Friday, September 26, 2008

The Pilgrimage Part II

Right after we reached the top of the first hill, the landlord’s elder son fainted due to exhaustion and we had to stop. We all felt very let down, but there was nothing much to do except slow our pace. From then on it was a sob story. The crowd got bigger each passing minute and we made very slow progress. To top it all, we got stuck in the series of gates (kilometers long u-shaped enclosures) and had to wait long hours before we finally reached the Sanctum Sanctorum.

Finally we saw the 18 golden steps which would take us to the Sannidhanam of Lord Ayyappa. The gold glittered brightly in the morning sun (maybe they apply some polish on it too!) almost blinding one with its grandeur. Thankfully, I could place my foot on all the 18 steps! Generally the crowd carries you forward with such force over these steps that you hardly touch any with your feet.

As we neared the Sanctum sanctorum the crowd became unbearable, I very nearly suffocated but at the final moment by a strange crowd pocket formation, I was able to view the golden idol of lord Ayyappa for at least half a minute! A record I think. But the long wait, the crowd and the snake-like queues had all but sapped our spirit. It was just not the way I had expected it to be. Especially after the terrific start we had made. As I made my way back, I was thoroughly disappointed. “I will come back again!” I told HL, he shook his head in agreement and said “next time, only both of us!”

Till date, I have not been able to make that pilgrimage again. But a story I heard from my mother made me think that I was not so unlucky after all.

Chakki chouvathi and Kelan were the servants of my great grand father. Each year Kelan would take penance to go to Shabarimala. During those times, the pilgrimage was fraught with real danger. The path through the forest had a lot many wild animals, chances of contracting some disease like malaria were high and sometimes pilgrims got lost.

Those days, it was believed that if a person looked back at his home or family after tying the erumudi-kettu, he would die. Each year after taking the requisite penance, Kelan would tie the erumudi-kettu and start out for the journey. But each time before he could leave, Chakki chouvathi would start beating her breast and cry in such a pathetic manner that Kelan invariably ended up looking back.

Then, thinking of all the penance he has taken, Kelan would start off anyway, much to the agitation of Chakki chouvathi. The first leg of his journey would take him to Koovapally, where my mother’s father stayed. There was an un-official servant’s quarter near that house where all such devotees could stay.

By the time he reached there, Kelan would literally be shaking with fear, convinced that he was going to die. Each day, he would start out on the journey and after travelling a small distance he would return, making one silly excuse or the other. Finally after a week or so of this thamasha, he would just lose heart and return home! Kelan never ever made it to Shabarimala thanks to Chakki Chouvathi...:D

I guess, I did better than that…:D


silverine said...

An experience of a lifetime I must say. Another one to add to your kitty! That Chakki story was damn sweet! :)

Anooja said...

Not bad Abe.. u made it to Sabarimala, in spite of growing up listening to Chakki-Kelan stories.. Brave guy.. he he - LOL :D

I guess it must have been an unforgetable experience..

stillwaters said...

hey!! U did it! U endured a very difficult pilgrimage and yet ur just as enthusiastic to do it again!! haha Good for u..

Abraham Menacherry said...

Silverline: Yeah, the chakki story as told by my mom was so sweet

anooja: Yeah, "not bad" but then "not perfect" either.

stillwaters: Hopefully I will be able to do it again.

Reflections said...

Just out of curiousity...if u got a chance, wd u do it now?

Abraham Menacherry said...

Reflections: Yes!

Vinod V said...

Well that was not a level-playing field to claim you did better. You get one Chakki Chouvathi for yourself and then see if you can really do better. :P

Anonymous said...

I know its very difficult, my hubby visited last year and is planning this year too.

Arjun said...

You should definitely read my take on this one. The route you took to reach the Sannidhanam was the short one. To know how the traditional route feels, visit