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