Vrishchikam 1

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Vrishchikam is the fourth month in the Malayalam calendar.The month is considered particularly auspicious for devotees of Lord Ayyappan. From the first day of the month,the devotees,who wish to visit the Sabarimala Ayyappan temple situated amidst 18 hills,observe a vratham/penance for 41 days, whereby they abstain from meat,fish,alcohol,tobacco,sex,haircut,shaving,use of ill-words,unpleasantness,swearing,etc. They are expected to wear only black or saffron coloured dresses,don a Rudraksha mala. They are to visit a near-by temple everyday till they start their pilgrimage to the main temple.The temple remains open for the entire period.

Sabarimala is a pilgrimage center situated in the forests of Western Ghats of Kerala.The Ayyappan temple is located in the midst of 18 hills at an altitude of 914meters. It is believed that Ayyappan meditated in the Sabari hills after killing the demon,Mahishi.

The Holy shrine of Sabarimala is one of the most visited pilgrimage centers in the world,with an inflow of 4.5 – 5crores of devotees estimated to be visiting every year. The pilgrimage to Sabarimala is reported to be the second largest after Hajj in Mecca.

The temple is open to people of any religion,caste,creed or strata,unlike other temples in Kerala where it is proudly displayed,’Non-Hindus not allowed’ which I find utterly ridiculous.But there is one thing about Sabarimala temple as well that I find hard to accept. And that is its restriction imposed on the female gender. Apparently women aged between 10 and 50 are not allowed to visit the shrine. I fail to understand the logic behind this discrimination. How is the devotion of a 30 year old woman any different from that of a woman whose age falls outside of the age-bracket? Will it be right to assume the intention will be any less noble? Isnt God supposed to honor each of His devotee in the same manner?

Sabarimala
Sabarimala temple

My memories of Mandala kalam are of Achan & Amma informing me and brother of the start of the month a day before.It meant that our day,for the next 41 days was to start,not my the usual morning tea/coffee,but by first taking a shower,early in the morning and heading straight to the puja room to pray and then sipping the hot morning tea. It also meant that our house would be devoid of any non-vegetarian dishes for that period. It meant that just as we kept ourselves clean,we were to keep our thoughts and our surroundings as much so.

What I liked about the season was how it enabled me to bring about a certain amount of discipline and order in my life that I could carry forward to make my life even better.

Today is Vrishchikam 1,the first day of the month. And I’ve started the day with a silent prayer and a hope that I’m able to harbor only good thoughts which I can pass along to my daughter and everyone else around me. And heres wishing everyone a life free of all kinds of unpleasantness and evil energy.

** facts,figures and image sourced from Wikipedia,and Google Images

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44 thoughts on “Vrishchikam 1

    hitchwriter said:
    November 16, 2009 at 3:26 pm

    Me and temples generally not made for each other… but I kinda still love temples in beautiful locations… but the non crowded ones… !!!

    D: I prefer the non-crowded ones too.I feel much more at peace then.

    and dont ask me why the discrimination… !! I wouldnt know :P

      sakhi said:
      November 16, 2009 at 7:14 pm

      same to same! :)

      sakshi said:
      November 19, 2009 at 1:18 am

      Hitchy partner where you my lost brother at some Samosa Mela?

    namo said:
    November 16, 2009 at 5:08 pm

    Oh, you seem to be unaware of the legendary reason why females between 10 and 50 are not allowed in the premises. This has got to do with Ayyappa himself who wanted to abstain from contact with females and remain celibate during a certain period. It is in memory of this period that the restriction is in place. Fair enough ?

    D: Welcome here.Thank you for this piece of info,namo. In my opinion,discrimination in any form is not fair enough a reason.Even if it is in the name of God.

      Vimmuuu said:
      November 16, 2009 at 9:24 pm

      yes, namo is right !

    Bedazzled said:
    November 16, 2009 at 6:18 pm

    Never been to sabarimala.. but have heard of the rigors that pilgrims have to keep up with before going on the pilgrimage..

    D: Yes,I’ve seen my father,my brother and uncles follow the customs and rituals religiously whenever they go to Sabarimala.

    just like Namo has pointed out , anyone who is capable of menstruation is not allowed there.. above 50 ,u hit menopause and are allowed inside..

    sakhi said:
    November 16, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    The discrimination is mainly coz in the age group of 10 – 50 its expected that the females might be in periods!!! :roll: God only knows why menstruation should be held against us females when the very purpose of menstruation is to give birth to a life!!

