Monday, December 17, 2012

Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa

With Guruswamy(2nd from left)
Sabarimala, this was the pilgrimage that always fancied me. I was unsure of the force that makes everyone wear those black robes, stay away from all worldly desires and devote the time praying Lord Ayyappa (Son of Vishnu and Shiva) for over a month. Devotees form a group- irrespective of the cast or the status in the society- and set off carrying Irrumudi under the guidance of Guruswamy (head of group),

First timers are called Kanniswamy and are under special observance, being taught about the rituals by the seniors. They mark their arrival in Sabarimala by throwing a dart like structure on the special wall where Lord Ayyappa is supposed to come and check. Belief is that the Lord will marry Mahishi once he finds that wall is empty. I was a Kanniswamy and had incredible experience with this group of 13.

We set off from Bangalore to Sabarimala, barefooted and carried Irrumudi. Irrumudi has a special significance- consists of rice, Kobbari filled with ghee, dry fruits, rose water, Karpoor, Arshina Kumkum and it is tied in a special way in a special bag. All of the things carried has it's own story to tell. For example- rice is carried as a token of prayer from the ladies in the home (as they are not allowed if they are in between age of 12 and age of 50), ghee represents the soul and the Kobbari represnts our body- ghee is offered to God, signifying that all souls will go back to God ,and Kobbari that is carried is put into the pyre, signifying our body that goes to pyre. Irrumudi is tied and handed over- big ritual in itself- marks the beginning of journey.

Train arrived in Chenaganur where special buses to Pamba ply frequently during this season. Yes, temple is open during Decemeber and January ( Jyothi of Makara Sankranthi), and first 5 days of every month. Rest of the while, 2 tigers are believed to take guard of the temple. No surprises, these are in dense forest of western ghats. We got lucky to see the lion tailed macaque, listed in endangered species.

After the holy bath at Pampa river, we set foot for a trek of 8 kms following Guruswamy, around 5 pm  Incidently, our Guruswamy was visiting Sabarimala for 18th time and he had to carry a sprouted coconut plant as the token. Next time he will be treated as Kanniswamy- as 18 marks a cycle- representing the holy 18 steps of the temple which everyone desires to step with their irrumudi is the biggest motive behind this holy pilgrimage. Also, temple is situated midst of 18 hills!

This trek was worth remembering- chants of Lord everywhere. We had a memorable darshan of Lord and offered the ghee we carried. We saw the time- it was showing 11 pm! This was surprising! 11.30 pm marks end of day in Sabarimala with a song- "HariHaraVasam" sung by K J Yesudas. Over lakh of devotees maintain silence and pray. Temple opens at 4 am with the "Suprabhata" sung by again, Yesudas. True testimony to this legendary singer, isn't it?!

We din't sleep. Went around the temple where shops/people never slept. Life was still on. Early morning we visited temple again for ghee abhishekam. Those glimpse of Lord gave us that immense happiness that we could never think of. Devotion was at peak.

On the way back, we visited Guruvayur temple of Krishna. Colourful city. But long waiting hours for glimpse of Lord. Kerala is God's own country and every stretch looked more beautiful. We came to Trissur to catch the train back to Bangalore.
God's own country

This pilgrimage was well powered by the home cooked eatables as eating outside is restricted. We carried a big bag with food that could last for 3 days. On the way, sister of one of the member in our group offered us more food. Commitment of these ladies to make this holy pilgrimage a grand success deserves nothing less than a big heartfelt thank you!

This is a special place as every devotee is considered as Swamy. No discrimination. There is a place of worship for friend of Lord, Vavaraswami, a Muslim saint. Every devotee trekking down helps the devotee who is climbing the tiresome uphill- may be with the bit of water or with the glucose powder or by just blowing some air of relief on him. We made friends with couple of people- from a different region, different linguistic origin- but one thing in common- devotion to God.