Ancient Hindhu sages believed that periodic fasts and vrathams purify the human body and mind. A devotee aspiring for darshan of Lord Ayyappan has to be pure both mentally and physically. He is expected to observe a mandatory fast of 41 days that usually begins on the first day Malayalam month of vrischikam I mid November.
A pilgrim who is on his maiden trip to Sabarimala is called Kanni Ayyappan. Taking bath in the pre-dawn hours, regular application of vibhooti, sandalwood paste followed by meditation and singing about lord Ayyapan for 41 days. No shaving is allowed and the devotees pray to Dharma shastha by chanting his name at least 108 times.
The Ayyappa swami does not apply oil to his hair and always carries with him a Tulasi leaf to ward off evil and temptations. He sleeps on the floor and uses no footwear to protect his feet.
Aazhi pooja (vellamkudi)
The Aazhi pooja is an important event associated with pilgrimage to Sabarimala. It symbolizes the attachment of an enunciate frame of mind. A special pandal is erected for this purpose. Fuels for aazhi (fire blaze) are stored in stacks in front of the pandal and camphor is used to start fire. As the aazhi blazes and tongues of frames go higher the worshipper circumam bulate if chanting “Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa”.
Rice flakes and parched rice pieces put into the raging fire. It represents that the Lord Ayyappan who is embodiment of true wisdom. Irumudi binds the worshipper with the worshipped. It is such a strong tie that the devotee and the devoted are no longer two different entities but single whole. The front portion of the Irumudi represents the god acts of the devotee and the rear the one his sins. Guruswami prepares irumudikettu and places it on the devotee’s head.
To prepare the ghee coconut for abhishekam, a medium size coconut is selected. Its outer shell is cleaned and polished using a polishing paper, A hole is made inone eye of the coconut with a pointed instrument to empty the water inside the opening is then closed with a cork. It is later filled with ghee during kettunira. The vidalai thenga (ghee coconut) are broken at regular intervals during the pilgrimage – one each at Erumali sharam kutti and two upon pathinettam padi (the sacred 18 steps to Sabarimala) .
The jaggery, cashew nuts, raisins, cardamom honey, dates are used to make panchamrutam for Neivedya with jaggery, dry ginger and cardamom another neiyedya termed pangam is also prepared.
Significance of Ayyappa Pooja
The41 days fast highlights the significance of austerity and abstinence in the lives of those seeking a complete merger with the ultimate. The actual pilgrimage, the aspirant wears a beaded mala or garland usually Tulsi orRudraksham to highlight his renunciation of material temptations.
Ayyappa pooja items
The following table will show you the list of items required to perform Ayyappa pooja
|1||Turmeric powder||1 packet|
|2||Kum kum||1 packet|
|3||Sandalwood paste||1 packet|
|4||Incense sticks||1 packet|
|8||Betel leaves||25 nos|
|12||Kalasa vastram||2 yards of fabric|
|13||Honey||1 small bottle|
|16||Rose water||2 cups|
|17||Naivedyam Appam, aravana payasam, paanagam|
|18||Cow ghee||¼ lbs|
|19||Sesame oil||1 small bottle|
|21||Sugar candy||1 packet|
|26||Cotton wicks||1 packet|
|28||Pancha patra & uddhrini|
|29||Two small trays & two big trays|
|30||Five small cups|
|33||Framed Ayyappan photo|
|34||Tulasi leaves for pooja & mala|
|35||Holy 18 steps & Pooja table|