The Pre-Pilgrimage Observances (16)

20/12/2011 History of Lord Ayyappa

Let us have a general view of the traditional pre-pilgrimage observances. The season of pilgrimage begins on the 1st of the Malayalam month Vrischikam (mid-November). This season has two phases. The first phase begins from the 1st of Vrischikam extending up to the 11th of the Malayalam month of Dhanu (around the 26th December), the day when the important rite, the Mandala Pooja, is performed.

The temple is then closed for five days and will be reopened on the 1st January. The second phase of the pilgrimage begins thereafter and extends up to the 1st of the Malayalam month Makaram (around the 14th January) when the most important temple rite Makara-Samkrama Pooja is performed.

The austerities usually begin on the first day of the Malayalam month Vrischikam and continue for 41 days. The completion of the austerities enables the pilgrim to reach the temple on the 11th of the month of Dhanu, the day when the Mandala-pooja is performed. This was the practice in olden times. But, now as the number of pilgrims has enormously increased, many pilgrims visit the temple on earlier dates and complete their austerities after their return. But if one visits the temple on the Makara-samkrama day, during the second phase of the pilgrimage, one would be completing 60 days of observance in case the austerities were begun on the 1st of Vrischikam. However, now a days, the pilgrims visit the temple the whole of the season, except for the five days when the temple remains closed between the two phases, many of them completing within that period 41 days of spiritual observances. The temple will be closed after the concluding ceremonies on the 7th of Makaram (around the 20th January).

Other occasions for the pilgrimage to the temple are during the auspicious day of Vishu in the Malayalam month Medam (April), the day of Thiruvonam (August-September), and on the first of every Malayalam month when the temple is opened to perform Pooja-s for five consecutive days. Pilgrims reach the temple after the observance of the pre-pilgrimage austerities on these days also.

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