Mumbai: After 3-Year Gap, Ayyappa Devotees Gear Up for Annual Puja

Mumbai: After 3-Year Gap, Ayyappa Devotees Gear Up for Annual Puja

The pujas, held between November and January, coincide with the two-month pilgrimage period at the main shrine to the deity in the forested hills of Pathanamthitta district in Kerala.

FPJ News ServiceUpdated: Friday, November 24, 2023, 08:34 AM IST
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Mumbai: After 3-Year Gap, Ayyappa Devotees Gear Up for Annual Puja | PTI Photo

After a three-year interlude Ayyappa devotees in the city are preparing to usher in the annual puja in the traditional way, with religious programmes and much awaited cultural events.

The pujas, held between November and January, coincide with the two-month pilgrimage period at the main shrine to the deity in the forested hills of Pathanamthitta district in Kerala.

Temple opened for worship on 1st day of Malayalam month of Vrishchikam

The temple opened for worship on the first day of the Malayalam month of Vrishchikam which was on November 17. On this day, pilgrims begin their 41-day preparation for the journey to the temple which will remain open till January 20, a few days after Makaravilakku, one of the main days of the pilgrimage. In Mumbai, devotees organise their annual pujas during this period, with some venues having month-long events and others organising shorter celebrations.

At Dadar-Matunga, the Shri Ayyappa Bhakta Samiti, the city’s oldest, will hold its three-day festival between January 12 and 14 at Napoo Garden, Matunga. The event will observe its 75th year in 2024, said Gopalkrishnan Nair, whose father V Krishnan Nair and a group of devotees organised the state’s first Ayyappa puja. Despite the changing of the area’s demographics, with many South Indians shifting out of the locality, the festival still attracts a large number of devotees.

“Most pertinent thing is, all of them (families that shifted out of the area) still come to the festival,” said Nair, who is preparing for the 48th annual pilgrimage to the hill shrine.

The festival during Covid years

During the COVID years, the festival continued as a small event at same venue, said Nair. Other pandals, too, had kept celebrations low-key during the lockdowns. The Tilak Nagar Ayyappa Bhakta Samaj puja in Chembur, had a one-day puja in the pandemic years. This year, the three-day festival will begin on November 30 and will be organised in the traditional way with.

“During the three years, we did not have the processions, the annadanam, the cultural events and the public gathering. This year we are back at our location (the ground at Tilak Nagar),” said Harish Janaradhan of the group. While religious programmes include pujas and reading of the Narayaneeyam, an epic summary composed in verses on the Bhagavata Purana, composed the 16th century by Melpathur Narayana Bhattathiri, a mathematician and astronomer. Other cultural events will feature dances and Puneri dhol.

How the festival will end

The festival will end with a lamp procession accompanied by a traditional Kerala music ensemble. The organisers of the festival, which attracts devotees from Tilak Nagar, Pestom Sagar and Cheddha Nagar, apart from other places, also rewards students in the area who have achieved academic distinction.

 In Navi Mumbai, the Kharghar Ayyappa Seva Sangham, based at the Ayyappa temple in Sector 15, will start its three-day festival on December 15. An important attraction at this festival, which is into its 21st, are the cultural events which bring renowned artists from Kerala. This year, veteran percussionist Matannur Shankarankutty Marar will perform at the festival along with his two sons. Marar will lead the Thayambaka, an orchestra of Chendas or traditional Kerala drums. Another artist who will perform at the festival is flutist Rajesh Cherthala. “The cultural events attract a lot of visitors. We expect more than thousand people at the puja every day,” said Shaji Kumar, secretary of the group.

 Nerul Sri Ayyappa Seva Samiti began their celebrations on November 17 and will continue till December 27. The season’s ­– this is their 39th year - cultural programmes include bhajans, Carnatic music events, apart from Mohiniyattam and Bharatnatyam dance programmes at Sri Ayyappa Temple Complex.

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