default.htm==mBINR Aiyappan

Aiyappan and The Pilgrimage to Sabari

The fastest growing form of worship in South India in recent years is the Aiyappan worship and pilgrimage. This is a Hindu form of bhakti worship, where the worshippers express their longing for union with the Godhead without Brahmin priests as intermediaries between gods and men.
Every year a large number of pilgrims assemble on and around the Sabari mountain in the jungle of Southern Kerala. In 1999 more than ten million people came here on the 14th of January, which makes this the third-largest annual religious gathering of people in the world, after the Vatican and Mecca. 

Who is Aiyappan?
This drawing shows the god Aiyappan riding a tiger. In his hand he holds a bottle filled with milk from a tigress. This is his human form. Aiyappan is said to have lived on earth as the adopted son of the king of Pandalam, the small former kingdom, in which the Sabari mountain is located.

Preparation for Pilgrimage
The preparation phase for the pilgrimage may last up to 50 days. In this period the pilgrims are obliged to lead a "clean" life, i.e. abstain from eating meat, drinking liquor and having sexual intercouse. 

Installing an Aiyappan Statue
All over South India new temples are being built in these years. Here an Aiyappan statue is about to be installed in a new temple in Madurai.

Pilgrimage to Sabari
After a time of preparation the time has come for departure to the temple on Sabari in Kerala.
The pilgrims are dressed in clothes which are clearly different from ordinary clothing; they wear either black, green, orange, red or blue clothes. 

At the temple at Sabari
It is difficult to explain why precisely Aiyappan has become so overwhelmingly popular in South India. There can be many explanations; the  exiting journey, the experience of travelling with so many others in a spirit of equality, and escape from caste and class tensions.