Vratha Mudra-s (51)

12/01/2012 History of Lord Ayyappa

It is customary to wear a sign (Mudra) to mark a Vratha. The oldest form of it can be seen as the Yajnopaveetha (the sacred thread) worn by Brahmins. The wearing of a Mudra during a Vratha is a usual practice even today. During the Vratha preceding the Sabarimala pilgrimage a Maala (rosary) with a metallic figurine of Lord Ayyappa is worn around the neck by the pilgrim. Wearing a special ring or sporting a beard are also signs of a Vratha. The Mudra is significant as it constantly reminds the wearer and others that he is observing a Vratha.

The disciplines required for different modes of Vratha-s for achieving particular ends are described in several Puranas. In the Mahabharatha, a person, who decides to observe a Vratha, while addressing Manthra-s to propitiate Aghni, Vaayu, Soorya, Chandra and Vrathapathi, takes the following oath:

Vrathapathe vratham charishyaami….
aham anruthaath sathyamupaimi.

“I will strictly follow the Vratha. After rectifying the discordant rhythms in me, I will be living in righteousness.” An observer of Vratha will choose to follow the principles of honesty, punctuality, endurance, self-reliance, abstinence, contentment and peaceful disposition. Strict practise of these chosen ideals is the true Vratha. In course of time honesty, noble thoughts, constant remembrance of the Eternal Reality, moderation in food, talk and luxury would become an integral and inalienable part of his life.

If any lapse occurs in the observance of a Vratha, one can rectify oneself by earnestly repeating the Vratha. The Vratha of the Sabarimala pilgrimage begins from the 1st of the Malayalam month Vrischikam (mid-November) and continues up to the 1st of Makaram (mid-January). It extends for 60 days. The pilgrims are supposed to observe at least 41 days of austerities. The observance of the Vratha activates the spiritual resources within and bestows tangible benefits and harmony in the physical, mental and spiritual levels. And with the yearly repetition of the Vratha, it becomes a way of life.

What makes the Vratha for Sabarimala pilgrimage unique is that from the day the pilgrim begins his Vratha, he is reverentially addressed by others as Swami or Ayyappa, that is they consider him as the very embodiment of Lord Ayyappa.

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