It probably comes as a surprise to some of us that Kerala is one of those states of India which stands out differently, especially when it comes to Festivals celebrated. Many national festivals like Sankrati, Diwali, Holi, Raksha Bandhan etc. are celebrated very differently in this state. And Kerala’s important festivals of ‘Vishu’ and ‘Onam’ are not celebrated by any other state. 🙂
The reason for the differences is commonly attributed to the geographical/climatic conditions prevailing in Kerala as compared to other states.
Anyway, let me stick to the harvest festival or Makara Sankrati for now, on January 14th. 🙂
While many of our states celebrate Sankrati with a variety of traditional yummy sweets, kite-flying activity, dancing, family-gathering etc., in Kerala it is for Ayyappa temple visit. Millions of devotees of Lord Ayyappa visit the Sabarimala temple to witness the ‘Makara Jyoti’ on this auspicious day.
Makara Jyoti is believed to be a celestial star that appears on the day of Makara Sankrati and is worshiped by pilgrims in huge numbers at Sabarimala every year. The appearance of the star is believed to be Lord Ayyappa blessing his devotees. This auspicious day of the Hindu calendar marks the beginning of the 7 days Makara vilakku festival at Sabarimala.
Unity in Diversity
It is worthwhile to note that it is not just people from Kerala who flood Sabarimala on Makara Sankrati. Devotees from all over India, irrespective of caste, color or creed, all wearing black dhotis, make their way up the hill to this temple. Unity in diversity is shown in such cultures across india !!
People call the devotees who adorn mala, as ‘Saami'(God). Devotees live a life of a Godly Son/daughter for these 48 days(one Mandalam). Unknown people together help each other on the way, people on the way provide food, shelter and needed basic amenities. It is believed that in this yatra, people realize the secret of Life for which they are living and have to live further.
The internet is flooded with controversies and arguments over the appearance of the Makara Jyoti. And even after these many years this is still a mystery and may remain forever. I have questioned my mom who narrated the story to me too! 🙂 Well, I guess it’s up to us to believe it or not.
Happy Sankranthi All!!