Saturday, August 13, 2011
How to perform austerities / Vratham for 41 days before the Sabarimala Pilgrimage
Sabarimala trip is an arduous trek which should be taken seriously and the preparations should be in earnest. The devotees who had already been there have prepared a list for all things to do and not to do while on the pilgrimage austerities. Nowadays the vehicles go till the Pampa river but even from there the trek is difficult and steep through dangerous and dense forests which are full of wild animals.
Before leaving for Sabarimala to see Lord Ayyappa these devotees have to go through rigorous rituals and fasting for 41 days. The austerities he has to cover are very severe.
First before starting to undertake the Vratham he has to get permission from his parents, and then from the Guru under whose guidance he has to visit Sabarimala. After this the date is fixed for the starting the vratham.
On the eve of the starting of fasting
On the eve of the day of Vratham he has to clean himself physically and then offer prayers to his family deity by making a knot of 1.25 rupees in a yellow cloth, within that knot. He has to present it to the family deity and take permission to start the vratham.
On the eve he is supposed to cut his hair, shave and clip and clean his nails which he will not be allowed to for the 40 days he is vratham. The holy mla has to be cleaned and smeared with sandal paste and placed before the idol of Lord Ayyappa. He has to buy and start wearing dhothis of colours Black, blue and saffron along with towels or shawls.
What he has to do on the first day
On the first day of the vratham, the devotee shall rise early have bath and offer prayers to the family deity, navagrahas and then perform pooja to the holy mala. After praying at home he has to go to the temple with his Guru and receive the mala from him among the chanting of Saram Ayyappa. He becomes an Ayyappa himself and is asked to face the demands of the pious life.
The devotees will withdraw themselves from attending all the festivals and feasts, social activities and spend the time by taking part in praying singing bajans, visiting temples, cleaning temples, feeding the poor. helping the poor and the sick and attending religious discourses of the stories about Gods etc.
He shall have to bath at least twice daily and perform Pooja by chanting 108 ayyappa saranam and chant the Lord's name under breath wherever he is, either at work or at home. He is not supposed to oil to his hair or body and take oil bath.
He is not supposed to think of hurting anyone even verbally and treat all the other devotees as Lord Ayyappa himself. He is not supposed to feel proud of himself of the respect and the privileges he gets when he is wearing the holy Tulsimala. He is not supposed to cause inconvenience to other family members. If he is starting the vratham every year, each year should be a new experiance and should never feel proud that he is doing this again. He shall strictly follow Brahmacharya and should have only motherly and sisterly feelings to all the women, including his wife.
He is not supposed to go near a dead body and should not eat anything without taking a bath if he sees one accidentally. He has to carry Tulsi leaf with him wherever he goes to prevent him from feeling evil and from Theetu.
He is supposed to sleep only on the floor and use a wooden block or a plank for the pillow.He should walk barefoot. He shall totally surrender himself to Lord Ayyappa.
It is said that the grace and power of Sabarimala increases when you observe the rules correctly and regularly as you are expected to and it is reflected back to the person who observes it.
Simple living, absolute cleanliness and holy thoughts are the mainstay of the vrutham. The mind and the body are impeccably maintained pure and absolute celibacy is maintained. Without a proper vrutham for 41 days and irumudikettu, you cannot attempt climbing the 18 steps. You have to do that to prepare yourself for the physical fitness and mental conditioning to be achieved before the arduous trek.