Sep 22, 2008

SabariMala Pilgrimage- Final Part- 22 Sep

The Descent

By the time Alarm struck , other group was getting ready and we slowly got our senses back. My systems started working after a cup of good coffee ( Restaurant above MN Nambiyar's Guest House) . We went to the Temple before 6 AM in search of our priest for Neyyabhiskeham. It was a great Saturday morning , misty and cold and Devotees milling and Saranams echoing the air . The hill is thickly canopied with green top and virgin forest .Truly he kept to his word , before that he asked to pay the Dakshinai in Advance .

We got our own Ghee back in no time after offer to the Good( Queue would have taken easily few hours) and requested for Darshan , beating the queue . So a policeman was informed , he offered to take us in batches . After some delicate movements, crowd surge &mild curses and in-action from controlling Policemen , we managed to reach the outer Sannidhanam and managed to get a very satisfying Darshan .. This time managed to get a glimpse of Him having his favoutie offering 'Ghee' and managed to wrestle myself from the pushing crowd , standing firm and had intimate conversation with Him . It was all gratifying and brought some instant peace and comfort ,truly developing the sense that He is going to with you in hard times . Had a mini-breakfast at the morning cafe ( very good food , recommended ) .

Sathish and Hari distributed the Holy Ghee to individuals in small containers ( we used that opportunity to click a few shots 1, 2, 3)and after offering our prayers to other Gods and purchased prasadam (Appam and Payasam in sealed cans ) we started down , surprised to find Padinettam Padi was litereally empty.

When we started our descent , sky opened up and we bought plastic covers for Rs.10 to cover ourselves and trekked down gingerly . Ramesh wisely bought a chappal and decided to walk instead of using a Dholi . Walking down in the rain was hard as feet becomes soft and every pebble and stone started probing our delicate skin, used to confines to cushy shoes. Steep declines with paved stones testing our stability and had to walk gingerly and slowly , seemingly never ending descent .. Felt Descent was harder , given my knees fallibility and my weight .. Heaved a big sigh of relief , once i reached the bottom of the Hill .

Slowly reached the Car and finally started off our return leg at 11.30 AM in pampa , taking the shorter route to Erumeli. We unanimously decided to have a go at the remaining food and fruits and managed to feed ourselves with healthy snacks before unsettled stomach threatened to strike with a Headache around 3 PM . This time we managed to locate a decent restaurant quickly , which was ( Ananda Bhavan )in Angalmali . Refill raised our spirits and we started discussing the plans for our next trip to Cochin and our Gurusamy's different avatharams in the past .. நான் அவன் இல்லை would be the to the topic of discussion for our forthcoming trip in December

By the time , got down from the Car at my house in Coimbatore , ankles were aching badly . Had a foot massage and boarded the train back to Chennai . Removed the Maalai at the Temple and warily climbed stairs to my house on the 1st floor with feet ankle suburbs swollen .

Decided to do something to quell the pain , wife applied 'Myoxil' Ayurvedic oil and tuned myself to Harivarasanam on my Mobile .. Inexplicably, i had incredible pain relief and swelling reduced significantly in less than an hour .. At that very instant , decided i should make the trip again next year .. Swamiye Saranam..

Thanks a ton for reading despite testing your patience at times..

Sabarimala Pilgrimage - Part 4- 22 Sep 2008

The Ascent

Settled into the comfort of A/c Innova , we started off to SabariMala , hoping to make ASAP in time for Padi-pooja . Once we boarded the Car , our stomachs started announcing their emptiness , we decided to reach out-skirts of Coimbatore and address the issue

After stopping near Madukkari with the anticipation of having a snack of Pongal and Sundal, brought in my mother-in-law , we found only Sundal . Hari was disappointed , although we had a tender coconut to cool-off . We started off , looking in either direction for proper Vegetarian fare , but the time and places went by without luck . Finally we found Brahmin hotel near Palgaht offering only Dosai ( i felt it was partially cooked ,Master would have been in a hurry to close the Morning tiffin show ) . We filled up and started around 11.30 AM , vowing to make up for the lost time .

