Encounter with Lord Ayyappan in the milestone year of 2014


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I wanted to make a visit to Sabarimala in the holy month of Vrischikam, something I had not managed in my previous 4 visits. Excluding alcohol and non veg food from the diet from the beginning of the holy month, I quietly went about with a routine to reinstate some amount of fitness I used to have. Cycling an average of 45km a week, I was able to build some confidence over 4 weeks to do this journey on my own.

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Having nil experience at the peak time, I decided to utilize the online services offered – Slotted myself on the Virtual Q. and booked Kerala road transport buses for the onward and return journey.

Unusually this time having to make this journey from a place I have only moved in to 6 months ago, I had to find my own Guruswami when incidentally we came across Sree Dharma Shastha Temple at Perumbavoor.

Having done my kettu nira from there, I set out in the evening taking a superfast bus from Angamaly to Ernakulam. Despite it being Christmas Eve, I only encountered the usual city traffic at Kochi. Just 200m before reaching the bus stand, our bus managed to scrape the front and back door of a Chervolet Beat. Since I knew this would consume time, I set off on foot to the bus station.

There was nothing appreciable about the bus made available specially for this season of pilgrimage – just another KSRTC super fast bus. A group of 4-5 young fellows, probably early 20s late teens were on board, passing lewd comments and bringing up the feminine side of the world much to the dislike of the rest of the Swamis. Most of the Swamis nowadays no longer opt for a rigid 41 day fast. This is typically noticeable amongst Keralites.  The night bus ride was uneventful. I despise winding roads going uphill but that is part of the package when it comes to visiting Sabarimala. At least this time I could close my eyes and not care much as I am not driving.

The bus reached on schedule at Pamba – 230am. I went over by the side of the Pamba river, mopped a towel with the water and wiped my body and changed to fresh clothes to start the trek. 4.2km one way from Pamba to Sannidhanam, takes on an average with good pace 45 min. I reached in one hour as I recollect my fitness levels were poorer than my last visit. After having gone barefoot last time around, I no longer wear sandals/chappals. The emotion of pain, masks the crying calf muscles pushing you uphill a bit. The uneven surface under the feet makes sure you have a spring in your feet IF you are not one who usually walks barefoot. (Those who walk barefoot in general were almost nonchalant in their stride uphill).

Since I was alone, I no longer was waiting for anyone after any short spells of swift climbing, so I continued non stop.

My first visit utilizing the virtual Q and to be honest, I literally walked straight beyong the last metal detector just outside the 18 steps straight after a 1 hour climb. I was amazed considering only 48 hrs ago, people had to wait upto 8 hours even in the virtual Q!!

Climbing those 18 steps was the longest time I ever spent on them. With not much rush, the cops were no longer propeling people like rockets up the steps. Darshanam was calm and capacious. I went about the rest of the rites in Mallikappuram and headed over to the Aravana queue.

Just to sum up how my timeline went (and actually how lucky I was to go in and out with this much ease)

Pamba to Sannidhanam: 0230 – 0330

Darshanam: 0345 – 0400

Malikappuram: 0400 – 0445

Aravana counter: 0445 – 0520

Sannidhanam to Pamba: 0600 – 0700

However the day drive by bus was torrid. I walked 1 km to the Pamba KSRTC bus stand and found myself a direct bus to my hometown.

It took me over 5.5 hours to get back home but I am still amazed and happy that I had it my way today. Swami sharanam!!

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Harivarasanam – A religious tryst


Six Swamis embark on a holy trip

Swamiyaaaeee Sharanamayyappa!

I did not get much sleep the previous night. Been waiting for 15 long days for this very moment. I anxiously kept checking my mobile on the bed, 4 am; 420; 500; 530am. I jumped out of my bed, freshened up, took a good long bath and visited 3 temples. My cousin was due to arrive from Muscat; the phone rang at 0930; my cousin had reached home. We decided to meetup at 11am.

Scenic hills of Pathanamthitta

Our house was in a mess with all the work going on and I scrambled out with all I needed. Clad in a saffron mundu, the lamp was lit at home, and the women blessed the men for a safe journey – we drove over to the temple to get the Sacred Irumudi Kettu ; marked the beginning of the journey breaking a coconut. Swaaamiyaaaaaeeee Sharanamayyappa!!

Swami

This year’s trip turned out be a day affair unlike last year, when we did most of the travelling in the night. Our first halt was at the usual restaurant in Kottarakkara where we had ‘Oonu‘ [Meal]. After around 2.5 hrs drive, we reached a place called Manimalayaar – here we usually take a bath to cleanse our body before we begin the climb from Pamba. 4 of us were below 30s and as always the older Swamis had to force us out of the water to head back en route to Pamba.

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After a half hour swim there, we were back on track and after another 1.5 hours, we had reached Pamba. The roads were much better than I anticipated and the ride was not too bumpy. Usually the moment we pass the toll booth, there would be plenty of vehicles lined up, however with 2 days still to go for the festival to begin, the crowd was surprisingly less. We took a dip at Pamba, and embarked barefoot on a 1hour 45min climb up [chanting Lord Ayyappa hymns and songs] to reach the Sannidhaanam. During the climb, one delicacy I just simply can’t seem to avoid are the Pineapple slices sprinkled with chilly-salt powder mix. Not only hydrates, but gives me a lot of energy for the climb.

Religious tryst

At around 640pm, we managed to reach just outside the temple. There was not much crowd and we did not have to wait perennially in the aisle leading up to the body scans. The Padi Pooja is something I had never witnessed before. It was an amazing feeling to sing the 18 padi pooja song while the Pooja was being done, and the feeling can’t be put to words.