    D: A valid point,Sakhi. In fact quite a few feminist organizations had reportedly tried to convince the authorities to revoke the restriction.But to no avail :(

    craftyshines said:
    November 16, 2009 at 8:33 pm

    lovely lovely lovely!!!!!! deeps!!!!!!!!!!

    *sooper tight hugs* I loved this post! dad goes to sabarimala since last 5 yrs.

    we have been watching the transmission of the festival on magarasankranthi on 14 jan on Mallu channel since i was 17 yrs old! and this festival… its rituals…they mean a lot to me!!!
    :D

    u know what is my fav part? when they take swami ayyapa’s jewels from palace to the shetram on the festival day…the krishnaparind (kite, right? or eagle? ) is seen flying in the sky and follows and guards the jewels till the shetram…every year!!! sigh!

    D: Really?I didnt know that. It must be such a wonderful sight!

    loved this post Deeps! swamiye sharanam ayappa!

    D: Swamiye sharanam ayyappa! Good to see you back,Crafty :)
    hugs!

    kanagu said:
    November 16, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    Wonderful post deeps… I always wondered how so much people lives a controlled life for those 41 days…

    D: Its amazing isnt it,Kanagu? you exercise certain discipline and order in your life and get to make life even more worthwhile.

    and also I love the legend of our Gods on how that temple was built like that… :)

    and for the discrimination… again a male chauvinism… I have never heard or read about Lord said anything on that..

    whatever rules creates on this earth is by human.. and god gives reason for that,….

    Vimmuuu said:
    November 16, 2009 at 9:28 pm

    Donno much about religions and gods. But I pity this lord though ! We humans are not letting him get married . ( I hope you know the myth behind the temple)

    Lakshmi said:
    November 17, 2009 at 1:19 am

    Had similar customs in our home growing up. My younger uncle went to Mala every year. I was able to go once and still savor memories from it. Great post Deeps.

    Pixie said:
    November 17, 2009 at 7:08 am

    Lovely post Deeps!
    Lots of info :)
    Thank you for sharing :)

    I don’t get the whole – “Females not allowed” thing about Sabarimala either!”

    Elegant Chic said:
    November 17, 2009 at 8:45 am

    A close friend of mine is on his way to Sabarimala… yup an early trip. :)

    Swamiye sharanam ayappa! :)

    anishthomas said:
    November 17, 2009 at 9:15 am

    seems there is lot of similarities in rituals between hindus and syrian christians in kerala.Though i’m aware about sabrimala 41 days fast…until reading this post i never noticed the simalrities….iyappa devotees take 41 days fasting in nov\dec and we used to take 25 days fasting for preparing for christmas :) …..anyways itz amazing(few times back solilo wrote about ramayana masam and bible masam)….
    during school days when i was with parents i used folow that…but since i left my home for higher stdudies/job ,i left this practise behind for some reason…..yesterday i was thinking about the same and was planning about taking fast this time…accidentally at the same time i came across your post …….U know,i felt like it was like a call ……really happy to read about it :D……reminded me my good old days in kerala……..

    thank U so much for the post and reminded us about the holy month(i got this post exactly at the right time when I needed :) )

    @restriction imposed on the female gender….heard aypan is a bhramajari..thatz y this restriction……guess there is nothing wrong in following the old practices

    anishthomas said:
    November 17, 2009 at 9:25 am

    One doubt—- is vritham is penance …I guess we are taking vritham for thanks giving,something like thanking god for giving a blessed year(not sure)…just asked only

    shail said:
    November 17, 2009 at 10:12 am

    My younger son was born on Vrischikam 1 which fell on 16th November in 1989 too

    Swaram said:
    November 17, 2009 at 10:31 am

    I esp. love seeing the Makara vilaku on Sankranti day :)

    And I hate hate hate that discrimination :(
    Its like u cn only go before menstruation and after menopause rt :(

    D: Exactly! Its like penalizing

    I seriously don’t understand whatz so impure, whatever abt it .. its all for creating another life .. y is it considered something bad? Acc. to me, it should infact be respected and we should be treated special ;)