One major irritant was our Car's CD player did not work and can accept only pen drive (All my creative song mixing for 2 days went by the drain) . To break the monotony of travel , we chatted and starting engaging our stomach with variety fare ( Fruits neatly cut by Sathish , Biscuits , Chips...) . We covered a whole lot of topics ( Best ways to dter customers chasing their orders , Beauty of Kerala villages and their insistence to get back to their roots) and we reached Erumeli via Trissur , Angamali , Moovatupuzha , Pala , Ponkunnam around 3.30 or so . By the time , felt the familar rumblings and promptly decided to take Lunch . Maharaja Hotel offered grand choice of Appam or Parotta with இனம் புரியாத Gravy .. Our Gurusamy insisted we should do ' Pettai Thullal' at the Temple as we had Kannisamy . Kannisamy's are sprayed with colors just like Holi and supposed to Dance with abondon , accompanied by மேளம்

When we reached the Temple , we were informed it would open by 5.00 PM and decided not to wait , prayed and marched ahead . We saw several Kannisami's attired in the proper way enroute .

From Erumeli , there are 2 routes to Pampa, one is shorter by at least by 15-20 Kms . We took the longer one and reached Pampa by 5 PM . We were left wondering , although we saw very few Ayyapapa vehicles en route , there were far too many vehicles at Pampa and fairly good crowd at Pampa swelling by every minute .. We were not expecting such crowd , in off-season .. On the next-day , found vehicle parking extneded at least a KM further , affirming the growing rise of poularity of Ayyappa !

We had a bath in Pampa river , cold and surprisingly clean . We got energised to say the least after the bath and all pumped for the hike with Irumudi tied to our head with the Towel . We prayed at Ganapathy temple and after offering coconut , we were off to our hike .

We noticed good amount of Tourist devotees ( without Irumudi) visiting the Temple in all sorts of attire ( including a fully equipped hiker with T-shirt , Bermudas and hiking shoes , perhaps honing his hiking skills) and Ladies and Children .

Our initial burst of adrenaline rush soon evaporated , replaced by hoofs and pantings . Ramesh was worst sufferer , with his huge body mass refusing to collaborate . Dholi ( 4 men carry the the end of steel poles attached with a comfort chair where the person sits) guys , returning saw Ramesh heaving and sensed the opportunity akin to vulture chasing a kill , followed us for sometime , before we waved them off . We managed to cajole him to climb till Appachi Medu and with one sheer look of the next steep section , his mind and body caved in , settling for 'Dholi'.

We continued our arduous climb slowly . 2 nd steep was a monster and by the time reached the Top , i was breathing like ventilator in ICU . After re-hydrating with Lime soda , we continued to face issues with climb , this time small stones hurting our soft soles . With Ayyappa saranam or anything to divert the mind to , the pain became considerably tolerable . We regrouped at the entrance to Sannidhanam and proceed towards Padinettam padi ,jam packed with Devotees .

Dismayed to find there is no crowd control to regulate the devotees or to prevent the Tourists without Irumudi to climb . Although I was pulled back again on the 1st step by the chaotic crowd , managed to reach the Top safely.. The queue to gold topped சந்நிதானம் was not that long ( 20 min or so) , but so many were sneaking into the line , which is deplorable . Ramesh was agitated and managed to crush out a couple of intruders successfully , with deft manovuers of his bulk

Lord was at his best , glowing against mound of flowers and brightly lit oil-lamps . We managed to get the Darshan for a few seconds , still it was sufficient to have a 1-1 conversation with Him and put forth our prayers . Do not expect to get any Prasad and before you could react , you are pushed out with the surging crowd and police , wondering how a few privilaged VIP getting special treatment for the Darshan and how we could also become like one . Typical mentality !
We completed major part of pilgrimage then started to hunt for the accommodation and 'Neyyabishekham' arrangements for the morning

