Saturday, January 14, 2006

Makara Vilaku

Today is makara shankranti, and is also the day of makara vilaku or makara jyothi (vilaku/jyothi means lamp/light) at Sabarimala in Kerala.

Sabarimala is the abode of Ayyappan. The story of Ayyappan is very interesting and has many connotations. In many respects, his story and legends sort of unites different sects of people and cultures. It is popularly known in kerala, that at any ayyappan temple, is open to people of all religions. The temples though follow very ritualistic and hindu vedic pooja, the are some subtle differences.

Pooja - Typically most keralite temples do not burn camphor during pooja times. Almost all temples in TamilNadu burn camphor during the pooja and take it out to the devotees waiting outside. In an Ayyappan temple, even if buried deep in the ritualistic kerala, the TamilNadu style of pooja is very prevalent.

Vaishnavites and Shaivites - The legend of Ayyappan includes one which talk about him as the son of Shiva and Vishnu. He is also called Hari (Vishnu) Hara (Shiva) Putran. Ayyappan kind of unifies these two sects. But the puritans of this sect, easily overcome this issue by ignoring him as god in the hindu pantheon. This legend has another connotation for the modern times, both Shiva and Vishnu are male gods. The child was born to Mohini, which is supposedly Vishnu dressed as Mohini.

Hindu and Islam - Ayyappan is also supposed to have defeated a muslim warlord, Vavvar, and befriended him. And at Sabarimala, there is place of worship dedicated to Vavvar, which is manned by muslims. And it is considered that no worship of Ayyappan is complete without the worship and blessings of Vavvar. Hindus, muslims, christians and people of any religion, caste, community or sect are welcome at the Ayyappan temple.

However, one set of people are excluded from worship at the temple, women between the age of 12/13 to 60, basically between puberty and menopause. The Ayyappan temple surely hypes this physiological issue and gives it more than required attention and focus. I think the reason it started was not because of Ayyappan itself, but because of the 41 day vrata/fast that people must endure to go to this abode. Also the fact the lord of the abode is a brahmachari (bachelor) could be a cause for it. But to continue to enforce this rule, when so many of the other requirements have been watered down to man's convenience, doesnt make sense.

Commoner God - There is historical significance, in that Ayyappan was the son of the Raja (lord) of Pandalam, and he gave up the kingdom, and took to a life of meditation in the hills of Sabarimala. To me it shows how people can even consider and worship a common or mortal human being as god, no different than Jesus. My point being that people always look upto something a symbol, a person, an identity to help them through their daily lives, something to give them hope, raise them from depths of sorrow, to redeem them from their actions of anger and hatred etc. Ayyappan is one such recent entrant into the Hindu pantheon of gods.

I am not an atheist. I am not a fanatic either. I am a believer, and i am a rationalist. I believe in creation and evolution, both at the same time. I am not a brahmin, but i am in the search of god. I am not an orthodox, and quite a rebel, but i still have a few rituals i observe and follow.

1 comment:

Vinayak said...

Hi !

That was an interesting post.

Your blog lead me to think of India, Hinduism and India's image in the world arena.

Communists, Indian Leftists and their cohorts seem to be attacking and maligning Indians regularly. They want Indian Civilization look like a bride burning civilization.

These leftists have also been attacking Indian Muslims with ferocity. Every Imrana issues is blown full. But what about the Human rights abuses of China and Soviet union ? "mum" s the word then

It is possible that most developing countries are attacked thus be it Pakistan, India etc..

Back to my original question : To counter this, do Indians have organizations that promote India in the International arena, that boost our public image ?

India, a multicultural society, contributed immensely to Right livelihood (say our Dharma), Knowledge (right from Ship Building, Sashtras to Mathematics, Avaita), and political science (Arthashashtra for e.g.), medicine (ayurveda) over 2 millennium.

However, thanks to the invasions, colonial legacy and partially our own disunity, Indians were stuck with a "..curry and snake charmers image .." for a 100 years. Just now, we seemed to have shaken that, thanks only to Info Tech and IT pros. and info tech boom.

Be it politics or social issues, Why do Indians whip ourselves in public ? Look at the Ramdev Issue. We don't need Witzels and outsiders to smear us

Are we turning into a self hating civilization or is our media Left and anti Indian ?

More at
What is happening to the Kanchi Acharya ?

Gudia, a Muslim girl and Ramdev ji, a Hindu male !!