This book serves as guide and ready-reckoner detailing the various aspects of the Sabarimalai Pilgrimage.
How philosophy reinforces the ritualism has been explained in a simple way, by Swami Nityananda.
A ritual is an external dramatization of the internal attunement of the Mind-Intellect equipment to reach the Lotus Feet of Lord Ayyappa.
This booklet was first published in 1971 about fifteen years back. I had my own apprehensions as how the orthodox conservative devotees would take to this book because I had herein deviated from the current belief about Ayyappan, and had attempted to lift him from the mythological concept to a historical personality, a super human hero who really walked and worked in Kerala, in flesh and blood.
It was about fifty years back that I came across a book in Malayalam, that had first unravelled this mystery about Ayyappan that he was really a historical personality, and the author had adduced proof and evidence to ably support his findings. I had since thin been trying to reconcile my concept of Dharma Saastha at Sabarimalai, with the Pauranic version pf Keralolpathi (the reclamation of Kerala by Sage Parasurama) and the fact of the original installation of the Saastha temples by Parasurama himself; the mention of the deity Saastha in Mahabharata; the absence of the name “Ayyappan” in any of our Puranas or Ithihasas; the real origin and meaning of the pilgrimage to Sabarimalai; the place of a Muslim devotee at Erumeli in the life and story of Ayyappan; the significance and the origin of the pilgrims taking an arrow (the symbol of a weapon) from Erumeli and surrendering it at the foot of the Aswatha tree just before the pilgrims reach the precincts of the temple; the subsequent appearance of the eighteen steps which were not there at the time of the original installation of the deity by Parasurama; the place of the Chief of the State of Pandalam in the life of Ayyappan and not Saastha etc. etc. This has not in any way affected my devotion to Ayyappan. On the contrary the episode has only enhanced it considerably. If Rama and Krishna who really lived and worked in “Bharata Varsha” can be worshipped as incarnations of the Supreme Godhead, by the same logic, Ayyappan also can claim a similar place in the heart of the Hindu. I only try to understand what I believe, so that I can believe what I understand, with the devotion and an intellectual satisfaction reinforced in the process. I beg to be excused by those who know better, if I am in any way impetuous in my venture in trying to reason out a legend, though on dependable historical evidence, to logic, history and rational thinking, while unconditionally accepting the other point of view that “faith transcends reason”.
Here I remember to have come across a reference to Ayyappan as a historical personality in the issue of “Bhavan’s Journal” of January 1-15, 1984, where the name of Ayyappan’s father has also been given, and that reconciles with the version I had given in this book about fifteen years earlier, though there is a slight variation in the details which of course, does not affect the substance of the story in any way. It is really gratifying to find that this small booklet has now qualified itself to go into its third edition which provides conclusive evidence to the fact that this has been well-received and has been found to be of some use by some people. In fact this time it goes to the Press to answer the demands for copies from various quarters.
Two essays have been added in the end to this edition under the titles: “The Pilgrimage – journey for the merger” and the “Pilgrim’s Progress”, for what they are worth. If anybody finds it difficult to approve of any portion or statement in this book, he should also realize that it is Lord Ayyappan Himself who called me the opportunities, inquisitiveness, information and inspiration and made me write what is written. In fact I received unexpected encouragement from various quarters which enabled me to decide to go in for this third edition. I take it that it was Lord Ayyappan Himself who was thus removing my doubts and fears and giving me the required encouragement through those friends.
Words fails me to fully express my feelings of gratitude for the appreciation from the holy pen of my reversed Gurudev H.H. Swami Chinmayanandaji. I feel immensely blessed.
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