Sabarimalai Ayyappan: The Magnetic Golden God of the Hills …
All Photos at the bottom of this post...
We, a group of 22 colleagues and their sons started our trip with irumudi, the holy package which alone permits one to climb the 18 steps to the abode at Mahalingapuram Ayyappan temple here on Friday Oct 16th afternoon.
We had sumptuous supper of Pooris, sabji and Upma and left for Central station where we caught the Trivandrum mail to Kottayam at 7.45 pm. After a long 13 hour haul we reached Kottayam station at 8.30 am and made for our temporary accommodation at Brahmana samooham madom nearby. We had our bath and changed, savoured a delicious veg meals provided at the venue and left for Sabarimala by 2 vans at 11.15 am. Just before that , some of us managed to find time to visit Thirunakkara Sivan temple nearby ,as well. It is a very nice abode too.
On the green hilly route to the sabarimalai in Pattanamthitta dist., we had a pit-stop of sorts and ate some freshly cut juicy pineapples.
We reached Pampa river shores at 2.30 pm or so. We could see a heavy rush of devotees forming at the bathing Ghats like a precursor of things to come.
In the welcome clean and chilly waters of pampa we bathed and changed into fresh clothes, took our Irumudi package on the head and backpack of our luggage and started uphill climb barefoot , first stop at Ganapathi temple, where we broke a coconut with a prayer for a successful trip .
We chose the newly concreted subramanya path road which is a sloping without steps. The other alternative is the older traditional path consisting of steps. Both the paths are equally crowded now with devotees. The gentle slopes in the beginning are deceptive as the climb becomes tougher and arduous and the slopes become steeper as we progress
This time we could see many children along with their fathers enthusiastically climbing ahead. How wonderful it is to be so young and spirited! …In contrast the older senior citizens too, make slow and steady progress while we middle aged urbanites gasp and struggle and sweat gallons during the climb …The devotees all wear black, blue and orange Dhothis and consist of all religions and castes and age groups. Ayyappan temple is verily the melting pot of secularism and pure devotion.
During the arduous climb of 6 km distance and lasting 2 to 3 hrs, we have to give up our body conscious ness and continuously chant swami ayyappan’s name as “swamiye, bhagavane, devane “and asking him to give us” deha balam”( strong body) and padha balam( strong legs) to carry us himself to the hill top. This alone will help us during the long haul up.
On the road at several spots, makeshift shops sell coffee, tea, fruits, biscuits and even bajjis and bondas…We had some of it and liberal doses of glucose my colleagues provided…
We reached the top at 6 pm and saw some huge crowds waiting in long serpentine lines for darshan.
Due to the Dasara holidays and newly inaugurated 18 panchaloha steps, there is a massive crowd of nearly one lakh assembled there and more devotees are pouring in till late in the night too..
Many devotees unfortunately chose to break queues at the entrance to the Lines, push and pull others, creating a stampede like situation, all for nothing.
This is an old woe of this country and we can see it among public everywhere else too.. This lack of self-discipline and unruly crowding creates so much trouble and panic to small children and senior citizens who are among them... Actually the temple is open till 11 pm and there is no such tearing hurry, but when will we learn? The other pathetic sight is devotees throwing used water bottles, packets all along the darshan lines…Who will clear them and when, we never stop to think!.. Some wild pigs roam there for such garbage. This despite the fact that there are several boards declaring the sannidhanam as “plastic free zone”, in at least 5 different languages!... Obviously “Swacch Bharat” concept needs to gain more popularity and acceptance with us…
The newly laid 18 glittering steps donated by a Bangalorean donor shri Ashok Kumar is simply lovely.
It takes another 45 minutes to have darshan as we go up one more long passage and climb down to garbhagudi.
We have few seconds of enchanting darshan of the Golden idol of Ayyappan who commands and attracts lakhs to take up such a tough trip every year, and then we are pushed ahead by surging crowds from behind. There is undoubtedly a magnetic attraction and it is mesmerizing to have Ayyappan’s darshan as I felt.
Then we go to the Nambiar guest house near the temple where we have arranged to stay overnight. We have delicious snacks of pooris and dosas and sleep in the hall on the floor using cane mats. Some apply Pain killer spray, ointments and take some tablets to overcome the pain and fatigue of the long evening we have endured.
I slept at 10.30 pm and woke up at 4.30 am next day. Unused to cold water baths in chilly mornings, I manage the same somehow!...With a fresh set of dhotis and shawl, we come out see a huge rush in the early mornings too to witness ghee abhishekam to the Lord.
We manage have fleeting nearby darshan from the first gate with difficulty. In the morning, the Ayyappan seems to glow with grace and beauty even more and all of us feel it is worth the effort!..For devotees, this is all what makes it worthwhile; the tough vrathm at home and physically draining hill climb and the rush at the temple.
The descend started soon after we collect aravana payasam prasadam and irumudi coconut and ghee …I start my descent at 6.45 am and it is even tougher to go down the hill than climb it. We have to be very careful and go slow or we may injure our kneecaps as the slope is sharp. I slowly descend the hill in 2.15 hours, again taking some break for refreshments on the way.
I sit down back at Ganapthi temple where we started and relax to get my breath back and then buy more prasadam- Modak from a counter and go down to our river bank where we had agreed to meet.
We had breakfast of Dosas and poori-sabji in the lone restaurant there and weave our way back among the milling crowds staring their trek up. There is obviously a big traffic jam and we struggle to find our vans for 30 mins as vehicles are parked up to 5 kms from along the road.
The return journey takes the same duration and we returned to Kottayam Brahmana samooham madom. We had lunch there, rested, bought some banana chips etc. and left by return Mail to Chennai starting at 6 pm. We reached Chennai the next morning, Oct 18th at 7.30 am.
We had had a marvelous holy weekend to cherish for a long time!
All photos taken on my Mobile camera
During the climb up...
Finally the temple steps to the abode
The above pics on the Pampa river back from the Hills ^
The following pics at Thirunakkara Sivan temple, Kottayam:-