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Saturday, June 3, 2023

Vaishno Devi in Jammu & Kashmir to Sabarimala in Kerala on foot

Two Ayyappa Swamy devotees walked from the Mata Vaishno Devi temple in Jammu & Kashmir to Sabarimala in Kerala and paid obeisance. Nalinakshan Swami and Prabhakara Maniani Swami, natives of Madhur in Kasargod district, traveled nearly four thousand kilometers on foot and visited Sabarimala.

On Tuesday, Head Priest K Jayaraman Namboodiri opened the Sabarimala Sanctum Sanctorum and lit the lamp in the presence of Tantri Kandararu Maheswararu Mohanaru at around 5 pm. On Wednesday, the sanctum sanctorum opened at 5 am, followed by ‘Nirmalya darshanam’ and ‘Abhishekam.’ The temple will be opened for ‘Vishukani’ darshan at 4 am on April 15. The pilgrims will be permitted to enter the shrine, and the Tantri and head priest will distribute ‘Vishu Kaineettam.’

The Ayyappa devotees began their journey on 30 November 2022, when they traveled to Jammu by train from Kasargod. On 4 December, the Swamys reached the Vaishno Devi temple, prayed, and rested. The next day they packed their Irumudi Kettu at five in the morning and left at seven o’clock. Ayyappa Devotees visiting the Sabarimala Temple carry the Irumudi containing the puja articles and other offerings to the deities at Sabarimala.

They both walked towards Ponnambalavasan (the one who lives in a golden temple) wearing regular clothes and bare feet in the bitter cold. They said the journey was challenging, but their willpower and faith in Bhagwan Ayyappa kept them going.

Their devotion to the extraordinary journey soon got noticed, and Hindus shared the information on social media. People readied homemade food and arranged rest places at Temples. The Ayyappa Temple Management Committee in Ludhiana prepared a letter introducing the Swamys and sent them on their journey.

In the meantime, Sadasivan Nair, a Malayali (a native of Pathanamthitta) resident of Newai near Kota in Rajasthan, noticed their journey and visited them. He took them home and provided them with lunch. He also prepared a Hindi translation of the Ludhiana Temple Committee’s letter in English and sent the Ayyappas on their way.

Thus began a concerted effort involving Seva Bharati and Ayyappa Seva Samaj. These Hindu organizations used road mapping and were constantly in touch with the devotees on the road. By the time they reached Pampa, Sadasivan Nair was also there. Their journey took them through eight states, including Kashmir, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Karnataka.

Each day, the Swamys covered a distance of 40-45 km. The journey would start at 4 in the morning and ends at 6 in the evening. They rested in temples, hotels, and schools in some states. In some places, shop verandahs and bus stands became shelters.

They reached Kuthyala Gopala Krishna Temple in Kasaragod on 7 March and left again on 25. Seva Bharati and Ayyappa Seva Samaj hosted them in several areas.

The devotees reached Pampa last day after 101 days on foot. They were received and garlanded by the Pamba Ganapathy Kovil Melsanthi. Nalinakshan Swami and Prabhakara Maniani Swami climbed the final mountain, walked up the 18 steps, and bowed before Ayyappa Swami with tears in their eyes. Gratified, the duo then returned home.

The return journey was by train from Chengannur railway station. Nalinakshan (50), who worked as a driver, has been driving his autorickshaw for ten years. Prabhakara Maniani (40) is a mason. This is Nalinakshan Swamy’s 23rd year visiting Sabarimala. He has arrived thrice on foot from Kasargod.

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