If the rise in the number of Sabarimala pilgrims flying in to Kerala is any indication, it is quite possible that we may have an exclusive counter to cater to the devotees in the airport soon. In a dramatic change in the travel patterns adopted, Sabarimala pilgrims from the neighbouring states of Tamilnadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh seem to have opted for air travel to reach Kerala. Most of them have chucked out the once popular modes of transports including rail and road transportation. Typically, the annual pilgrimage to Sabarimala would be an elaborate and well planned trip for the devotees that might extend to 3-4 weeks at times. Most of the groups used to depend on hired mini buses or taxis to reach this remote divine destination. Often they bring along gas cylinders, provision and vegetables and cook their own meals as they travel covering all the major temples enroute to Sabarimala.
However , at present most of the pilgrims prefer to complete the darshan and return home as early as possible and it has caused a steady increase in the number of pilgrims taking the flight to Kerala. As per the figures of the Travel agents and airline officials, there has been a rise of over 10 percent in the number of Ayyappa devotees using Cochin airport.
The over crowded trains, the difficulty in procuring train tickets and the negligible difference between train and flight fare are some of the major factors that make the pilgrims opt for flights. For instance while a Chennai-Kochi II A/C tickets would cost Rs 1,300, airfares start from Rs 2,000 and the best part is that the pilgrims from the South Indian metros can reach Kochi in over an hour by air . Most low cost airlines offer 5-10% discount on group bookings for ten or more passengers apart from extending facilities like check-in for connection flights and group check-in for a group, which the Sabarimala pilgrims find quite useful.
Thus a devotee from Karnataka or Andhra Pradesh can return home after his pilgrimage in 2-3 days as against the arduous Sabarimala pilgrimage of the yesteryears mostly on foot through the jungle tracks that could extend to a week or more!
The city of Aluva is all set to host the annual festival of Maha sivarathri that falls today. Arrangements have been completed for the smooth conduct of Sivarathri festivities at Aluva Manalppuram, on the banks of River Periyar. Lakhs of devotees stay awake all through the night on the sandy coasts near the Mahadevar temple and offer balitharpanam on Sivarathri day. The devotees keep fast all night and chant the sacred Panchakshara mantra, “Om Namah Shivaya” all night.
One of the most important festivals of Kerala, Sivarathri brings in people from far and wide who congregate here to pay obsequies to the departed souls. A temporary over bridge that spans 85-m-in length and 60 in width connecting Kottarakadavu and Manalppuram has been opened to the public and will be open for one-way traffic. The devotees will be allowed to enter the bridge through the Municipal Park to Kottarakkadavu and leave through Kottarakkadavu Road.
Cabins will be provided on the bridge to accommodate naval divers and to ensure the security of the pilgrims, CCTV is installed along the bridge. Mechanised boats will be used to patrol on either side of the foot bridge round the clock. The service of five medical teams will be made available in different parts of the town. A strong contingent of police force has been deployed on special duty including around 200 women police who will be posted in the bathing ghats to prevent anti social activities and to ensure the safety of women devotees apart from shadow police personnel.
Even as Malayalees are swept off by the break neck speed of modern life, it is heartening to note that there are millions who still hold on to the priceless culture of Kerala , preserving it for the posterity.
Guruvayur: The famous Guruvayur Sreekrishna Temple Lord Krishna at Guruvayur, located in Trichur district in Kerala, witnessed a rather unusual offering by a devotee- a thulabharam offering with paracetamol tablets. It took 72 kg of tablets to match the body weight of the devotee.
‘Thulabharam’ is one of the important rituals of this temple where people make offerings to God for favours received. On a weighing balance, the devotee is weighed against the offerings that he has promised from gold to fruits according to his financial capability. However, in rare cases, bizarre items like tablets or coconut husks are also offered by devotees.
Satyan of Kadamparambil House in Kuttur made the tablet offering to fulfill the promise made by his father. Normally the thulabharam articles like sugar, banana or rice are used up in the temple or auctioned off publicly. Now as the offering has come in the shape of tablets, the temple officials are planning to use it at the Devaswom hospital.
Adoor: This temple is the only one of its kind, which offers remedy for spider venom. Located at Kodumon in Pathanamthitta district, this temple draws hundreds of devotees from far and wide. People suffering from skin ailments caused by spider venom offer puffed rice to the deity and smear the holy ash given from the temple, all over their body. The water in the ‘Spider Well’ (Chilanthi Kinar) is thought to be the best cure for Skin Diseases. This unique temple is dedicated to Goddess Mahalakshm and people from all caste and creed worship here.
It is believed that within a week even the most serious skin ailments caused by spider bites will be fully cured. Located at a distance of 8km from the town of Adoor, this unique temple is more famous by the name of ‘spider temple’, these days.