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Pilgrimage to Sabarimalai Temple begins in Kerala

Hindu devotees across southern parts of India have started an arduous 41-day penance pilgrimage to Sabarimalai Temple.

india Updated: Nov 17, 2005 12:11 IST
Asian News International
Asian News International

Thousands of Hindu devotees across southern parts of India have started an arduous 41-day penance pilgrimage to Sabarimalai Temple on the western Ghats of Kerala.

Situated at the top of the Sabarimala Hill, the Sabarimalai Temple is located at about 4,000 feet above sea level. One has to undertake an arduous trek of more than six kilometres to reach the temple through dense forests.

Devotees begin the penance or "Vratham"(in local parlance), wearing a string of beads and observe abstinence from all worldly vices. Alcohol, smoking, non-vegetarian food or having sexual-relations are considered vices.

The festival known as Mandalam-Makarivilakku begins from the first day of Malayalam month, Vrischikom, in the mid of November (November 16 this year) but it will culminate on January 14, 2006. It is the first phase of the ceremony that takes 41-day to complete.

During the "Vratham" period normally all Ayyappas (the people who undertake the penance are called) wear only black clothes and take at least 41 days of penance to visit the temple.

"I go to Sabarimala on the holy pilgrimage every year and my son too has been accompanying me for the many years last. We abstain from all bad habits and pray for the Lord's Grace. We follow all the austerities and carry the 'Irumudi Kettu'(bag with offerings for god)," says K. Mohanan Nair, a devotee.

"It is a period of abstinence from bad habits, drinking (alcohol), non-vegetarian food and of paying obeisance and total devotion to God. The devotee symbolically pledges this when he or she wears the blessed rosary beads around his/her neck," says Radhakrishnan Nampoothiri, a Melsanthi, the Head Priest in the Lord Sastha Temple in Trivandrum.

During this ceremony of annual pilgrimage more than ten million devotees visit the hill shrine of Sabarimala. It is viewed as one of the biggest religious congregations after Mecca in Saudi Arabia. The pilgrims to Sabarimala come from all over the country, most of them mainly belong to Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

People from all religions visit this temple.

First Published: Nov 17, 2005 12:11 IST