Ayyappa festival in Sydney

Ayyappa 1s Ayyappa 2s Ayyappa 3s Ayyappa 4s

By Manju Mittal

Men sitting bare- chested, in Mundu ( dhoti ) women draped in silk sarees and wearing flower benis in their hair, start trickling in a steady stream at Toongabie’s Sakthi temple where the annual puja and Pathayathra for Lord Ayyappa was being held on Sunday December 27, 2015. The idol is decked with flowers and brass lamps lit up the area. Rows of Brahmin priests are chanting the mantras as devotees offer prayers. “Lord Ayyappa signifies purifications of the mind” said the old priest from Sydney, who has been coming for the puja for the past few years. They offered joint prayers to Lord Ayyappa, the crowd chanted together dedicated to Lord Ayyappa and sang the Ayyappa arthi which reverberated the temple hall.

Ayyappa festival is an example of communal harmony where South Indians have kept alive the centuries-old tradition of celebrating the festival together. They celebrates the annual Ayyappa festival from mid November to mid January.  Ayyappan’s annual festival is a time of pilgrimage for ever growing number of devotees throughout South India. The tradition has carried on here as well as they moved here. It brings the local community together, though Ayyappa a originally a deity from Kerala, having brought the Lord  with them as they came here and the faith in Him with no restrictions on any other members of the community to be involved who are settled here.

Ayyappa Vratham observed for 41 days amounts to one mandalam period. The idea is to follow the discipline continuously for a certain period so that it becomes habit. During this Vratham period, they attain basic purity of body, mind and spirit which is necessary for any devotional efforts.

I like learning about all the traditions we have in India because we don’t get to experience them a lot, being away from home. I hail from the North of Indi yet have heard a lot of religious temples and gods stories from the South.  I was in Trivandrum ( Kerala ) in December last year when thousands celebrated the festival of Hindu Lord Ayyappa. There was a lot of festivities, singing, dancing chanting and this was the first time I witnessed the religious fervour of a huge magnitude that I only had heard of as a young girl growing up in the north.

For the first time, Pathayathra was organised by Sydney Sri Ayyappa Swami Centre.  19 enthusiastic devotees with determination, faith and devotion congregated to participate Pathayatra from Toongabbie Sakthi temple to Shri Ayyappa temple Guilford to mark the completion of 41 days of Ayyappa’s fasting period. A typical puja began with a Ganapathi homam followed by abhishekam, prayers were then offered to Ayyappa from 10am onwards. The celebration culminating in a community lunch known as Annadanam enjoyed by all as the name suggests. Devotees started their walk at 2 pm and finished it at 4. 15pm. The volunteers were amazingly helpful and encouraging, provided cold water and fruits for the walkers.

The number of migrants has grown steadily through the 70’s and 80’s, and as the community established itself, so many Sri Lankan and South Indian temples have come up. Ayyappa being a popular deity, individual homes and devotees of Lord Ayyappa   performed pujas which slowly grew into a larger organised events. The Ayyappa puja is associated with an ancient tradition that people from the South have nurtured and have brought to Sydney keeping this annual ritual alive. To me all Gods are the same and I believe there is some power beyond us that has several names given by the followers.

The organising team of Ayyappa temple includes Sivam Raja, Murali, Suganthi, Praba Anna and Renga Rajan. Sydney Sri Ayyappa Swami centre was incorporated in 1989 at Homebush with a handful of like minded devotees. At present it has grown to more than 150 devotees and 25 active voluntary members.

For me personally the experience was quite unique when I was at the temple, I felt a positive energy around me and I am sure everyone else felt the same.  I simply feel divine touching the priest’s feet and getting blessings of Lord Ayyappa. The experience, I am sure, ignites the devotion hidden within us who take time out of their busy schedule to be part of this amazing religious festival and a pilgrimage.




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