This is only the second time that I have been to sabarimala, but clearly I was happier to have had a much longer darshanam this time around. The stone hard Unni appam alongwith the Aravanam were bought. We climbed down the mala and reached Pamba at 1o30pm, a little too late for dinner anywhere. Eventually we halted at a ‘Thattukada’ at Adoor and finally reached home late at 2am.

March has so far been a very kind month to me. Managed to visit both Guruvayur and Sabarimala. Will end this post with my favorite quote
Work as if everything depended upon Man and pray as if everything depended upon God 🙂

Day 9-15 Swami Sharanam


Coming to the end of my fast. As I prepare myself mentally and physically to embark on a Sabarimala pilgrimage tomorrow, I am thankful to be in good health and will be looking forward to climbing the Holy 18 steps and having a darshanam of Lord Ayyappa.

All my family, friends and bloggers in my prayers

Swami Sharanam

P.S: Due to lack of time at hand, haven’t blogged on Hernandez’s brace last night, or the possible outcome of Fergie’s 5 match touchline ban. Will be back in action day after.

Day 5-8 : Impromptu Guruvayur Road Trip


Ever since Dad has been down, hardly get any time, busy moving around, meeting relatives etc. Out of the blue, last couple of days ran off to Guruvayur on a Road Trip!

For the first time, I drove straight from Kollam to Guruvayur and back in two days, a total of 444 km! The drive was lovely as the highways are in good shape at this time of the year. [plus the elections around the corner]

Happened to see a construction site of Santhimadom Builders there in town itself, so captured a picture of a Sree Narayana Guru statue there.

Guruvayur Temple

It is best to visit the temple on a Thursday and usually we see a larger crowd. Unlike last visit, we decided to head in for the darshanam as early as 4am. and surprisingly enough managed to get a good darshanam without much rush.

P.S : Women dress up so well when they come to Guruvayur – clad in freshly pressed set Sarees and Kasavu sarees – lovely traditional attire.

Gokulam Sabari continues to be a good stay with exotic meals available at their Nivedhyam Restaurant.

Mom and Dad at Sabari

Was dead tired after reaching home, but after a 3 hour power nap, am all charged up to get back to the routine.

Swami Sharanam

Day 4 – Swami Sharanam


Woke up as early as 3am. Took a bath and headed to pick dad from the Airport. En route while driving over, I was forced to slow down at a Paripally temple, where the festival procession had taken onto the road. On the way, came across 11 elephants in the 60km drive.

Coming to the new Terminal was some experience. Normally we take a right from Chakka circle to head towards Shangumugham beach and to the airport. But the new terminal meant, we stay on the By pass road itself. 1.2 km further from the Chakka circle, a small single lane road from Ananthpuri Hospital gradually climbs up and opens into a 3 lane one way road which slowly but steadily opens into the new international terminal that is spread over 32,200 square metres.

[Too much security denied me capturing the photos of the terminal to share here]

Here are some facts about the new terminal:

  • The new terminal has been constructed at a cost of Rs 290 crore. Spread over 32,200 square metres, the facility can handle 1,600 passengers at a time and an annual capacity to handle 18 lakh passengers.
  • It has 30 check-in counters with Common User Terminal Equipment (CUTE) facility for easy transit of passengers, 14 immigration counters, two Customs counters and four security check counters in departure. There are 12 immigration counters and nine Customs check counters for the arriving passengers. With glass being a major portion of the new structure, it also provides natural lighting inside the building.
  • Another attraction of the new terminal is that visitors can enter the terminal building up to the point that they could see the departing passengers even after checking-in, which is not possible in the existing terminal. The entry fee is Rs 60 per person.
  • The Airports Authority of India will be charging user development fee of Rs 575 per embarking international passenger from Tuesday. Passengers who had not paid user fee along with the ticket will have to pay the amount at the special counters at the terminal.
  • The terminal is fully-air-conditioned terminal with wi-fi connectivity and is designed to handle the passengers of two A-300s and one Boeing 747 aircraft at the same time.
  • A domestic terminal, a new air traffic control station and a cargo complex will also be built in the near future.

It’s been a year since I met dad and was a great day to catch up with him. Enjoyed a Falafel for breakfast, read the previous day’s Arab Times and in the evening spent time with him at our native place.

Swami Sharanam.

Day 2 – Swami Sharanam


Today woke up an hour late. Yet to come to terms with my ceiling fan – the regulator no longer works and it gets terribly cold in the morning. Morning temple visit was uneventful, though cycling on a light stomach seemed arduous.

Lunch was sumptuous with mom showing a sigh of relief and joy that she no longer has to cook so much. [no fish cutting|cleaning etc.]

In the evening while returning from the temple, stopped by at the football ground near the stadium. Its been so long since I ran on a pitch. Two teams were playing a practice match under a coach. I was enjoying the bundle of energy and enthusiasm of the kids playing. The way the coach re-enacts the play [pausing all the players on the pitch to show one player what he did wrong] was so helpful, and in a few minutes, I was finding myself getting vocal just like the coach. So before things got out of hand, I headed back home. 🙂

Swami Sharanam

Day 1 – Swami Sharanam


All in all was a very good day. Started off by waking up early in the morning 5.30am. Took a bath and went to the Mahaganapathi temple. Did maala pooja and marked the beginning of my fast.

Adapting to a fruit diet for breakfast, even though it sounded good, ended up with a headache at lunch time. 😉 Had a sumptuous vegetarian lunch. Then dozed off for an hour.

Evening cycled to Kadappakada Dharmashastha temple. Lord Ayyappa was gloriously dressed in flowers.

Headed to the Children’s park on the way back. Was good to talk to my BFF after almost 6 months. Some people are so hard to find 🙂

All in all the fruit diet dinner left me wanting to run to the fridge to grab a snack in the middle of the night, but resisted myself and limited to a glass of water.

Swami Sharanam.