Tuesday, September 13, 2005

AN ABODE OF MODERN CULT

India has been always portrayed as a land of religion and temples. It is spiced with mysterious mythologies and spontaneous spirituality. But in recent years, this image is tarred by the frequent religious riots sprouting for no reason. Places of worship are no more peaceful or pleasant. At this juncture it would be apt and timely to think of a place where the age old saga of India "Unity in diversity" prevails in all its essence. I wish to take you to Kerala, the extreme end of India, where still nature flutters in her bounteous beauty.

Sabarimala, the hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa, which is in the western hills of India, is matchless in many ways. No wonder it is one of the most popular pilgrimage destinations in India. This temple is enchanting not only because of its religious adaptability but also for the unique place it is situated. It stands aloft in the depth of Sahya forest, enshrining Lord Ayyappa, as the deity of all times, for all people irrespective of their religion.

Millions of people from all over the world, undertake this strenuous pilgrimage every year. The unique feature of this temple is that it is open to people belonging to any faith, transcending the man made barriers of caste, creed, race, nationality etc, so it stands as a symbol of religious unity and communal harmony. Legends describe, Ayyappa as the son of Lord Shiva and lord Vishnu (Mohini).

A pilgrimage to this hill shrine includes arduous austerities, you have to prepare yourself mentally and physically before you undertake this mini trek through the western ghats. As preparation to take over this holy walk, we have to adhere to 41 days of rigorous fasting, celibacy, meditation and prayer. The bare footed travel through the thorny paths, is made easier by the thought of the ‘darshan’ (Vision) of the Lord Ayyapa, and his divinity. Once we reach the shrine, eighteen steps which are very sacred, lead us to the sanctum. Another specialty is that, unlike other temples it is opened only for limited days.( the Mandalam festival covering 41 days from November 15 to December 26; the Makaravilakku from January 1-14; on Vishu, on April14 and smaller festivals during May, June, August and September(Onam)

The main attraction and the most mysterious event here is the Makara Jyothi (on January, 14). On that evening, the statue of Ayyappa is embellished with all traditional ornaments. The whole place vibrates with the chanting of Ayyapa mantra, by the devotees, waiting there to see that divine event. Then there flashes a brilliant light, between the hills, with sparkling magnificence. Believe it or not, it is the most blissful feast to your mind and eyes. That vision makes all your strains and sacrifices fruitful. Legends explain the source of this light as from Devas and saints, who live in the other world.

This temple and its ways symbolizes the need of the hour, no discrimination in the name of your faith or breed, place or nationality. All are one and equal before the Almighty. Here Vavar a Muslim is worshipped as Ayyappa's lieutenant, and don't blink when I say that it is a Muslim priest who distributes the holy Prasad here. Thousands of lovely songs are sung on Ayyappa , and I would like to mention the name of a well known singer here. Mr. Jesudas, a Christian by birth, is an ardent devotee and the songs rendered by him have enlivened many. Once you indulge in this pilgrimage you address each other as Ayyappa, all attire in simple clothes. No segregation on the basis of money you have, or the post you hold, all equal before God.

As the temple gives us a lofty view of the mountains and valleys near by, it also provides us with the most lofty cult of humanitarianism, unmatched and unparallel anywhere. If Hinduism is taken as a way of life, as it is meant to be, this Ayyappa cult is the cream of it. So itself, it is universal, timely and practical.

1 Comments:

At 7:46 AM, Blogger Taylor said...

Great blog, I hope you keep this one up, I've seen too many of my favorite blogs die out.

Taylor
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