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Saturday, January 14, 2012
HAPPY PONGAL, LOHRI, SANKRANTI to all who are celebrating these festivals this weekend. The purpose of this post is not to write about Pongal or Sankranthi, but something about Sabarimala temple and the Legend of Lord Ayyappa.
Every 14th or 15th of January , the Makarajyothi star appears above the hills and Makaravilakku or lamp is lit at Ponnambalamedu near the shrine, which culminates with the arrival of Thiruvabharanam or ornaments of Lord Ayyappa. Millions of devotees throng to witness the divine light. They come from all parts of India, especially the southern states.
Legend says that king Rajashekhara of Pandalam district, who was childless for many years, prayed to Lord Shiva to grant him a son. Pleased with the king's selfless devotion, Shiva granted him a son who was formed out of culmination of Lord Shiva and Vishnu(in the form of Mohini). Since there was a gold pendant on the boy's neck, he was named Manikanthan. Manikanthan grew up to be a courageous boy who fulfilled the mission of killing the demoness Mahishi. He retired from the world as a 12-year-old lad (a brahmachari or a celibate). Lord Manikanthan shot an arrow on a spot on the Sabari hill on the request of the king who wanted to build the temple in his(Manikanthan's) name.
The temple is mostly visited by Hindus though it is open to people of all castes and religions. Dr K J Yesudas requires a special mention here as there are lots of Ayyappa songs sung by him which we listen to them even today. Though he is a Christian, the renowned singer had visited this holy shrine. The holy bath in the river of Pampa is supposed to cleanse you of the sins.
The STRANGE RULE that still exists here is that women of menstrual age (or reproductive age-10 to 50) are not allowed to set foot here. This has evoked lots of protests from the activists, women's organizations, but the Kerala High Court has steadily upheld this rule. Why? Because the path to the shrine is filled with dense forests, stones and thorns? I do not think so. Women visit Amarnath, Badrinath temples in the North. The travel to these temples (likes of Kedarnath, Badrinath temples) are arduous and require good health, will-power and lot of stamina. Still plenty of women undertake these pilgrimages. Women have travelled out of space in SPACESHIPS!!!But the above said thinking is still prevalent!!So I find it difficult to digest. THE LONGSTANDING VIEW THAT EXISTS here is that Lord Ayyappa was a celibate and so the entry of women of reproductive age pollutes the holy place. I find this view very difficult to accept. Coming back to the legend, Lord Shiva required a woman(Lord Vishnu in the form of Mohini) to bring to the world Manikanthan. Everything on this earth is the equal creation of God and it is not fair to deny entry to one section of women. I see this as a sheer discrimination and feel that it is high time that this rule is relaxed. What do you think?