How to observe Vratam for Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple

    The Vratham or Vrata for visiting Sabarimala Ayyappa Sannidhanam or Swamy Ayyappa Temple starts on the first day of the Malayalam month of Vrichikam (this year on 17th November 2010) and culminates on Mandala Pooja Day (27th December 2010) or Makara Sankranti day (14th January 2011). On observing this Sabarimala Vratham (austerities), the mind and soul get purified as the devotees undertake certain practices and cleanliness. Here are some of the customs and rules of the austerities. For those who cannot start vrata on the first day of Vrishchika can start on any other day.

    Maladharanam – Wearing of Mudhra Mala

    The Sabarimala Ayyappa Vratha is marked by the wearing of "Thulasi Mala" (garland) or "Rudraksha Mala”, bearing the locket of Lord Ayyappa of Sabarimala Temple. The temple priest or Guru Swami / Periya Swami instigates the Mudra Mala to the devotee (Maaladharanam), by chanting mantra or simply “Swamy Saranam”. Guru Swamy or Periya Swamy is an Ayyappan devotee who has completed 18 successive years of Sabarimala pilgrimage and he guides others for the pilgrimage. The garland is to be obtained after sanctification in a temple / pooja room. Devotees offer "Dakshina" to the concerned priest. Subsequent to this ritual, the devotee wearing the "Mala" is called as "Ayyappan" or "Swamy" and the female (aged between 1 and 9 OR above 50 years) devotees are called as "Malikapuram" (who is the Shakti of Lord Ayyappa).

    Mantra for wearing Mudhra Mala Dharan can be found here

    Below are the austerities and rules that are to be followed for taking the Ayyappa Sannidhanam pilgrimage

    1) On the day before starting the vratham, the devotee has to shave, trim his nails and hair and make himself clean. The Thulasi Mala or Rudraksha Pendants should be cleaned and smeared with sandal paste and placed before the image of Lord Ayyappa. Only a new pair of colored (black, blue and saffron) dhoti and towel/shawl is to be used by the devotee. 

    2) During the Sabarimala Vratam, the devotee should wake up early in the morning, offer prayers and perform pooja to the holy mala. Also, he should not apply oil to his hair and shall not make oil smeared over his body.

    3) The devotee of Ayyappa Swami shall not take part in any of the social activities. He shall spend his time only by prayers, poojas, visiting temples and helping the poor/needy.

    4) The devotee should consume only satvic foods (vegetarian diet) and abstain from non-vegetarian, alcoholic drinks or drugs, chewing betel leaves and from smoking.

    5)  Taking bath twice/thrice daily and performing puja by chanting 108 Ayyappan Saranams form part of the austerity. Apart from Ayyappa Saranams, devotees can chant Ayyappa Gayatri Mantra, Ayyappa Ashtottara Stotram, Loka Veeram Mahapoojyam Ayyappa Namaskara Sloka or any other mantras and prayers of Lord Ayyappa.

    6) He should not hurt anybody either verbally or physically, and consider all co-devotees as Lord Ayyappan himself.

    7) The Swami should not feel proud for the respect he gets during his observance for the pilgrimage.

    8) The devotee should not in any way cause trouble to his family members because of his vratham.

    9) He should practice pure Brahmacharya (celibacy) in his deeds, words and thoughts, during the pilgrimage period. Only vegetarian food and fresh fruits are to be consumed. He should sleep only on the floor, avoiding pillows. Some devotees do not use footwear so as to make their feet adjusted to climb the Sabarimala hills barefooted.

    10) The Swami shall avoid himself from the proximity of dead body. If he happens to see one, he shall not eat anything until he takes bath.

    11) It is always better to carry a Thulasi leaf to prevent him from evil spirits and from impurities.

    It should be remembered that the blessings of Lord Ayyappa would reflect on those who strictly follow these rules.

    Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa!!
    Harihara sudhane Saranam Ayyappa!!

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