Sunday, November 11, 2012


Lord Ayyappan is worshiped in a number of shrines across India; especially at Sabarimala as an ascetic - a celibate meditating in solitude for the benefit of all mankind. Makarajyothi or Makaravilakku is an important celebration at Sabarimala. The date of Makarajyothi falls on the Makarasankrama day (makarasankranti). What is Makarasankrama?

The movement of the earth from one zodiac sign into another is called Sankranti. zodiac is the ring of constellations that lines the apparent path of the Sun across the celestial sphere over the course of the year. Since there are 12 zodiac signs, there are 12 sankrantis also. Among these, makarasankranti is the most important. So makarasankranti is the transmigration of sun from Dhanu rashi (Sagittarius zodiac) to Makara rashi (Capricorn zodiac). Scientifically, this day marks the beginning of warmer and longer days compared to the nights. In other words, Sankranti marks the termination of winter season and beginning of a new harvest or spring season. The importance of this day has been signified in the ancient epics like Mahabharata also. So, apart from socio-geographical importance, this day also holds a historical and religious significance. As, it is the festival of Sun God and he is regarded as the symbol divinity and wisdom, the festival also holds an eternal meaning to it.

Makar Sankranti is also a major harvest festival. According to the lunar calendar, when the sun moves from the Tropic of Cancer to the Tropic of Capricorn or from in mid-January, it commemorates the beginning of the harvest season and cessation of the northeast monsoon in South India. Makara sankranti is now on January 14. It is believed that a thousand years ago, Makar Sankranti was on December 31. Five thousand years later, it shall be by the end of February, while in 9000 years it shall come in June.

It is on this context we must see the special rituals (poojas) performed in Sabarimala. On this Makara sankranti day, there are special poojas in Sabarimala. The sacred ornaments brought from Pandalam Palace are adorned the Ayyappa idol. Then there is a special Deeparadhana(A special ritual performed at dusk). People throng to see the idol of Ayyappa, when the doors of Sanctum Santorum is opened for the devotees, just after this Deeparadhana. In the olden times the Malayaraya tribe of Sabarimala forest had performed rituals at Ponnambalamedu. Ponnambalamedu, situated approximately 8 k.m. from the Sabarimala Sannidhaanam, is believed to be the original base of Sabarimala temple. The light of rituals at Ponnambalamedu can be seen from the Sabarimala temple premises. Later these tribes were evacuated from Sabarimala forest as part of Periyar Tiger Reserve Project. When television channels started to live telecast the Makaravilakku rituals at Sabarimala, the lights appeared at Ponnambalmedu got an unprecedented attention, than the rituals at Sanctum Santorum of Sabarimala temple. The reason; T.V. commentators made the people to believe that the flashing of light at Ponnambalamedu is done by some superhumans. Later when Thiruvithankoor Devaswam Board (T.D.B.) took over the control of Sabarimala temple, they constructed a cement platform at Ponnambalamedu, where the ancient Ayyappa shrine of Malayaraya tribe situated.



This was my Ph.D. synopsis presentation at Department of Physics, University of Calicut, Kerala

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