Thursday, December 15, 2011

Lord Ayappa - Swamiye Sharanam Ayyappa

Often it happens that we plan a trip or an expedition in so much detail yet the result might not fulfill our expectations. But, sometimes it also happens that while we are just taking a casual walk we come across something stunning.. something that takes our breathe away. Even fewer are fortunate enough to carry a camera and take snaps of those beautiful moments.  On a Sunday evening I came across such a religious procession which was in honour of Lord Ayyappa. The procession was grand and pompous to say the least and the people were observing very old traditions while participating in it.

Row of Lamps leading to the Sanctum Sanctorum of Lord Ayyappa. Notice the floral patterns (rangoli) between the row of lamps

Lord Ayyappa or Ayyappan(Malayalam) is a Hindu deity worshiped in various shrines across India. Ayyappan is believed to be an incarnation of Dharma Sastha, who is the son of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu (as Mohini). The name "Ayyappan" is used as a respectful form of address in the Malayalam language, spoken in the Southern most Indian state of Kerala. The most famous Ayyappa shrine in India is the one at Sabarimala (Mt. Sabari - 3000 ft abve sea level), Kerala with over 30 million devotees visiting it every year, making it one of the largest pilgrimage sites in the world.

The procession on its way to the temple

The procession in honour of Lord Ayyappa which I had the privilege of witnessing was being held as this is the period of the year when pilgrimage to Sabarimala shrine is held. This pilgrimage will continue till mid January.

Row of women standing with lamp bearing thali's (dishes)

The procession which I observed began in the evening. There were two rows of women clad in white sarees in at the front. They held a puja (adoration/worship) thali (dish) in their palms upon which there was a diya (Lamp) which illuminated the entire way ahead. Behind them came a Chariot which had the image of Lord Ayappa. At the rear of the procession there was a large elephant atop which a priest sat with an image of Lord Ayappa which was installed in the temple where the procession ended.

Lord Ayyappa

Take a look at the following pictures to see what I meant about the procession being grand and pompous and the temple or pandal being even grander still. Even though the picture quality is not exactly the best but yet the magnificence of the procession is clearly visible !

The carriage in which the second idol of Lord Ayyappa was being taken

The elephant at the rear of the procession upon which the main idol was being carried by the priest

The puja thali with the lamp. Observe that the lamp is based in a coconut shell !

A banana shoot adorning the entrance

Musicians wearing traditional clothes played typical kerala-ite music during the entire procession

Fireworks were displayed when the lord's idol reached the temple at the end of the procession

Image of Lord Ayyappa

Elephant who carried the image of the Lord atop itself

Banana leaves atop the entrance of the temple

A large oil lamp

Observe the beautiful floral patterns or Rangolis

Another lamp with lotus petals and jasmine flowers in the middle of them and also marigold flowers by it's side

Observe the rangoli of depicting Goddess Mohini

Lord Ayyappa's centrality in a keralite's life is displayed in this tableau of Lord Ayappa atop an elephant at the Kerala pavilion of the India International Trade Fair 2011

Sand Sculpture of Lord Ayyappa
Source Wikipedia

Swamiye Sharanam Ayyappa
(O Ayyappa ! I seek refuge in you)