyappa’s riding car came to be known as a tiger after these thrilling incidents. Throughout Kerala, Ayyappa is worshipped as riding a tiger. In Tamil Nadu and elsewhere the riding car of Ayyappa remains a horse as it used to be before His manifestation in Sabarimala. In Tamil Nadu He is called as Dharma Shaastaa or Ayyanaar, the respectful version of Ayyan.
In Tamil Nadu, each and every village would have an Ayyanaar temple. Here, He is generally worshipped as a guardian deity of the village disciplining the inhabitants from transgressing Dharma, the ethical and moral standards. In Sabarimala, Lord Ayyappa assumes the fully Saatvic (purified) aspect of Sadguru, imparting the eternal wisdom, the knowledge of the Self, exactly like Lord Dakshinamurti, by holding His right palm and fingers in the sign of CHINMUDRA (चिन्मुद्रा) generally used to steady and introvert the wandering mind and guiding it to the transcendental state of Samadhi.
In the Sabarimala sanctum sanctorum, Lord Ayyappa remains as an eternal celibate. As He observes celibacy in thought, word and deed, the enormous power generated in the temple and in the vicinity of Sabarimala becomes highly detrimental to the interests of women wishing to conceive and beget children. Their menstrual cycles, the amount of bleeding during menses and finally their fecundity get terribly disturbed resulting in the total ruin of their reproductive system which would definitely reflect in their mental health also by visiting Sabarimala Temple. This is the actual reason for prohibiting women in the age group of 10 to 50 in Sabarimala Temple. There is no hostile discrimination against women in this matter. It is for the benefit of women alone, that this discipline is instituted in Sabarimala pilgrimage. Without grasping these subtle matters in detail, the Women Liberation Activists, who are professionals, fight vehemently for gender equality with the male population to visit Sabarimala Temple. Naturally, it makes one smell some hidden agenda (machinations behind the curtain, prompted by agencies committed to destroy Hindu Religious Faith completely) in their obstinate move to break all the conventions practised in the Sabarimala temple as in the case of the earlier fight against Jelli-Kattu, the martial sport and pastime of the exuberant youths, belonging to the warrior class of society, in Tamil Nadu, where the institution of PETA are said to have acted as the informal agents of the manufacturers of agricultural machinery in America and Europe. If there would be no Jelli-Kattu, there would be no purpose in rearing and maintaining the bulls in top condition. In that case, the same bulls which are supposed to beget the cattle for agriculture would be sent to butchery and they would become extinct steadily thereafter.
In the Sabarimala case, the Supreme Court gave their verdict in favour of the professional activists, hurting very severely the sentiments and confidence of the faithful Hindu community who are also the majority community in India. The judges say that they are more concerned to implement the gender equality than sticking to the conventional observances of the faithful community. This adherence to equality is exactly similar to maintaining precisely equal length in all the fingers in both the hands, no matter it might require cutting off some length in the longer fingers. Gender equality cannot be achieved by any reformer or any judge in the empirical realm, how much so ever great one would be. Equality is possible in the realm of Atman or Spirit alone. In the realm of matter there would be only inequality to whichever direction one would turn. As Spirits all are equal and as individuals identifying with the body, all are ever unequal. Males and females are born in this world for achieving different purposes. There is no superiority or inferiority in this matter. When both are put together, then only, it becomes a single wholesome unit like द्रव्य the matter and गुण its attribute. The attribute cannot be separated from the matter. Kalidasa says in the beginning of his immortal Rhetoric of Raghuvamsa that Siva and Parvati ever remain as a single wholesome unit like a word and its meaning when he says वागर्थाविव सम्पृक्तौ. The judges of the Supreme Court should have shown more objectivity and commonsense in this case. Strangely, the Muslim and Christian communities of Kerala are also supporting the believers of the Hindu community. 99.99 per cent of Kerala women, irrespective of religious affiliations, desist from undertaking the pilgrimage to Sabarimala.
When Supreme Court delivered the verdict, the spirit of equality was totally forsaken by the judges holding on fast to the skeleton aspect alone. Actually, holding on to the spirit aspect, should have been of paramount importance to the judges. To protect the spirit aspect, if the skeleton aspect had to be ignored, in some cases, it would not have been wrong at all. This verdict would make the believers to lose their confidence and faith in our very Constitution, in the matter of obtaining Justice.
