The Journey (21)

23/12/2011 History of Lord Ayyappa

After the Sarva-praayaschitha the pilgrim turns to the east, and the Guruswami, with his mind surging with devotion to Lord Ayyappa, places the Irumudikettu on the head of the pilgrim. The pilgrim then, with prayers to the Lord breaks a coconut by hurling it on a stone, symbolising the shattering of impediments for a smooth pilgrimage. He now starts the journey in the company of the team led by the Guruswami. Although now-a-days the whole journey is rather convenient, in olden days when the pilgrims were fewer, the journey through dense forests was dangerous and the pilgrim would embark upon the journey putting his firm faith in Lord’s Grace and protection. People at home would also be in a prayerful mood till the pilgrim returns safe.

Formerly the pilgrims had to travel about 56 kms through forests and mountains to reach the sacred shrine. Today he can reach up to the place Pampa, on the banks of the river Pampa, in a vehicle; and from there he has to make a 6 km climb of one mountain only called Neelimala to reach the shrine. However, even today many pilgrims prefer to go by the traditional forest route after reaching Erumeli, a holy place associated with Sabarimala pilgrimage. From there they would walk about 50 kms through forests and mountain peaks to reach Pampa and then climb the mountain, Neelimala. There are many pilgrims who reach the holy spot from such far away places as Mumbai, Andhra Pradesh, etc., covering hundreds of kilometres on foot, camping and praying at several temples on the way.

From Erumeli there are three ways to reach Pampa. By two routes, the pilgrims can reach Pampa in vehicles – one by Erumeli-Ranny-Plappilli road and the other by Erumeli-Mukkoottuthara-Plappilli road. And the third, as mentioned above, is the traditional forest route of 50 kms to be trekked by foot up to Pampa. After road transport was extended up to Pampa, there was much reduction in the number of pilgrims going through the traditional route. However, the latest trend indicates that the pilgrims who prefer to reach the holy place walking bare foot through the forest path, are on the increase.

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