Anandapuram Mandalam means how many days


Shayana Pradikshanam Devotional practice by pilgrims on Sabarimala

In the Indian state of Kerala, only 10 degrees above the equator, there is a country with steep mountains that are densely covered with beautiful tropical forests. The early people of this region, who came from Dravidian ancestors, lived in small tribal groups between trackless valleys and rushing streams. They did little farming and hunted in the teeming forests, and their chief deity, Ayappa, was a youthful forest god. Various legends explain the birth of Ayappa (also known as Dharmasasta). You start with Shiva, who wanders through the mountain kingdoms of the Himalayas. There he sees a pretty girl and loves her passionately. But the girl is married to another man, a tribal chief who swears vengeance on the god. The tribal chief withdraws to an ice cave in the high mountains and has been implementing austerity measures for a thousand years. Through these austerity measures he gains great psychic powers and finally sets out to punish Shiva. From the heights of the mountain. Kailash, Shiva sees the tribal chief approaching. The chief looks like a terrible demon, and Shiva asks the god Vishnu for help and protection. Vishnu manifests as a beautiful girl, seduces the demon chief and destroys him. But then Shiva, once again overwhelmed by sexual desire, sees the radiant virgin (who is just Vishnu in another form) and mates with her. From this union emerges a little boy named Ayappa. Ayappa embodies the qualities of Vishnu and Shiva and is an avatar (divinity in human form) who was born into the world to fight the demons of the hill tribes of Kerala. Shiva tells the magical child about his Dharma life (a life of service) and leaves him on the bank of a mountain stream, where he is discovered by a childless tribal king. Ayappa, raised by the king, works many miracles, is a great healer and a conqueror of demons. After Ayappa had fulfilled the purpose of his incarnation, he entered the inner sanctuary of the ancient temple on the sacred mountain. Sabari and disappeared. During his mythical life, Ayappa kept the company of tigers and leopards. Mystics who live in the deep forests around the Sabarimala Mountains have reported for a thousand years seeing Ayappa riding a majestic tiger through the jungle.

The Sabarimala Sanctuary is one of the most remote sanctuaries in South India, attracting three to four million pilgrims each year. Before the multi-day hikes through the mountain jungle to the Sabarimala begin, the pilgrims prepare for the 41 days of strict fasting, celibacy, meditation and prayer. Once at the shrine, the pilgrims wait hours or days until they stand a second or two in front of the picture of Ayappa. After seeing the deity, many pilgrims fulfill a vow called Shayana Pradikshanam. In the Malayalam language of Kerala, Shayana means "body" and Pradakshinam means "revolution", so Shayana Pradakshinam means "revolution with the body". This devotional practice is carried out not only in Sabarimala, but also in other temples in Kerala.

The Sabarimala Shrine is only open a few times a year: the Mandalam Festival extends over 41 days from November 15 to December 26, the Makaravilakku from January 1-14; on Vishu, the day of the spring equinox in April; and at smaller festivals in May / June and August / September. Unlike many other places in South India, the sanctuary is open to all religious vocations and there are no caste restrictions during the pilgrimage. However, women are not allowed to come to Sabarimala unless they are younger than six years or older than sixty years. This is explained by Ayappa's celibacy and concern that a woman his age might lure him out of his shrine (if certain readers find this a bit sexist, they will be informed that there are certain goddess shrines in South India that men are forbidden to enter). During the pilgrimage, no tigers are said to have been found on the forest trails that lead to Sabarimala. This is explained by Ayappa's power over tigers. Other sacred places associated with Ayappa are Kulattupuzha, Aryankavu, Accankovil, and Kantamala.

Additional information on SABARIMALA and AYAPPA

The above information is taken from various books about the Sabarimala Shrine. After posting these writings on the website, I received the following material from a reader of the website: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .. This new material relating to the legend of Ayappa is slightly different from what I wrote. This kind of difference in legend and myth is quite common when exploring sacred places and that is why I have included both versions of the Ayappa myth. Many thanks to Geetha Krishnan for this alternate myth.

Shiva does not call Vishnu after mating with a tribal woman. The story goes that Shiva gives a blessing to an asura (demon) that allows him to touch just one person on his head and he will drop dead. The asura then thanks him and wants Lord Shiva to try the blessing for himself. Shiva runs out of fear and asks Lord Vishnu for help. Lord Vishnu in the form of the beautiful girl Mohini, which literally means "sorceress" or "seductress", approaches the Asura. She asks him why he is persecuting Shiva. The asura tells her how he received this blessing and wanted to test it on Shiva himself. Mohini cheats on the stupid asura by telling him that the blessing is really ineffective and Shiva didn't want him to know. If he wanted, he could test it on himself. The asura put his hand on his own head and believed her, and he falls dead. Shiva is very grateful to Vishnu, but bewitched by his feminine form. They have the child Ayappa to satisfy the demigods' request to save them from the torments of the demon Mahishi. Ayappa is then raised by the King of Panthala, Rajashekharan, a truly royal king who is not a tribal king and who was childless. Immediately after the adoption of the child Ayappa, whom he named Mani Kanda, which means "one who wears a bell around his neck" (because the child was found with a small bell on a chain around his neck that attracted the attention of the King who was on a street) the king has a child of his own. When Ayappa was about to reach old age, the queen feared that her own child would lose the right to the throne. So she planned with the court minister to assassinate Ayappa. She pretended to be sick because her stomach was in excruciating pain. The minister bribed the forensic doctor on the grounds that the only remedy was tiger milk. Ayappa, who is ready to do anything for his mother, goes on a dangerous mission alone to get the milk. Instead, he meets Mahishi and kills her. The gods in happiness and joy take the form of tigers and accompany them back to the palace to give the so-called needed milk medicine. When the queen saw this, she confessed her plans and asked the young prince for forgiveness. Ayappa forgives his mother, claims the right to celibacy and leaves the palace to live on Sabarimala. Women are not allowed to go to the temple, not for fear that Ayappa will leave the shrine, but that women will desire the beautiful celibate God and fall in love with him. They are admitted after reaching the menopausal age.

Further information on the pilgrimage to Sabarimala can be found at:

Gangadharan, N; Pilgrimage to Sabarimala; in Pilgrimage Studies: Sacred Places, Sacred Traditions; The Society of Pilgrimage Studies (Dubey, editor of the DP); Allahabad, India; 1995


For more information:

Martin Gray is a cultural anthropologist, writer, and photographer who specializes in the study and documentation of pilgrimage sites around the world. During one 38 year, he has visited more than 1500 sacred sites in 165 countries. The World pilgrim leader The website is the most comprehensive source of information on this subject.

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