THE MESSAGE OF LORD AYYAPPA
LORD AYYAPPA, whose earthly abode is in the sacred hill-temple of Sabarimala, is one of the most powerful and benevolent deities of HINDU Religion. The Sabarimala temple, HIS eternal resting place, is situated on a hill, flanked on the four sides by dense forests of the Sabari Hills of the whole southern peninsula of India. Lakhs and lakhs of pilgrims from all parts of India come to Sabarimala to worship Lord Ayyappa or Dharma Sastha (Dharma denotes benevolence). Sabarimala is the only pilgrim centre in India where language, dress and culture become one and where caste and creed are forgotten. Here there is no difference between the rich and poor. The pilgrims call one another as SWAMI by which they proclaim their equality. People from all walks of life move shoulder to shoulder in an undistinguished crowd.
It is after 41 day’s penance and self-purification that each pilgrim walks his way to climb up the holy hill to worship at the shrine of their GOD and receive HIS blessings. The period of penance is ear marked with the wearing of a necklace of rudraksha beads tipped with a locket like idol of AYYAPPA at one end of the string and of substituting coarse brown (kavi), black or blue dhotis and shirts for the usual refined dress. A pilgrim need to be an ascetic at least for the 41 days of his penance, a vegetarian in his diet, austere in moral principles and always chanting the slogan, SARANAMAYYAPPA. When he starts his pilgrimage, he has to carry on his head or shoulders the Irumudi (a two pronged linen bag, containing rice, a coconut filled with ghee to anoint the holy idol and few coconut fruits). The Irumudi is both a means for his sustenance on the way and a tenure-house of his humble offerings to the LORD. Uniformity in the dress, the Irumudi and the chant of Saranamayyappa are the symbols of purity, devotion and self sacrifice. The unique feature of the pilgrimage, more than anything else, is the spirit of equality, brotherhood, communal harmony and oneness among all castes, colours and creeds within the Hindu religion. Ayyappa’s pilgrim, whatever be their social position and status in their material life, is alike in mind and thought, so they are HIS pilgrims. They bathe together, eat together, chant together and walk together barefooted to reach HIS holy presence. There are no rich and poor among them, no haves and have-nots, all are equal, alike with one body and soul. It was to instill this sacred principle of equality, fraternity and unity that LORD AYYAPPA took HIS incarnation and had his brief but fruitful sojourn among mankind. The various myths and legends regarding HIS birth bear testimony to this fact.
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