Sabarimala : Significance of “Irumudi” in Sabarimala pilgrimage
The Irumudi is a significant part of the Ayyappan worship. Sabarimala pilgrimage and Irumudi are like inseparable twins one is not complete without the other. The term Iru means two and mudi means knot or a small bundle. Irumudi is the most important component of pilgrimage to Sabarimala. The irumudi is prepared under the surveillance of Guruswami and preparing irumudi is known as kettu nirakkal or palli kettu. The irumudi kettu is carried by devotees who have observed 41 days vritham. Irumudi kettu is essential to step the 18 steps that lead to the shrine of Lord Ayyappa. Devotees without Irumudi Kettu are not allowed to pass through the stairway to reach the shrine.
Irumudi kettu is a travel pouch or a travel kit of the Sabarimala pilgrims. Irumudi kettu is a small bag with two compartments one in the front and another in the back that has to be filled with Pooja items. The front compartment of the bag is called munmudi and back compartment of the bag is called pinmudi, the front portion (munmudi) is for Lord Ayyappa and the back portion (pinmudi ) is for carrying the personal belongings of the devotee.
For a proper pilgrimage and better effect of the pilgrimage what are the items to be taken along in the Irumudi and what is the purpose of each item.
Cleaned coconut to fillmghee
Currency coins (Kanni Ponnu )
Malar (puffed rice)
Agarbathis (incense sticks)
Avil (beaten rice)
2 other coconuts
Pepper (for Vavar and the optional items like candy sugar, small quantity of honey, dry grapes
Cloth to change and bed sheets are also carried by the pilgrim with the Irumudi.
Some of the items are optional like dry grape.
Significance of Nei thenga
The concept of Nei Thenga has a very higher spiritual meaning. The coconut carried to the shrine is considered as the representation of Human body, which has to be kept clean internally and externally. As part of external cleaning it has to be cleaned thoroughly and the fiber and all small particles around should be rubbed off and should be kept clean and smooth. It symbolizes the purity of devotees body.
Secondly, the coconut water is drained out through a small opening made on the end of the coconut. The draining of sweetened water symbolizes the cleansing of inner senses of sensual pleasure. It shows that the inner self of devotee is emptied and getting ready to get filled with pure life source. Filling the emptied coconut with ghee symbolizes this concept.
Nei Thenga or Mudra Thenga or Ghee coconut signifies purified devotee. Each Nei thenga signifies physically and spiritually cleansed devotee who is ready to surrender completely before Lord Ayyappa. The ghee is used for Abhishekam and the empty coconut is put to burn outside. It shows that the body perishes but the cleansed inner-self reaches the almighty
Neyyabhishekam from Mudra thenga
The Sabarimala Sannidhanam is the only place where the Lord and the Devotee is addressed in the same terms ‘Ayyappa’ or ‘Swami’. It is a recognition that there is no difference between the Bhagavan (Lord) and the Bhaktan (devotee – pilgrim). As the Lord is pure and the devotee through the vrathas has emptied the dirt like sensual pleasures and filled with devotion, kindness, compassion and universal love both are identical. The ghee filled in the coconut symbolising the individual life principle (life force) is submitted to wash the Lord. The individual’s pure and unadulterated devotion to the lord is poured on the lord. After the Ghee is used for the abhishekam, the empty coconut is put in the burning fire outside the temple in a separate place symbolizing that as and when the pilgrim dies the life principle is merged with the Lord and the dead body is burnt by fire. After death the dead body of Hindus is invariably burnt unlike most other religions. Here the principle of ‘Tat Twam Asi’ meaning ‘you are that’ or ‘you are god’ of the Hindu philosophy is symbolically demonstrated to the devotee.
Coins – Kaaniponnu
The coins of gold, silver, copper or currency coins as per one’s financial position tied in a cloth piece or small cloth bag kept along with the Mudra thenga and other items of offerings to the deities is another important item. This item of Kaaniponnu is for keeping at the feet of the idol while worshipping him at his Sannidhanam.
Raw rice and Jaggery
These items are to be given to the temple authorities concerned for making payasam.
Betel leaves, areca pieces and coins
These items are for the Mel thanthi of the temple for his performing the abhishekam and pooja on the devotee’s behalf as a Dakshina. The turmeric powder is to be offered to the Malikapurathamma (Bhagavathi) and the Naga devathas (snake gods) in shrines on the North East side of the Lord’s shrine.
The mun kettu (front end of the bag) is to be opened only on climbing up to the Sannidhanam area through the pathinettu padi (18s steps).
Pin Kettu of the Irumudi
There are 2 coconuts in the pin Kettu (back end pouch). One of it is to be broken at the Pampa River. Another coconut is to offer to the Malikapurathamma (Bhagavathi). Here the coconut is not to be broken. It is to be rolled on the ground in front of the deity of the Bhagavathi.
The boiled raw rice and vegetables kept was used in the earlier periods to cook the same and eat during the journey as in those days there were no stalls or facility to get food. Now things have changed and it may not be possible and practical to cook the food. So the rice is given for wanna danam (contribution for offering of free food) purpose.
The sacred ash and the sandal powder is for making paste of the same separately and applying the same on the forehead, chest and upper and lower arms of the devotee.
The Thulasi/Rudraksha mala (garland) worn by the pilgrim is to be removed only after returning home after the journey to Sabarimala. This removed mala is to be kept in the pooja room near the idol or photo of Lord Ayyappan. The mala has special significance as it had been in the presence of the Lord at the Sabarimala and it is believed that the presence of this in the home will ward of the bad effects of the Sani Dosha. The mala used once can be used again and again. If the same mala is used for 18 times to go on the pilgrimage it is considered as a sacred one and the place where the same is kept will have the presence of the divine forces.
Similarly the irumudiketttu cloth is also sacred because it is used to carry the offerings to be made to the Lord and other deities to please them. After keeping the mala in proper place the devotee should take the bag with him for bathing and clean the same by washing thoroughly. The Irumudi so cleaned should be dried and kept folded neatly in the pooja room or a clean place. This can be used again and again.