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?
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