An ode to Kumbakonam

A Pilgrimage to Sabarimala (2)

Today I am back with a narrative from my mother about the arduous pilgrimage to Sabarimala by the devotees of the Hindu Lord Aiyyappan. I suggest you read the previous post to know what this pilgrimage is about. When you come back, I will be right here with the rest of her narrative.

Having described the basic rules that govern this commitment towards the pilgrimage, here’s is what my mother says about the events that lead to the journey.

“Before they begin their journey to Sabarimalai, the group of pilgrims traveling together assemble at a nearby temple with their GuruSwamy. They bring with them all that they need to carry as their offering to Aiyyappan at Sabarimala and raw materials to be able to cook their meals. This often includes rice, lentils, turmeric, coconuts, ghee, etc. These are packed into a bag with two partitions – called irumudi in Tamil. The first partition contains all the offerings to the Lord. One of the key components of this offering is prepared by drilling a hole into a coconut to drain all the water within. It is then dried, filled with ghee through the same hole and sealed with a cork. In the second partition they carry ingredients needed to prepare their meals along their way. The bags are both tied with a string and carried by the devotees on their heads. This process of filling the bags, tying them together and placing it on the head of a devotee is done by the GuruSwamy alone. This entire process is called Kattunirai in Tamil.

Once the GuruSwamy repeats this entire process for each pilgrim in his group, he prepares his own two bags. This marks the end of Kattunirai (which sometimes may take an entire day or slightly more, depending on how big the group of pilgrims is). Once all the bags are assembled, they are placed at the feet of Lord Aiyyappan in the temple and all devotees pray for their health and safety during the trip. After seeking Lord Aiyyappan’s blessings, each devotee offers a coconut to Lord Ganesha by throwing it hard on the floor to break it (this is how it is traditionally offered to Ganesha in south Indian temples). This marks the beginning of their journey to Sabarimala. From this point onwards, devotees are not allowed to go to their houses or anywhere else and the journey to Sabarimala begins from the temple itself.”


I hope you are enjoying the read so far. As it is quite a lot of content, I have decided to split it into two posts to make it easier and more digestible. Do visit here again to hear more from my mum as she narrates what she has heard about the journey to Sabarimala itself from her father and other pilgrims


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