To understand the logic behind the age old practice in Sabarimala, all the readers are requested to go through the Blog Site maintained by a highly educated woman, Maitri by name, engaged in the research of menstrual periods of women for the past nine years. She is very popular in Karnataka through her educating mission. Her write up remains highly welcome, informative and reformative among all classes of women, possessing the stamp of personal experience. The Women Liberation Activists (who are verily professionals) fighting for equality in the matter of Sabarimala Darshan should definitely go through her Blog Site to feel greatly rewarded. The link to her Blog Site is given hereunder for everyone’s enlightenment and the accruing benefit thereafter. https://mythrispeaks.wordpress.com/2018/10/23/sabarimala-verdict-fabricated-rights-over-real-experiences-of-women/amp/?__twitter_impression=true
Ayyappa’s story is very famous in the entire length and breadth of Kerala and need not be gone through in greater detail than it is done now at this juncture. There are many more legends with regard to Lord Ayyappa and the holy shrine of Sabarimala. Lord Ayyappa’s vanquishing and subsequently transforming Mahishi, a female of mass following (probably encouraging and promoting polyandry in those days) in those areas, and Vaavar, the colloquial version of Babar, a Muslim forest brigand like Veerappan of 20th century in Tamil Nadu, are some of the noteworthy legends sung in the form of folklore among Ayyappa devotees. Ever since their transformation by Ayyappa, they became immortalised and are given their places of pride in the scheme of things in Sabarimala. The Spirits of both of them are installed and formally consecrated within the ambit of Sabarimala hills, the first one’s Spirit remains somewhat close to Ayyappa’s sanctum sanctorum by the name of Maalikappurattamma and the second one’s Spirit remains in the little faraway place called Erumeli, the starting point of Sabarimala pilgrimage. The pilgrimage to Sabarimala shrine attains completion and fruition only after paying obeisance in front of their sanctum sanctorum also. How magnanimous and forgiving Ayyappa remains even towards His adversaries!
In front of Lord Ayyappa all are equals in letter and spirit. During the pilgrimage all dine side by side, all rest alike spreading a cloth or sheet on the ground in the wilderness of the thick jungles, observing the greatest virtue of sacrificing one’s own comfort for others’ sake with spontaneity and joy. There is no discrimination of religion, cast, creed, community, language and race here. No untouchability is involved among devotees here. All stand in the same queue, formed at times for miles, waiting for their turn of Darshan of the Lord. There is no preferential Darshan here for the highly influential. There is no Darshan on payment also. All differences are forgotten, at least for the time being, till the formal completion of the pilgrimage when all the devotees would return to their native places and remove the rosary from around their necks, which they started wearing at the commencement of their vow. This pilgrimage teaches humanity to live in peace, harmony and brotherhood in this world, renouncing all hostility. Even the hostile wild animals, tigers and elephants, residing in those thick jungles do not harm the pilgrims, the symbolic different forms of Lord Ayyappa Himself, provided they have not violated the disciplines to be observed during the course of the vow, lasting about 45 days. This is the evidence of the great power remaining behind the virtues of truth, sacrifice, morality, non-violence and universal love. The power of virtues are capable of moving even mountains.
Muslim clerics are looking after the sanctum sanctorum of Vaavar at Erumeli from good old times and they are distributing the MAHAA-PRASAADAM, the sacred ash, by their own hands and all the Hindus are receiving it with great humility and reverence. Can anyone show even a remote parallel to this pilgrimage anywhere in the rest of the world? There is no need of any conversion into another religious faith if the spirit behind this pilgrimage is perceived properly. If all can live in harmony for at least 45 days forgetting all the differences why can’t it be extended for the whole year which would get extended thereafter to all times? Oh, the respectful class of judiciary, please try to understand the great pilgrimage to Sabarimala shrine in its true perspective. Please desist from giving such verdicts which would promote disharmony alone in our society. India is predominantly a land of gods and believers in gods. Please don’t disturb the harmony of this sacred land. Please try to practically understand the enormous benefits accruing from this pilgrimage, by observing the spiritual disciplines under the formal guidance of a Guru Swami and finally by going to Sabarimala during a pilgrim season, at least once in your life time. Please don’t give a judgement favouring the professional activists, the nonbelievers, who are not at all required to go to Sabarimala. Please don’t enthuse the professional activists to register more and more success in achieving their hidden agenda of destroying Hinduism.
Lord Ayyappa’s manifestation as an infant child in Sabarimala hill area should have been after Shankara’s time who belongs to the 7th century A D. We need not delve deeper into the symbolic story connected with Lord Ayyappa to grasp the core issue involved in this matter. This much is mentioned here to enlighten everybody that Lord Ayyappa is an extraordinarily powerful Spirit, totally benign in nature, residing in Sabarimala hills and this is evident from the number of devotees thronging to that shrine every year from all over the world. It was calculated as around 5 crores during the year 2017.
