Methodology of undertaking a pilgrimage

Even though the number of Sabarimala pilgrims is growing by the day, many are still not very much aware of the methodology of undertaking a pilgrimage conforming to the traditional norms. Some are even ignorant about the ingredients that go into the making of Irumudikettu. The number of Guruswamis also have dwindled substantially raises the gravity of the situation. And for many, taking a pilgrimage to Sabarimala is yet another process taken in a jiffy.

Sabarimala Front view

Earlier, the Ayyappans (as the pilgrims are generally addressed) used to carry Pallikkettu while undertaking the pilgrimage. As the temple was located in a forest region, the pilgrims used to carry with them the materials meant for offering at the temple and also edible items for their own use. Pallikkettu which is also known as Irumudikettu is split into two compartments. The frontal one is used for keeping the materials meant to be offered at the temple and the rear compartment accommodates edible items for self use. In the earlier days Ayyappans used to carry with them blankets, sleeping mats and even utensils for cooking. In those days one could ascertain whether the Ayyappan is a novice by noticing the colour of the Irumudikettu. At that time it was customary for the fresh Ayyappans to carry the Irumudikettu using red silk cloth while the seniors used white coloured cotton cloth.

With the passing of time a lot has changed. However, the spirit of undertaking the pilgrimage is still maintained with much reverence. The materials that goes into the frontal compartment of the Irumudikettu are betel leaf, betel-nut, coin, coconut, ghee stuffed coconut, camphor, turmeric powder, puffed rice, fried paddy, sugar candy, honey, dried grapes, black pepper, rose-water, banana, roasted rice flour, rice and raw tobacco. In the earlier days pilgrims also used to carry packets of ganja along with Irumudikettu as offering to the Karuppu-swami and Kadutha-swami. The first things that go into the Irumudikettu are betel leaf, betel-nut, coconut and ghee stuffed coconut. The ghee stuffed coconuts are meant for abhishekam at the temple. The betel leaf, betel-nut and coin are offered to the neighbourhood temples by the pilgrims on their return from the pilgrimage.

Most pilgrims carry more ghee-filled coconuts to be offered at different places enroute to Sannidanam such as Karimala-murthi, Pampa-ganapati and Pathinettampadi. As the Lord Ayyapan is believed to be fond of camphor the pilgrims worship him at frequent intervals by burning camphor. They also sprinkle turmeric powder to Naga-yakshi, Naga-rajavu and also at Malikappuram. Some also offer coconuts at the Malikappuram Sreekovil. Pilgrims offer puffed rice, sugar candy, fried paddy, dried grapes and roasted rice flour to Kadutha Swami for Santhana-saubhagyam. For Karuppu-swami the offering is raw tobacco while it’s black pepper for Vavaru-swami. Rice, molasses and bananas are meant for offering it to Lord Ayyappn as nedyam. The rice that the pilgrims carry in the rear compartment of Irumudikettu is for self consumption while the pilgrimage is in progress which is usually accompanied by pickle, slices of coconut and grilled papad.