“The Makara Jyoti in its true essence is the the Light of Lord Ayyappan Within You.”
The lines above were written by me this January.Soon began the controversy around allowing women into Sabarimala and everything that is still going on.A lot has been spoken about it,some positive and others negative.But thousands of devotees remain steadfast in their faith and devotion.And that definitely includes women.
Deviating from all of this,I wish to write on Ayyappan’s teachings and the symbolisms interwoven in the traditions of the Ayyappan Cult.There is so much to write!!Although I can’t cover all aspects, I will try to cover some of them in a 2-series blog.At the end of it,I am just a humble devotee of Lord Ayyappan,sharing what I have learnt and felt!
Within Lord Ayyappan also known as Hari-Hara sutan or the child of Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva are unified the powers of creation of Vishnu and the powers of destruction of Shiva.
He is hailed as Vanpuli-Vahana and Kaliyuga-Varadha. The tiger being His vehicle symbolizes prakriti or nature being His manifestation.When He sets out to get the milk of a tigress to cure his mother’s headache,He fulfills the aim of his Avatar or birth on Earth.That of killing demonness Mahishi,thus aiding Mother Earth and vanquishing evil.
Nature shows complete surrender and respect to Him,in the form of the tiger.Herein lies one of the most important lessons for modern man. One must always respect nature and not destroy her blindly.You arise from nature,survive because of it and go back to it. You are forever indebted to her.Respect her and she returns it back.Destroy her,you are doomed.
Another very important lesson is fearlessness.One must attempt to face all difficulties head-on. After all what is Life without difficulties?? Also,one must fight against any injustice being meted out.Someone or the other has to do it,today or some other day. Why fear??Everyday,in corners around the world,people are fighting their own battles.
The other lesson is Compassion.Everyone has their own story.Every being is part of the same universe and the same Supreme Soul as you are.No one here is different.Then why hate anyone or any being?? While it is difficult for us to practice on all levels we can do it at the human level atleast.
As Kaliyuga-Varadha,Ayyappan assures his devotees that all those who seek him during the age of Kali will always remain protected and strong enough to sail through all difficulties.The devotee will be able to follow the path of goodness even during the Iron Age. He is His devotee’s friend,father,mother and the Shakti-the power and the guiding light within his soul.
When Ayyappan is sent away be His mother on a seemingly impossible mission,he harbours no grudges or ill-feelings toward her of his fate.On the contrary,through this fate his life-mission is fulfilled.
Here,we learn two timeless lessons.1) Never harbour any resentment toward anyone.Forgiveness is the virtue of the heart.
Why should we harbour a grudge in the first place??It causes us more pain and agony,steals away our peace of mind.We suffer more than the person we dislike.The person will realise his/her mistake at the destined time.For an essentially happy and carefree life,forgiveness is extremely important.It purifies your heart and rids your mind of unwanted garbage.
2) Not everything you wish for happens.Sometimes,even in what is seemingly bad,remains hidden a larger good.Do not curse your fate.Instead learn to go along with the flow when needed..you will see it makes a huge difference!!You are left with much more positive energy and happiness!
Coming to the ‘Petai Thullal’ tradition.Erumeli is an important shrine for all the devotees embarking on the Sabarimala pilgrimage.Here,in Erumeli,Ayyappan is worshipped as Lord Dharma Sastha,The Upholder of Dharma.Opposite the temple at Erumeli,is the mosque of Vavar Swami: Ayyappan’s devotee and dear friend.
In this ‘petai thullal’ custom,devotees dance in divine ecstasy,smearing colour on one another,completely drowned in the Lord. This symbolises the boundless energy lying dormant within you.The innocence and divine energy,which causes the individual soul to realise its one-ness with Ayyappan,the Supreme Soul. The tradition also teaches one to live life to the fullest,to smile with all heart,abandoning all worries and placing complete faith in Ayyappan.
Lastly,the friendship between Ayyappan and Vavar.We know that Vavar Swami is a Muslim and even today at his shrine in the Sabarimala temple complex,a Muslim priest performs all the rites. There are many stories about Vavar,but the most prominent one is that he was a warrior who was defeated by Ayyappan as Prince Manikantan.He then went on to become the Lord’s most loyal confidant and devotee.
What is heartening in today’s times filled with strife and intolerance is this beautiful relationship,which is proof to the fact that humans may be seperated by any number of barriers,but ultimately love joins us all.We are essentially one,our origin being the same.Man may have caused this division,but nature finds a way to remind him that he is but a reflection of all his fellow humans.
The petai thullal starts at the Vavar mosque,going further.Even today,before proceeding to the sanctum sanctorum at Sabarimala,devotees pray at the shrine of Vavar Swami. The Lord thus tells his devotees,that heart-felt devotion is the only way to reach Him.He asks them to respect and love one another,as to Him all his devotees are equally dear.
The Sabarimala temple visited by thousands of aged women,children and men of every caste and creed is truly a beacon of light,in these times when darkness in the form of religious intolerance has plagued the world.
Hidden within the layers of any legend or tradition,are valuable teachings which empower and enrich a person’s life!!Understanding and absorbing these life-lessons,we gain true knowledge!
That’s it for Part One.Swamiye Sharanam Ayyappa! 🙂