There is a lot of symbolism involved in the mythological collections of the Hindu Religion. First of all, symbolic statements are to be understood as neither facts nor fictions. It is like concealing a medicine in a capsule. The patient need not know what is concealed in the capsule to get cured of the disease. Faith in the doctor’s diagnosis and prescription alone would be sufficient in this matter. Similarly symbolic statements are powerful enough to touch the heart directly and to make an indelible impression, thereby transforming the individual. By so doing they become quite capable of achieving the ultimate objective of the statements. The explicit language used in any statement agreeable to intellectual logic is generally understood and accepted as factual statements by the rationalists. These statements cannot achieve the objective which the statements loaded with symbolism are capable of achieving. Symbolic view is like perceiving anything differently like perceiving our Globe Earth from the earth-satellite moon when it looks like a whirling colossal sapphire stone embedded with gold in many places. The portion of ocean would look like sapphire stone and the portion of land would look like embedded gold. Even though the Earth is the same it can be perceived differently. This is the spirit behind the liberal usage of symbolic language in the entire mythological literature in Hinduism.
In the proceedings of arguments raised by the legal fraternity in the Supreme Court, representing the believers, minor issues were only raised repeatedly leaving the core spirit of the matter untouched. Lord Ayyappa in Sabarimala doesn’t get disturbed if women aged between 10 to 50 go there and stand in front of His sanctum sanctorum. “What is the sin involved here or cause for disqualification on the part of women, if they happened to menstruate in front of Lord Ayyappa during the pilgrimage, which is actually not in their control?” This matter was repeatedly raised during the course of arguments by the lawyers representing the nonbelievers. It has been convincingly explained in the previous paragraphs that this practice of barring young women is followed in Sabarimala, exclusively for the benefit of women devotees. There is no discriminative agenda against women in this matter.
The Vratam or vow for the pilgrimage is undertaken at least 41 days before commencing the pilgrimage. The pilgrims should do this under the guidance of a Guru Swami, the preceptor and guide in this case. They should even avoid the food prepared and served by women, maintaining strict celibacy. In olden days (till 1947), to avoid the nearness of women (which would turn for the benefit of both) they used to reside in temporary out-houses during the period of their vow, eating food prepared by their hands after undergoing ablutions and prayers during both twilights. Mortification of the sensory organs remains to be so strict that for all practical purposes they would consider themselves as mendicant monks during those days of penance. By undergoing all these acts of penance they generate so much of spiritual power in them and in the vicinity of their presence and dwelling. It would be only natural if they happened to succumb to temptations when young women also walk side by side with them in heckling and squeezing conditions, during the course of the pilgrimage. It takes two days’ trekking from Erumeli through thick jungles to reach Pampa, the basement spot of the hill. In those jungles the pilgrims would be required to spend one or two nights in rainy condition, fearing hostile wild animals, without proper food, without a proper place to rest or even to stretch the limbs of the body and finally without toilet and ablution facilities. How can one expect the women to withstand all these extremely bitter adversities? The activists should realise that Sabarimala is not a picnic spot or a recreation centre, specially known for its five star hotels with inbuilt merry-making nightclubs, gambling dens, etc. like Miami Beach, Florida, in U.S.A. or the city of Paris in France.
An inert metal piece, an idol cast of an alloy of five metals, cannot attract such a large number of devotees and make them feel rewarded and keep them constantly satisfied. There exist crores of devotees who have taken the vow of celibacy and other required disciplines connected with Sabarimala pilgrimage and who have visited the hilly shrine 18 times and even more during their life time. Their numbers are only increasing as time evolves.
One of the five judges who gave the verdict, remaining a member of the constitution bench, wrote that a deity has no fundamental rights. Only the human beings in the form of pilgrims or visitors can have fundamental rights. As such, the deity, i.e. Lord Ayyappa in this case, has no right in setting up the standards for the pilgrimage. If this is to be accepted as correct, in the light of religious beliefs, Lord Ayyappa has to be considered as an inert entity without any Chaitanyam i.e. life force in Him, thereby remaining there as just an object of a metal piece. When it is strongly believed and accepted by the class of faithful devotees that even hillocks like Arunaachala and Palani in Tamil Nadu have a force field around them radiating Chaitanyam, life force, this verdict becomes a stab on the back of the class of faithful devotees. The great seer, Ramana Maharshi, has stated that he could visualise the hill of Arunaachala as a vibrant Spirit which forcibly robbed the individual free will in him and thereafter made him an eternal brain deranged mendicant. This is clear in his famous composition named அக்ஷரமணமாலை, the sweet smelling garland of letters composed in the alphabetical order as an offering to Lord Arunaachala.