    As u say Deepu, these things do bring discipline in our life and a day which begins well for sure goes well. We feel refreshed and rejuvenated :)

    Nice post Deeps :) Hugs :)

    D: Hugs to you too,swarukutty :)

      Swaram said:
      November 17, 2009 at 10:32 am

      remove the esp. Deepu ;) Its @ a wrong place ;) I meant I esp. love seeing the Makara Vilaku :)

      D: Modified :)

    Dreamer said:
    November 17, 2009 at 10:47 am

    My husband used to go on this pilgrimage every year, till the place became too crowded. Now more and more people are opting to go during the first of the malayalam month, because of the same reason.
    As for women not being allowed to enter, actually there is no fixed upper and lower age limit. A more practical explanation is that it is biologically impossible for a woman to undertake the 41 day vrata shudhi.

    Nancy said:
    November 17, 2009 at 10:56 am

    :-)

    Nancy said:
    November 17, 2009 at 10:59 am

    Incase u r wondering, that was to let u knw I was here…..yeah well since I didnt have anything concrete to add, the smiley was to mark my presence :-D

    vandana said:
    November 17, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    Didn’t know anything about this tradition in Malayalies…
    maybe because all malaylies I have met have been Christians..

    suman said:
    November 17, 2009 at 2:03 pm

    Without supporting such imposed restrictions .. I think we need to look back to the time when those were made and that will probably provide some justification. Firstly it used to take probably months to reach a temple after you left your home and secondly the hygene was always a major issue. But the key is that the religion needs to evolve with time and they should now make those rules and rituals obsolete as they are not relevant any more……

    Rakesh said:
    November 17, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    “the first day of the month. And I’ve started the day with a silent prayer and a hope that I’m able to harbor only good thoughts”

    Now we know what thoughts you’ve been harbouring all the other months :P

    I know silly comment but there’s nothing of my interest in this post :-|

      sakshi said:
      November 19, 2009 at 1:24 am

      Rakesh that was eggjactly my thought too..deeps harboring khatarnaak thoughts for the rest of the months :mrgreen: maybe later she will indulge us with a post about her other thoughts which am sure many of us will be more than happy to comment on :razz:

        Rakesh said:
        November 19, 2009 at 7:34 am

        Yeah – give us some ‘REAL’ stuff deeps ;)

          Deeps responded:
          November 19, 2009 at 11:26 am

          *bura mat suno* *bura mat dekho* *bura mat bolo* :P :P :P

            Indian Homemaker said:
            November 22, 2009 at 9:37 pm

            Ha ha :) Can’t help enjoying this conversation :)

    Aryan's Mom said:
    November 18, 2009 at 7:04 am

    very good post…I can relate everybit of it…how important is Vrichigam onnu……

    Shalom said:
    November 18, 2009 at 7:57 am

    We have a similar 40-day period of fasting & abstinence before Easter. I’ve never followed it rigorously, but there was one year I gave up my biggest addiction – chocolates :D I think these times improve your discipline, help you refocus on what’s truly important in your life and going without stuff you usually take for granted helps you count your blessings. Good wishes to you too during this season :)

    Deeps responded:
    November 18, 2009 at 10:31 am

    Thank you all for sharing your thoughts and experiences on this post.I’m amazed to notice the similarities between different religions. Like the Hindus observe vratham during Mandalam, the Muslims fast during Ramadan,the Christians observe lent during Easter. I’ve come to know that The Bahais,Jains too have similar customs and rituals for fasting.

    It has made me realize that the essence of each religion,at the end of the day is the same.To bring about a discipline in life,to refrain oneself from evil,unpleasant thoughts and deeds. We fast not just to thank God for His mercies and blessings but also to seek forgiveness for our sins.

      Deeps responded:
      November 18, 2009 at 11:35 am

      A special mention to those who felt they didnt have anything concrete to add but still were gracious enough to mark their presence.

      Thank you,guys,for coming by.It means a lot to me :)

        sakshi said:
        November 19, 2009 at 1:26 am

        Hmmm is this thank you speech the result of the good thoughts for this auspicious month :roll:

    Rashmi said:
    November 18, 2009 at 10:42 am

    I dont go to temple…prefer doing mediatation at home only…just cant tolerate these restriction or other factors like mad crowd or poojari giving prasad as per donation…

    its better to be at home and remember god rather than going to temple…and feeling irritated..