Although we have been booked on Sabari Guest House ( well maintained , clean and provide beds), there were other VIPs who have taken the rooms and the Manager initially refused to entertain us , to palpable dismay of the group , verge on desperation . Finally we connected with our sponsor and the Manager agreed to accomadate us in Dormitory Hall along with another Group . As the Hall was big enough and had a 2 Baths , we readily agreed and the best part was he did not collect any money at all for the accomadation !! Meanwhile , we also fixed a Priest at MelSanthi's office for the next day .

By that time (10.30 PM) , Hariharasanam ( daily ritual of putting the Lord to bed) started with KJYesudas filling the air . We managed to get the glimpse of the Lord , drifting to peace from restive crowd..You cannot a find a soul who was not moved by the atmosphere ,sight , song and voice .. Absolute Divine feeling

After refilling for the night , settled comfortably in our room ( had electrical outlets for our mobiles) ,set the wake-up call for 4.30 AM and slipped into our Dreamworld

Sabarimala Pilgrimage - Part 3- 22 Sep 2008


So , we 3 started on Nilagiri Express to Coimbatore on 18 th night . As it departs early , had home made Dinner and some chat till the sleep caught up with us . After an un-fitful sleep , reached Coimbatore ahead of schedule ( 4.35 AM ) .

You need to negotiate before you board the Auto / Call-taxi ( most claim their Meter is faulty) .. From their part , they let you board with all the luggage's and try to announce exorbitant fare , hoping the trapped சவாரி will not take the trouble of getting down with all the luggage and try to hail another .After agreeing for a premium of Rs 20 over metered fare on Call-taxi we reached our home before 5.00 AM .

After deciding who is take bath first and unloaded our stuff , TNEB promptly cut the power @ 5 . They did not implement the 5-6 AM power cut for the past 15 days and subsequent days , but they diligently acted on 19 th . Anyways , armed with candles , we had bath and strong coffee and enjoyed the cool Coimbatore morning weather . You can still stay in room not feeling uncomfortable without a Fan ! .

Reached Siddapudur Ayyappan temple by 6.45 AM and found our Gurusamy Hari waiting for us and to start off ' Irumdi' ritual . After organizing few left out items like Garland for Swami and all , Gurusammy priest started the rituals with கன்னிசாமி ரமேஷ் around 7.15 AM

We were 6 of us ( Sridhar felt it was not proper to do Irumudi without traditional 41 day penance) , hence only 5 of us were having our Irumudikattu . Our priest made us sit cross-legged and kicked-off with praying before the Ayyappan picture and proceeded to prepare the special Irumdi bag , a 2 comparmented bag with one side with shaved cocunt filled with holy ghee and other side with Rice , Aval and other items supposedly to quench our hunger, joined by 2 other சிதறு தேங்காய் for traditional offering to the God on our way to God's abode . Ghee is heated up and every one pours the Ghee into the Coconut inner chamber and sealed and the Irumdikattu is kept safely on the bed-sheet to protect from mis-handling . When this irumudikattu is prepared , others who came to send -off can put their காணிக்கை , which would be offered to Him .

Few of our realtives came to this , including my parents and in-laws . Finally we all done up by 8.40 AM and with 'Irumudi' in our head safely perched , boarded our Innova . After traditonal ' திருஸ்டி நிவர்த்தி' for the vehicle and send-off from our relatives and curious passer-byes , we earnestly started for our journey to seek blessings from Ayyappa

Sabarimala Pilgrimage - Part 2- 22 Sep 2008


Our group started our Viradham on various days , and i started on 1 st Sep ( felt 18 resonates padinettam padi) - abstaining from Non-Veg food & partying , remain celebal and started wearing dhotis and pray 2 times after bath everyday , sleep on a Mat , hear devotional songs , generally trying to add large portion of faith into your regular life.. As we were constrained to wear shoes to office , we could not keep up the rituals entirely..