Any verdict delivered by a court of law and justice should be welcome and also convincing to the unprejudiced class of nobles. Further, the judgment should not create disharmony in the society leading to pitched battles between the believers and the non-believers. This verdict is welcome to the class of rationalists alone who are not required to visit the hilly shrine at all. To wound the sentiments of the believers and to belittle the deity in Sabarimala, the rationalists confess one fine morning, suddenly, that they have become believers and they should be allowed into the shrine as per their whims and fancies, i.e. without observing any vow of celibacy and other disciplines for 41 days. The logic that remains here is that the moment they confess they have become believers requiring to visit Sabarimala shrine, they become automatically bound by the injunctions of the hilly shrine which says that women between the age of ten and fifty should not visit the shrine. In this matter it is to be informed to all concerned alike that all the rules of worship at Sabarimala are instituted by Lord Ayyappa, Himself. No one else has any right whatsoever to introduce any change or modification in the conventions observed there. All these standards are maintained through the medium of a TANTRI, the permanent overseer and spiritual guide appointed by the custodian of the temple, Pandalam Raja, to look after all spiritual matters concerning Sabarimala Temple.
As per legend, Lord Parashuraama, before retiring (renouncing all activities) into the eastern ghat ranges of Mahendragiri, near the present Rajahmundry in Andhra Pradesh, as an act of प्रायश्चित्त i.e. atonement for eliminating a vast population of unrighteous (क्षत्रियाः), warrior class of men, reclaimed and founded the narrow strip of landscape which is called as Kerala today from the Arabian Sea. He threw away His deadly weapon, the axe, into the Arabian Sea, never to engage in any sort of warfare thereafter. Subsequently the sea retreated to that extent where the axe fell and a narrow landscape sprung there from Gokarana (in Karnataka) in the north to Kanyakumari (in Tamil Nadu) in the south. It was obligatory and customary on His part to bring all classes of people from elsewhere to reside in this newly created piece of land. By doing that only the ritual of atonement would attain fruition. For this purpose He brought all classes of people from other areas like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and even from the far away state, Gujarat.
The Brahman-family of Thazhaman Potti, who are the TANTRIS in Sabarimala, were among those migrants settled in Kerala who originally belonged to Andhra Pradesh. This could be grasped from their names which are similar to Telugu names viz. Kandararu, Mohanaru, Rajivaru, etc. They were duly appointed as TANTRIS by the Ruler of Pandalam Kingdom, the rightful custodian of Sabarimala Temple, considering their life of penance and intuitive knowledge. Lord Ayyappa gladly consented to this appointment and everything went on smoothly for centuries.
During earlier days when the human intellect, in general, had not corrupted to the present level, the appointed TANTRIS in Sabarimala Temple could act as medium of Lord Ayyappa. During the present days, when all people are groping in darkness alike, with regard to transcendental matters, due to the overwhelming influence of TAMO GUNA (resulting in mired intellects and total ignorance of one’s own Self) Lord Ayyappa’s will and wish in all matters concerning Sabarimala Temple and the age old pilgrimage are obtained through a formal ritual called DEVAPRASNAM.
The ritual of DEVAPRASNAM is based on the horary branch of astrology, by erecting an astrological chart for that particular moment, combined with the vast wisdom obtained through Nimitta Shaastra, the science concerning omens and all other happenings taking place at the spot of the ritual, at that particular time. A team of TANTRIS from all over Kerala or even outside, engaged in long drawn out penance, conduct this ritual with their intuitive knowledge. The science of occultism includes in itself all the subtle details of this matter. Idol worship in India is part of this science of occultism. A bare naked eye would not be able to comprehend any bacteria or germ in any object but with the help of a microscope it would be able to do it. Similarly the mired average intellect would not be able to comprehend the subtle principles and secrets behind these occult matters. A Saatvic (purified) intellect, through austerity and through leading a life of long drawn out penance, would be able to grasp the nuances involved in this matter directly. To provide such occult information, the different religious faiths, all over the world, have come into being. In India, the Sanatana Dharma (the eternal way of living) which is known as Hindu Religious Faith, has come into being from an untraceable beginning point in time. It is our duty to follow the religious injunctions with utmost sincerity to feel greatly rewarded and thereafter to remain in a state of eternal joy and contentment.
OM SHAANTIH.
SWAAMIYE SARANAM AYYAPPA.
OM SHAANTIH, SHAANTIH, SHAANTIH.