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My Sabarimala pilgrimage

Swami Saranam! With these holy words, I begin my experience of my pilgrimage to Kerala's Sabarimala Sri Dharmasastha temple.

I live in Thane, a Mumbai suburb, and enlisted my name at the Lord Ayyappa Temple at Vartak Nagar, Thane, for the pilgrimage in 2001. It was scheduled for November 17, 2001, a Saturday.

Before narrating my experience, a brief backgrounder:
As a prerequisite, a pilgrim to Sabarimala has to observe certain customs for 41 days after the Ayyappan Mala Mantram -- a ritual in which a garland has to be worn, to be removed after the pilgrimage. During this period, the devotee has to abstain from non-vegetarian food, alcohol and pleasures of the flesh, and follow the philosophy of simple living and high thinking.

Airfare for Rs 599 and less!

A pilgrim has to wear a black lungi and a towel/ shawl, wake up early, bathe, perform puja and lead a pious life. The devotee must sleep on the floor and walk barefoot. The idea behind all this is to prepare the pilgrim for the tough journey to the temple.

We gathered at the Vartak Nagar temple on November 16 for the Irumudi Kettu ceremony.

Irumudi is a specially designed bag that contains the puja articles and other offerings to the deities at Sabarimala. The pilgrim has to carry this bag on his head.

After the ceremony, we had dinner and stayed at the temple for the night.

Text and photograph: S K Nandy
Also read: Sabarimala, Kumbh: World's top holy spots

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