    Pallavi said:
    November 18, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    Deeps, you brought back lots of fond memories for me, as my dad always goes to Sabarimala every year.

    As for the restriction, I agree its ridiculous. It is ofcourse based on the fact that women in that age group are in their ‘fertile’ phase! The rest ( 50) are assumed not to be and so they are allowed!

    Hypermom said:
    November 19, 2009 at 2:01 am

    Thanks for the post Deeps-I didn’t know many of the facts before this.

    The concept of considering menstruation impure is so deeply embedded in our religion that I have seen many temples displaying notice boards saying : it is a sin for women having periods to enter…

    Logic???

    D: I cant see any logic either. Its a such a ridiculous view.

    BTW the Kamakhya temple in Assam actually celebrates the month when the Goddess is supposed to be menstruating as a symbol of fertility and rejuvenation.

    Pesto Sauce said:
    November 19, 2009 at 8:04 pm

    This temple was in news sometime back when Kannada actress Jayamala claimed to have visited Sabrimala when she was menstruating….big controversy that

    D: It is not known if the actress was menstruating at that point in time,but yes she did claim she had entered the temple and touched Ayyappa’s idol many years ago. The chief priest of the temple denied such a claim though.

    Btw she was my neighbor in B’lore

    Madhu Rao | INDImag.com said:
    November 20, 2009 at 6:21 am

    A very nice post Deeps.

    I have not had any in my family take up this vratam, but during the season the changes it brings in people is so noticeable. It is during this time that the auto-drivers are genial and nice in Bangalore !

    On the restrictions, I’m sure the almighty being the creator of all things human wouldn’t mind it. The Brahminical ‘maDi’(not untouchability) is another such restriction that I did not like growing up.

    Nature is the best equalizer. The maDi centric Mantralayam seer had to be air lifted when mother nature showed us who’s in control recently during floods…..

    neo said:
    November 20, 2009 at 9:14 am

    nice post..very informative ..

    Smitha said:
    November 20, 2009 at 2:34 pm

    Lovely Post, Deeps !

    You know, I don’t have too many memories associated with the Makara Kalam :) The first time I saw the telecast was when I came to Bangalore and my aunt was watching it on TV. My dad never went on the pilgrimage because it was too much of a travel from Jamshedpur. But in the last 3 years since he retired, he has been going regularly to Sabarimala. He is all set to go next wednesday. I have heard of my dad’s aunts. all frail, ladies in their 60s, 70s who used to go every year with a lot of fervour.. Apparently they never even feel any exhaustion.. I find that fascinating..

    As for the exclusion, the story I have been told is that since Ayyappan was treated badly by his step mother after she had her own children, any woman in her reproductive years was not allowed to go to his shrine.. It is sad though, about how many such restrictions are in place in so many of our temples..

    D: didnt know about the step-mother angle,Smits. It is sad indeed how some illogical restrictions in temples demean the very faith in God

    Even Yesudas not being allowed in Guruvayoor – is ridiculous! I so wish that our holy shrines would be more open to everybody.

    D: Oh yes,I remember how depressed I was when I got to know about the first time many years back.

    Though I prefer quieter and calmer temples, I love reading about all this.

    Lovely post, Deeps!

    sakshi said:
    November 20, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    Deeps I remember a few years back there was a scandal about one actress who had entered this temple? Don’t remember what was it all about :sad:

    D: Yes Saksh there was a huge furore when Kannada actress,Jayamala had claimed that she had entered Sabarimala’s sanctum sanctorum and touched Lord Ayyappan’s idol a few years ago.
    The temple’s chief priest was reported to have denied such a claim though.

    25BAR said:
    November 20, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    Its the most wonderful time of the year!

    renu said:
    November 21, 2009 at 7:30 am

    Thanks for sharing it, I so much wanted to know.

    Cant say why this discrimination, may be they thought of them to be distraction for men who follow abstinence for 40 days.

    But this practice of avoiding non veg and alcohol is prevalent in all treligions in some form or other and it shows that all religions are same and advocate the same thing.

    Indian Homemaker said:
    November 22, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    I am not much of a temple goer, we empower the priests too much by going to temples, they get to make rules and feel like semi gods themselves. I just pray where ever I am. No mediators between me and god.

    Also outrageous is the way VIPs get special privileges in temples.

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