Tuesday, December 9, 2008



Pilgrimage to Sabarimalai
A pilgrimage to Sabarimalai is highly efficacious. Intending pilgrims wear a Tulsimala on the first day of the Tamil Month of Karthigai (November) and observe vrata (austerities) for a mandala (40 days) before attending the Mandala Puja and for 60 days to have Darshan of Makara-Villakku otherwise known as Kanthamalai Jyothi.

During the period of Vrata, the devotees have to observe many severe austerities. They have to observe the strictest celibacy and worship Sastha morning and evening, each time after a bath.

They should sleep on the ground without mattresses and wear dark blue or black, Saffron clothes. Non-vegetarian food is strictly pohibited. Little girls and aged women are permitted to undertake the Sabarimala Yatra but grown up girls and young women are strictly prohibited. A male pilgrim is called Ayyappan and female is called Maligaipurathu Amma. They are considered to be the real representatives of Lord Ayyappan.

There are certain important things which has to be taken care while observing Vrata. The people wearing mala are not supposed to eat Non-Vegetarian Food. They should avoid taking Onion, Garlic, Drumstick in their daily food.

They should not even see women who are having their mensus, rather it is for the women to realise they are not supposed to come in front of the people who are wearing Mala. Furthermore the people who are wearing mala are supposed to follow Brahmacharayam strictly.

The way to the darshan of Lord Ayyappan starts through the Periya Paadei (long route) at Erumeli. At Erumeli it is a custom for the visitor who goes there for the first time (Kanni Ayyappan) to have his body tatooed, go on a mock-hunting and then dance round the prakaram of the Sastha temple at Pettah.

This peculiar custom known as “Petta Thullal” signifies that one must give up the love of the body and all false notions of dignity. Mock hunting signifies that all should subdue Kama, Krodha and such other vices that lie concealed within oneself before one enters the kingdom of God.

After walking 41 miles from Erumeli crossing Perurthodu, Kaalla Ketti, Azhuthamedu, Karimalai, and Periya annavattum, the pilgrims reach the bank of the river Pampa which is a fine resting place. The temple of Sastha is only four miles from the Pampa river. After worshipping Vinayaka, the pilgrims start climbing hills with great joy to have a darshan of Sabarimalai Sastha. This craggy hill is called Neellimalai. It is believed that those who do not have faith in Lord will utter his name ‘Ayyappa’.

The temple of Dharmasastha is situated on a high platform and there are 18 steps at the entrance to the temple. The significance of the 18 steps are believed as 18 traits of human life. They are as follows:

1. Animaa 2. Lakhima 3. Mahima 4. Eshathvam 5. Vashithvam 6. Prakaamyam 7. Bhoodhi 8. Ecchaa 9. Nillam 10. Neer 11. Agni 12. Vayu 13.Vanaam 14. Sathva Gunam 15.Rajva Gunam 16. Thamoo Gunam 17.

Vidhya 18. Avidhya. Only the pilgrims who have the Irumudi on their heads are allowed to touch the 18 holy steps. They break a coconut on the step corresponding to the number of their visit.

The pilgrims who have visited 18 times have to plant a coconut tree on the hill. The image of Ayyappa is mostexquisite work of art. He sits in the Vira Padmasana posture. His countenance is sweet and serene.

His forehead is adorned with Vaishnavite symbols. It is no exaggeration to say that the more one looks at the figure the more he wishes to look again. Many people get solace and mental peace by visiting the temple at Sabarimalai and hence the pilgrims to this sacred place are swelling in numbers year by year.

Origins of Ayappa
One day a king of Pandalam , whose territory was Sabarimalai , went hunting. While hunting, he saw a beautiful child along the banks of Pampa. Since the king and queen were childless, they adopted him as their son. Since he wore a blue diamond around his neck, he was called ‘Manikanta’. It was Manikanta, who would later be called Ayapppa.

Meanwhile, the royal couple were blessed with their own son. The queen, was very much in favor to install her own son on the throne.

So one day, the queen pretending to be ill, demanded the young Ayappa to go to the forest and bring the milk of the Tigress. She thought that Ayappa would never return from this journey. The young Aiyappa promised her to get the milk and went to the forest .

Here, he met Indra, who was being harassed by Mahishi, a demoness with the head of a buffalo. She had obtained a promise from Brahma that only the son of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu would be able to kill her.

At Indira’s request , Ayappa killed her. In gratitude, Indira directed his followers to take the form of tigers and tigresses with cubs to accompany with Ayappa and return to his palace. When the queen saw Ayappa with the tigers, she realised her mistake.

It was then that Ayappa revealed that he was God Sastha. At the king’s request, he took permanent abode on the Sabarimalai.



‘My voice is a blessing of Ayyappan’
The well-known Tamil devotional singer Chidambaram Thiyagarajah will release his new CD containing Tamil devotional songs on December 14, 2008 at Ayyangaran Hall in Kotahena at 4 pm under the patronage of Pon Vallipuram who is the chief trustee of the Mayurapathy temple. The theme of this CD is ‘My voice is a blessing of Ayyappan’. Swamy Ayyappan is the powerful Hindu Lord whose temple is situated at Sabarimalai, in Kerala.

The special feature of this releasing ceremony is the distribution of school stationeries and equipment to 150 needy students. A special pooja will be conducted by Deshabandu Sivasri Bala Ravishankara Sivachchariyar.

