Tuesday, 21 January 2020

The sacred Thiruvabharanam procession to Sri Sabarimala Ayyappn temple, Kerala, a famous yearly ritual

Thiruvabharanam procession to Sabarimalanewindianexpress.
.Thiruvabharanam procession to Sabarimala. flickr.com
There are thousands of Hindu temples across  India  and many of them have their own puja protocols and rituals. Though many of them follow the temple Agama Sastras combined with local traditions, there are some  where the rituals are unique to them. For example, in spite of the fact Vaikuntha Ekadashi festival is being followed in all Vishnu temples, the Araiyar Sevai ritual is unique to Srirangam  Ranganathar temple, Tamil Nadu.  So is Karthikai deepam festival that is unique to Sri Arunachaleswarar temple, Thiruvannamalai, Tamil Nadu.  In Kerala, the ceremonial procession carrying the sacred golden ornaments, etc., to  the popular Sri Ayyappan temple, Sabarimala    commonly referred to as Thiruvaparnam is  part of Mandala puja held  every year.  This Mandala puja was over  exactly one week ago and   except the devotees of Lord Ayyappa,  countless Hindus across India have no idea whatsoever about the important religious procession that takes place prior to the most sacred event Mandala Puja  every year in January.
Sbarimala Sri Ayyappan temple, Kerala. .livehindustan.com
Thiruvabharanam, the sacred  gold ornaments of God Ayyappan, the presiding deity of Sabarimala temple, nestled in the hills of Pathanamthitta of Kerala  were made  by the Royal  Pandalam  family and they  are to be worn by Lord Ayyappa during the Mandala puja. This royal dynasty came off  Pandya kingdom of Madurai (Tamil Nadu) which existed in Kerala during the Kollam era.
The belief is that the ruler of Pandalam has adopted God Ayyappan, a Naishtika (Naitik) Brahmachari (celibate) as his child. Thiruvabharanam is  always under the safe custody of the Pandalam ruler on his palace premises and it is near the Valiyakoikkal Temple, The tradition has it every year, the ornaments are taken to Sabarimala in a big  procession charged with religious fervor and devotion. Pujas are done to Ayyappan idol wearing the golden ornaments sent by the Pandalam family from their palace. Once the season is over, the golden ornaments are safely returned to the Srambickal Palace for safe custody.
Pandalam Valiyakoyikkal palace en.wikipedia.com
The titular ruler of Pandalam  is not allowed to  travel to Sabarimala, so he nominates somebody associated withe the palace to accompany the procession. His representative follows the religious Thiruvabharanam procession on a palanquin. The golden ornaments are to be worn by the lord on the day of Makara Jyothi, Soon after the pilgrim season, the return procession of the Thiruvabharanam starts from Sabarimala and reaches back Pandalam.
Makara Jyoth dharshan. Sbarimala Sri Ayyappan temple, Kerala. latestly.com
 During the pilgrim season, at the Srambickal palace on display are the golden ornaments  and the caskets - Thiruvabharanam  from 2nd week of November till the evening  of the procession day and at Valiyakoikkal Temple on the day of the  religious procession. This custom has been in vogue for a pretty long time and it is an unbroken one. The unique feature about this religious procession  to Sabarimala from Valiyakoikkal Temple is  it takes only  the traditional routes crisscrossing  forests, hills, rivers and various terrains.  A small team of representatives of the Royal family will follow the holy caskets being taken  on foot through out the journey. On the way at many places and temples ornaments, etc.,  accompanied by armed guards get reverential welcome  and receive honors. It is to be noted that no Royal family members are  allowed to participate in this 3-day  procession.  Receptions will be given  to the Thiruvabharanam procession on the concluding day of the journey on January 14, at Plapally, Nilackal and Attathode before the noon halt at Valiyanavattom. On the last leg - concluding phase of the procession, the Thiruvabharanam will get to Saramkuthi at 5 pm where a traditional reception will be given.

The representatives carry three  caskets   called 
Thriuvabharana Petti (sacred ornaments to be worn by the lord), the Velli Petti (silver vessel for conducting puja ) , and the Kodi Petti (flag casket to be hoisted in the temple).  Both ornaments and Puja utensils include  an assortment of various items. As for Kodi petti - flag box, it contains  elephant caparison -Jeevatha, flags of Thalapparamala and Udamparamala   Mezhuvatta Kuda. 

The procession will begin every year on the 12 of January around  1 pm. The good oman is the sighting of a species of kite called garuda (''Krishnaparunthu”in Malayalam) on the sky. The belief is it accompanies the long  procession, covering  a distance of 83 km. This year it was the 54th procession to the Sabarimala temple and normally ,the team will consist of 10 to 12 people and the security will be provided by 20 member armed police team.
Tit-bits: 
Makaravilakku commemorates the 41-day  strenuous fast and austerities being followed by millions of people across  the country  to go on a pilgrimage to the holy shrine of Sabarimala. Makaravilakku is an important event  and people in lakhs will watch the Joythoi darshnam  there in the evening  and  eagerly
wait for the sunset. Dewasom Board that controls the temple gets more than rupees 160 crores during festival period every year and the income goes up each year.  They also spend much of the income to improve the amenities for the devotees who come from many parts of South India, in particular, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thiruvabharanam