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Makara Vilaku Celebrations At NEHTI

Anil Saigal

Each year, January 14,  on Makara Sakaranti day, thousands of devotees at Shabarimalai in Kerala witness  a miracle. Exactly after the Aarti is performed for Ayyapan , the deity of the temple in the evening there is a flicker of light that occurs three times in the sky.  While it is an unexplained natural phenomenon for the faithful it reassures their belief in their Lord Swami Ayyapan.

The historical and mythological story of this deity and the temple are most interesting. It is believed that Lord Ayyapan who is called “Harihara Putra” – child of Hari (Vishnu) and Hara (Shiva) was born when Lord Shiva, fascinated with the Mohini form of Vishnu, fell in love and united with Vishnu.  The child is supposed have been found by the Raja of Pandalam, a kingdom in Kerala who saw the divinity of the child and adopted him.  After performing actions that indicated that the child was an aspect of the Divine, Lord Ayyapa disappeared in the Shabari hills. Itt is believed that He chose the spot of the temple to reside in His subtle form. 

This form of the Lord is a very much a tribute to unity in religions. Since He is considered a child of Shiva and Vishnu it suggests the unity of Shaivite and Vaishnavite sects. His best friend who mausoleum worshipped on the way to the temple is a Muslim chieftain by the name of Vavar.  The lady who is supposed to be His greatest supporter and devotee is a Christian woman name Mary Amman who is also worshipped at a temple along the way to Shabarimalai. The trek to the temple is daunting and it is said that ascending the final 18 steps that leads to the Sannithanam is a very spiritual experience.

New England Hindu Temple performed the prayers to Swami Ayyapan who is also enshrined in the temple. The priests performed a replica of the special Pooja that is conducted at Shabarimalai. They built 18 steps up to the shrine. With chants and prayers that are typically heard in the forest while devotees undertake the extremely difficult trek walking with bare feet through the forest the devotees and the priests tried to recreate the ambience. “Swamiye Ayyapa… Kallam Mullum Kalluku Methai (stones and thorns and bed for my feet), Padniettam padiye sharanam ponnaiyappa “ etc were chanted.

 During modern times the celebrations at Shabarimalai are broadcast over television. There are many natural phenomenons that are said to occur to guide the prayers and each year one can see these occurring without fail. An eagle is supposed to circle the Pandalam Palace and then alone will the ornaments for Lord Ayyapa be taken out to the temple. Each year the eagle does circle at the appointed time. The final miracle is when the light occurs in the sky as if a divine Arati is being offered to the Lord.

The greatest miracle is the strength that thousands of faithful gain to make the extremely difficult trek to the temple. The spiritual energy in the crowds seems amazing ands each year the crowd is blessed by Lord Ayyapa for a great year ahead! NEHTI is to be thanked from recreating this experience albeit in a small form for devotees in New England.

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