Some things in life are inherited from traditions followed for centuries without being written anywhere but passed down from generation to generation, following and practicing what is considered correct and required by the religious. Kerala and its traditional temples were known for their orthodox, very traditional and conservative existence, known to mankind. The holiness and purity of these rituals make it a beloved saga and an enriched lifestyle. We can not all be saints throughout our lives, but these norms make us live a divine and meaningful time, at least during the days when we follow a religious path leading to saturation. Lord Ayyappa is a symbol of beginning and end, being the son of Maha Vishnu and Lord Shiva … and it is also said that being a brahmacharya god is to follow the most difficult rituals by offering prayers. Each step of this sentence has a scientific significance and a reason if you deeper your search. This mainly corresponds to what Muslims follow during the fasting of Ramzan and Christians during Lent … all religions have certain things that are attached to a unique path of realization of God in any way .. a form of supreme existence, invisible and unknown.
41 days of diksha is like a tapas. What to do and what not to do is established to stay focused on God and his ultimate goals, namely purifying the human mind, the physical body and the inner soul. This offer actually creates vibrations for a better life and a new control of people’s character. Although most of the process may seem difficult, the road is rough, but the happiness of doing so makes it easy and achievable. As a fervent and ardent child who only remembers his father with Ayyappa’s dress all his life, I thought this season of Sabarimala was a time to recap some things to do and no.
The list of things to know during Sabarimala Vratham:
1) Wear black clothes only. You can wear dark blue or orange once you complete few years of diskha and travel to sabarimala. The reason being that Ayappa having offered that his devotees will pay due respects to him and as well as to Sani Bhagawan during the diksha so that he would not trouble them Wearing footwear is also avoided and washing feet before entering house or any place is required.
2) Start and end the day by taking bath twice with head shower with cold water. Initially this would be difficult but being clean is next to godliness. Using fragrances is avoided and using home made products is recommended.
3) Eating self cooked or clean cooked food in separate utensils have to be practiced. Ladies cooking the food have to be . Food have to be vegetarian and full meal only during lunch. Evening prasadam should be a light meal and fruits.
4) Sleeping on the floor is a must and you can use bed sheet or blankets as needed.
5) Who can take up this diksha? And Why?
a) Men of all ages can take up this diksha
b) Women who have not attain puberty and who are elderly and have had their menopause.
c) This restriction is to follow the tradition that Ayyappa is a brahmacharya (bachelor god) and to maintain the focus and santity of the tradition followed in this temple.
6) Following bachelor or brahmacharya life through out this varatham. This would keep the devotees focused on the rituals and on god.
7) Tell saranugosha or Ayyappa saranam vili everyday morning and evening. People going together in the Sabarimala pilgrimage keep telling this loudly during travel to make things easy, keep energy up and also to keep the fear of animals and darkness away. Saranam minchiya Saramu illiyeee (there is no big weapon than the saranu gosha)
8) No indulging in arguments, vulgar talks or watching movies. Keep practicing devotional songs and attend ayyappa Bhajan as much as possible keep the varatham in tact
9) Follow meditation to keep you calm and follow all the rituals with ease
10) Conduct Ayyappa puja at home at least once and give annadhanam to poor during this pooja. Having a Guruswamy do this at home is a blessing and making panchamrutham without even smelling the ingredients before offering to god is important. Annadhanam is a important ritual and if not possible at home, you can distribute food to poor near the temples as well
11) Deeksha during the full mandalam of 41 days. Lot of people these days due to convenience do this for few days which is not right or maladaranam only during the pilgrimage. This will not give full benefits and it is important that giving time cleaning the mind and body during the puja days is very important.
12) First time travelers to sabarimala are called Kanniswamies and they follow that they are driving by the saranu gosha and not with the help of stick as they climb the forest hills to sabarimala. Stop at Erumely and play pettatuli (carnival dance) before proceeding to sabarimala. The first arrow from erumely to be placed in Saramkuthi alayam. There is a story that the year when there is no saramkuti from the first time traveler to sabarimala, that is when Lord Ayyappa will get married…..and the waiting continues but devotees don’t stop coming to Sabarimala.
13) Do not indulge in any wrong doings, accepting bribes, indulging in violence or talking foul language. Do not drink or smoke.
14) Keeping modest way of life is the way to perform this puja. Don’t indulge in showing wealth during bhajans or puja at home. In the eyes of god, everyone is equal
15) Have all ingredients required for Irumudi and attend the Irumudhi function with poise. As the family puts behind rice in your bag as you start to sabarimala, it means that you are actually leaving behind all your entanglements of life, including relationships and materialistic well being and surrendering oneself to god.
16) Keeping away from attending death ceremonies, funerals and women during this time is required. In this vratham, one is far above all that is free from any kind of emotional entanglements and it is only to indicate that no one is above destiny and their own karma.
17) Visiting any local temple during the puja days once is recommended. In Chennai, every corner of the street have Lord Ganesh temples that can be visited.
18) Following all puja norms for mala removing after the pilgrimage is also recommended, It is not right to remove the mala once visit is completed before the 41 days is completed. And it has to be done with the help of Guruswamy only or in the ayyappa temple when the vratham is completed.