The CD with Ayyappan devotional songs will contain two songs about Mayurapathy Amman too. All the songs were sung by Chidambaram Thiyagarajah. Child singers Akshiya Thiyagarajah, and Kawsalya Thiyagarajah have also contributed. Popular musician M.S. Selvarajah has composed music to the tunes of Thiyagarajah. Lyrics by K. Selvarajah and S. Mohanraj.

The main singer Chidambaram Thiyagarajah is a well known businessman and a social worker. He has already released 10 CDs and several cassettes which contain more than 85 songs in praise of the fame of Swamy Ayyappan.

Thiyagarajah’s songs can be heard in the Ayyappan temple in Sabarimalai also. Next to the songs of world famous singer K. J. Jesudas, Thiyagarajah’s songs are played at Ayyappan temple during great Ayyappan season.


Hinduism and Iconography
Thilaka V. Vijeyaratnam

Some of my friends demanded, “who are you to give forms to God?” That is indeed a vexing question. After going through several books on the subject of Iconography, I can boldly answer the question. The Vedas say so. The Acharyas of Tamil Nadu who walked the earth from 5th Century AD to 12th Century AD conform it. What the Vedas said is accepted as ‘Vedavakku’ - the gospel truth by the Hindus. It is strengthened by the words of the Vaishnava and Saiva saints. All that they said is accepted unquestionably.

In the ancient days men lived in fear of the unknown - of the mystery of death. When heroes sacrificed their lives for cause, some symbols or icons were set up in their honour is a historical fact in human civilisation. Reference to the force of nature also led to deifying such forms to appease them. Usually such ‘Gods’ might have been represented by a heap of stones or pillars or even by crude figures. This, scholars say might have originated the science of Iconography. In Sanskrit it is referred to as Murtisilpasastra.

The Vedas described the Gods in a particular way, and they have been accepted, as people considered it as the revealed world of God Himself, confirmed by the great rishis, the sages who had mystical experience.

There is enough evidence to believe that the science of Iconography existed in the Vedic period.

Sivalingas and images of mother goddesses have been unearthed in the Indu Valley Civilisation. It can be surmised that Hindu Iconography has been an ancient science which existed even as early as 3000 BC.

Rigveda (8.29) mentions the Saga Tvasta, as an architect of the Gods. He was supposed to bind himself with diksha or initiation and certain vows. He had to lead a well regulated and pure life as in the prescribed norms - like in diksha - and repeat the dynasloka mentally and pray to the deity he need to sculpture, to reveal his or her form. The forms are revealed to him to work on.

He reproduced this form in stone or other material. The stones used were granite, scapstone (steatite) or marble. There are some images called Utsavanurthis (that are taken in procession) made of metal, precious stones, wood or clay. Those made of ivory are not considered as fit for worship.

Wooden images can be seen at the Jagannatha Temple at Puri (in Orissa) and the Tirivikarama Temple at Tirukoilur (in Tamil Nadu). The images of most of the Gods and Goddess, are in the standing posture (sathanaka).

Many images of Mother Goddess, of Ganapathi and Narasimha are sculptured in the sitting posture (asina). Only the status of Vishnu as Padmanaba and Banganatha are in the reclining posture (Sayana). Vedas and the realised saints describe the Gods on their vehicles (vahanas).

Lord Siva has Nandi (the bull) Vishnu has the garuda (eagle), Brahma has the Hamsa (white swan), Durga Devi has the Simha (Lion) and the Goddess is referred to as Simhavahini. Lord Ganeshar (Pillayar) has the Musaka (rat) and Lord Murugan Mayura (peacock) as His vahana. Most of these vahanas and the deities are based on Mythological Legends. Iconometry is specially important in sculpturing an image. The breadth, circumference, diameter and interspaces are all considered in the making of the Godly figures.

Another feature to be considered is the hair-dos-crowns, the poses and also the ayudams (weapons). Speaking of ayudams, the following are found in the hand of deities:

Trident (Trirusula) - Lord Siva and Devi. Chakra (the discus) and chang (sanku) - both of Vishnu.

The Vaal (sword) of Durgai. The Ambu-vil (bow and arrow) of Sri Eama.

Incidentally among Tamil Hindus there is a tradition of giving a gold chain with a pendant of the five weapons (the Panchayutham) on the 31st day of a new born baby. This is used like a Talisman for protection in infancy.

The brahmin priest performs certain rites, to bless the baby, the parents and the household and then gifts are given to the baby, the foremost of it being the gold chain with a gold pendant of the five weapons of the Gods: Lord Siva, Devi, Vishnu and Sri Rama.

Be that as it may, there are still other objects like this dumbel (udukku), a book, prayer beads, lotus and such like. From these objects one can find out which deity it is. Most of the Gods have four arms. Dhurga Devi has eight, ten or even eighteen arms. Lord Murugan has six heads and twelve arms and there is a mythological legend behind this form.

All these extra heads and extra arms are symbolic, indicating supreme power or supreme intelligence. The cross borne by Jesus was a symbol of his supreme sacrifice for the good of mankind. Symbolically it means so. Similarly all these extra organs also symbolise the supreme power and intelligence of the supreme God.

The image or as some call it idol serves only as an aid to worshipping God. Incongraphy is the starting point for an individual to slowly rise to the spiritual level when he/she can feel the Divine and see Him in all things big and small.

So the Hindus consider as gospel truth what the Vedas (rigveda 8.29) and the realised Saiva and Vaishnava saints said of the forms of the Gods and Goddesses.

Reference - Hindu Iconography by Swami Harshananda

1 comment:

Reji Syne said...