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Ayyappa Worship: A sustaining faith

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Every year, millions of devotees proceed on a yatra (pilgrimage) to Sabari Hills in Kerala during the months of November to January to worship Ayyappa.They practice a rigorous self cleansing program for 41 Days prior to the trip which is normally undertaken as group under the guidance of a senior member aptly called Guruswamy. A devotee takes a vow and prays either in a temple or at home to honor this commitment wearing the prescribed dress and mala (garland), going through both the mental and physical preparations during this period. It is a very special journey. The route is taken by walking through five hills for 4-5 days before reaching the base camp in the foot hills of Pamba. One climbs another 11 kilometres to reach the temple. The devotee then offers the Irumudi (offerings he has carried in a special bag) to the Lord whilst chanting his name Swamiyee Saranam Ayyappa (Prostrations to Swami Ayyappa).

During the preparatory phase all such devotees are called Ayyappas. A daily routine involves prayers both morning and evening, a visit to a temple close by, chanting of the sarana slogam and attending to group BhajansĀ (prayers) conducted in devotee houses in the neighborhood. The rules of vegetarian food, no smoking or alcohol, abstinence from sex, simple lifestyle, acceptance of your fellow human beings as equal and treating every living form of Gods with love and care are strictly followed. During such a self imposed programme one can feel genuine fellow feeling and empathy which is one of the greatest effects of the programme. A devotee attends to his other routines, such as his office work, as usual.

Ayyappa accepts all equally and expects all devotees to adhere to this belief. There is no difference or differentiation between people and therefore his temple accepts all. The special seasons are during Makara Jyothi and Makaravilakku, seasons in December and January. The temple is also kept open for a week every month. The lord is known by many names: Dharmasastha, Sabari Girisha, Sathgurunath, Manikanda. His yoga asana chinmudra posture confirms his protection, care and concern for all living beings in the universe. He is known to protect and come to the rescue of his devotees. During the yatra he is worshipped in five temples located at Achankovil, Aariyan Kavu, Kulathu Puzza, Khandamali and Sabarimalai.

The holy 18 steps leading to the temple is a great experience. His holy darsan remains in the mind of the devotee for a long time wanting and urging him to take another trip during the next season, so strong and powerful is the effect. This faith and belief helps in driving away negative thoughts and brings in positive vibrations to the betterment of all.

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June 1st, 2010 at 4:04 pm

Posted in Hinduism

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