Time of the year when the holy hillock is erupting with life and hymns of Lord Ayyappa. For the past few months everything related to Lord Ayyappa and Sabarimala were murky, when the so-called pseudo women’s right activist took it upon themselves to create a scandal in the name of the Lord. But I guess most of those who have gone to Sabarimala at least once are unperturbed by this barrage against our religious tenets or beliefs or culture or traditions and our faith in Lord Ayyappa remains fervid and festooned by his divine blessings.
Taking a trip down the memory lane, I vividly remember my first trip to the holy abode in the 80’s, when I was hardly 6 years or so. Those were the times when Ayyappa was not the messiah for many Tamils, Telegus or Kannadigas and every year the pilgrimage was undertaken by handful of people from Kerala. That also means forests were very pristine and unpolluted and there was a feeling of closeness to the nature when we trek arduously through the forest tract for 2 long hours. Truly stones and thorns were the cushion to legs.
Oh! Those were also the times when River Pamba would be seen swooshing out from the distant dense forest atop the hill and spouting out in her full lush. And a holy dip in Pamba before the trek pulverizes the lethargy and invigorates the spirit on us to start the journey. One of the common sightings in the trek even today are the herds of donkey plodding through the tracts and crossing in our paths, bumping against us and lumbering under the weight of grain and spice bags on their back. Even today donkeys still are the mode of transport of goods. Then for every few steps we can see a bee-hive of pilgrims chanting “Swamiye Ayyappo” walking up or climbing down blithely in the tracts.
As a six year old elders deemed it necessary that my walk be tersely smooth and that my tender foots are to be protected from the gruffly surface underneath. So I was an odd-man out wearing a canvas shoes and climbing. That is not all my pockets were stuffed with packets of Glucovita Glucon-D; for rejuvenating myself time to time during the arduous climb.
Then as years passed; I too matured to be a true Ayyappan imbibing the spirit and pains of this journey wearing black dhoti and a bare unprotected foot scurrying for safe spots amidst the stones and thorns. Then on I was charmed, enticed and basked in the splendor and satisfaction in making this trip chanting solemnly Lord Ayyappa’s name. Truly Lord Ayyappa in his holy abode in the forest fabled my mind year after year.
Like the saying goes “All good things in life come to an end” – my trips to this holy hillock has ended in a grimace. The bee-hives of pilgrims who trudge along the paths have overflowed to tens and thousands and lakhs. Stones and thorns are replaced by concrete paths and the hilltop looks like a big township. And of course the forests bleed under pressure of human explosion. Once what used to be a free-flowing riverine, Pamba has been reduced to kind of a filthy canal. Above all, however resolutely we clung on for His Darshan the crowd and police make sure than we can see Him only for flash of a second.
So that leaves me here, for past few years during this point of time, the sweet thoughts of Sabarimala come flocking to my mind. But I know I cannot go and enjoy and be content if I make a trip now. Of course, the blame is on no one for Lord Ayyappa has grown in stature in the mind of every believer in South India.
But one lingering desire remains – to hear Harivarasanam once in Sannidhanam.