The Mandala Vratham starts on the 1st of the Malayalam month Vrichikam (November 16, 2013) . Ayyappa Devotees initiate the Vratham by wearing a Thulasi mala or Rudraksha mala . The mala is to be accepted from a temple priest after it is duly sanctified in the temple.
The mandala Vratham is 41 days and if the pilgrimage is for the ‘Makaravilakku’ it will be January 14, 2014. Even after visiting the Sabarimala temple, some devotees complete the 41-day period of Vratham. The male pilgrim is addressed as ‘Swami’ and the female pilgrim is addressed as “Malikappuram”.
The Mandala Vratham is also observed by many devotees who don’t intent to go to Sabarimala Temple.
Austerities followed during Mandala Vratham
- They should bathe at least twice daily and visit a nearby shrine or pray at home.
- Most devotees take food only after bath. They should avoid taking alcohol, chewing tobacco and non-vegetarian food.
- During the ‘Vratham’, utmost care should be taken by the pilgrims to keep their body and mind clean and pure. The devotee should avoid all worldly pleasures. They should observe strict ‘brahmacharyam’, refrain from sex.
- Devotees during this period wear blue, black or ocher (yellow-orange color) dress.
- They are expected to undergo the practices of simple life such as they are not allowed to attend social functions like wedding, birthday’s etc. Some strict Ayyappa devotees even avoid wearing footwear during this period.
- The devotees should not cut their hair, beard or nail.
- The devotees should treat all fellow devotees as Lord Ayyappa himself and serve them in all the ways. Their words, action or thought should not hurt the feelings of others.
The mental satisfaction of Sabarimala Pilgrimage can be attained only through observing proper Vratham.
‘Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa!’