Sabarimala – Story of the famous “Ayyappa Prasadam”
Aravana payasam is one of the most important ‘prasad’ (offering made to the Lord) distributed at the famous Sabarimala Temple dedicated to Lord Ayyappa in Kerala. More than 8 million cans – each containing 250 grams of Aravana – are sold at the temple during the two month Mandalam-Makaravilakku pilgrim season.
Aravana is the nivedyam for Ucha (noon) Pooja. Aravana is prepared by using rice, ghee, sugar etc. The rice needed to prepare prasadam at Sabarimala is supplied by Chettikulangara Devi Temple, the second largest temple under Travancore devaswom board situated at Mavelikkara.
Aravana prasadam manufacturing begins a month before the Mandalam – Makaravilaku season to even achieve the opening stock for the season. As many as 1.2 lakh cans of the special ‘aravana prasadam’ made out of rice, jaggery and coconut are sold on an average every day at Kerala’s famed Sabrimala temple during the annual two-month pilgrimage season. Sold in containers weighing 250 ml, this prasadam is available only at the temple counters that are open on all days the temple is open to its devotees. Each can costs Rs.50. the shelf life of a can of ‘aravana prasadam’ is one year.
Every day during the two-month-long season, 100 batches of prasadam are prepared in the special kitchen situated near the temple, with 968 cans of prasadam being produced in each batch. The ingredients for each batch include 38 kg of rice, 200 kg of jaggery, 3.6 kg sugar candy, 1.8 kg of raisin, 0.720 gm cardamom, 0.360 gm cumin powder, 10 litres of ghee and 16 coconuts,
Though the temple, dedicated to Lord Ayyappa, is now open on the first few days of every Malayalam month, the peak pilgrimage season begins on the first day of the Malayalam month in November and closes on the first day of the Malayalam month in January.
A strong liking for sweets is a common factor of all Hindu Gods and Ayyappa is no exception. Appam and Aravana (Payasam made of rice, ghee and jaggery) are the prasadams of the Lord. There is an interesting story behind these prasadams also. The young daughter, Leela, of Kalari Panicker at Cheerappanchira fall in love with Ayyappa. She requested to accept her as wife. But Ayyappan turned down her request as being a Brahmachari. Soon the girl started bringing him food to capture his attention. Time passed by and the girl reached her puberty. And her family, following the Hindu tradition, prepared special cuisines to celebrate the occasion. One mandatory item on the menu is Rthumathikanji (porridge made using rice and five times the quantity of jaggery). On that day she took this porridge to Ayyappa, who was practising payattu in the Kalari. He liked it very much and requested the girl to bring only the porridge every day. It is believed that the practice of offering Aravana as prasadam to the God was born from this incident.