As the days went by , you get the unmistakable feeling of Faith growing within the occasional devotee and to the amusement of my daughter , who could not believe/ comprehend the apparent changes in their Daddy's sudden religious leanings.

Had our Thread ceremony ( Maalai ) at Chennai Rangarajapuram Ayyappan temple on the Sep 13 th. Saturday is supposed to be an auspicious day for Ayyappan . We bought the Maalai ( Thulasi) from the temple and after the wash , the priest performed the puja before the Ayyappan Deity and handed over to us . We need to take it to other priest , who after chanting some holy verses put it on us . Although the holy immersion experience was good , one cannot get things done without money these days . Only if the priest see at least Rs.10 rupee note in your hand , he would hand over the Prasad , Maalai or anything .. This is completely code based , he scans your hand for a micro second , confirms the booty is present, transfers his and efficiently collecting the service charges with swiss precision . Who is to be blamed , just Blame it on inflation ! ..

We are supposed to be pure in our mind , actions and body once you start wearing the Maalai .. I tried my best and am sure Ayyappan would forgive some tantalizing thoughts that crept in spite of strict vigil and chased them away ..

I think this might be only pilgrimage , where the God and the Devotee are both called 'Saamy'. With the growing white beard ( almost 90%) and with saffron dhoti , we present an unmistakable picture of ardent Saamy and able to gain a bit of instant respect ..

We had to do a lot of planning on what to wear , what to carry , how to manage without the rest of paraphernalia .. 3 sets of devotee attire , 2 bed sheets , Air pillow , some cash and the inevitable mobile were all we carried in shoulder bag ( ஜோல்னா பை). I started collecting CDs of Yesudas and Veeramani and of-course from Internet and create a MP3 CD for our journey to get us enchanted with Religious numbers . It took almost 2 days to get the CDs done and spent several hours in prepatory planning

Sep 16, 2008

Sabarimala Pilgrimage - Part 1- 17 Sep 2008


Long time ago , in the last century 1998, I have made the trip to Sabarimala along with my Family members , who are veterans and guided me all the way . ( Accompanied by in-laws-Father & Bro-certainly helps the cause) . I was a Kannisami ( First-timer) then .. I have only few re-collections left .. like me panting and venting on the 7 km hike on hillock after a dip in Sacred Pamba , with a body so used to comfortable environs getting agitated and fuming on the hardship , when i reached the Top literally my skin was under fire ,(overheated body emitting excess heat in loads to equalize with the colder outside air - making me wonder perhaps if we can devise a contraption to capture and effective use that energy , then I am in line for next Nobel)

Think we made the trek in 3 hrs by 8.30 PM or so , had a Diya Darshanam of Lord Ayyappa . He was surrounded brilliant lighted oil-lamps and one sight of him gave that feeling of inner peace , hard to put into blog text .. The sight was immaculate , pure and Divine and His Majestic and glowing sight took the breath away , instantly giving a feeling of peace, elation and security and for a moment filled with நிர்மலமான thoughts

We slept barest of any accommodation ( 4 walls + wash) and had a morning darshan as well . Came down very fast and wanted to beat others ( my silly idea of proving a point) . Although wanted to go next time , for some reason or other either because not in the country or was not inclined to join some group

Here we are , partying on July 31st in Presidency club , we were planning for the next vacation , suddenly i proposed Sabarimala this Sep and immediately Ramesh and Subbs agreed.

So next morning , earnestly the plan was hatched up , identified the group and set the ball rolling . In no time , we had set the schedules and things fitted as rearranged parts of picture puzzle . The clock started ticking and to begin our conquest , we met up in Haddows Club for one last time before 'Viratham' and decided on the dates to start our 'Experiment with Spirtualness'

The travails and tour notes to follow..