Mumbai's Asthika Samaj Temple Gears Up For 103rd Ayyappa Sasthapreethi Celebration; Nurani Community To Recreate Ancestral Festival

Mumbai's Asthika Samaj Temple Gears Up For 103rd Ayyappa Sasthapreethi Celebration; Nurani Community To Recreate Ancestral Festival

As part of the festival at Asthika Samaj, there will be Thulasiamman pooja, devotional songs and bhajans on the first day.

Manoj RamakrishnanUpdated: Wednesday, January 10, 2024, 09:28 PM IST
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FPJ

The annual Ayyappa pilgrimage season is when descendants of migrants from Kerala's Nurani meet at Matunga's Asthika Samaj temple to re-enact the famous 'Ayyappa Sasthapreethi' festival of the village their families had left behind more than a century ago.

Migrants from Nurani in Palakkad district, Kerala, first arrived in Mumbai to work in white collar jobs. They started the festival at a hall near the Parel chawls where they first made their homes. Later, when the city laid out new planned residential colonies in the Dadar-Matunga-Sion-Wadala area, the migrants moved there and shifted the festival to the Asthika Samaj temple in Matunga, dedicated to Lord Ram and Lord Krishna, where it has been an annual feature for more than 85 years.

103rd Ayyappa Sasthapreethi celebration

On January 12 and 13, the Nurani community will be celebrating the 103rd Ayyappa Sasthapreethi celebration. According to community members, who are Tamil-speaking Brahmins migrated from the Kaveri delta to villages like Nurani in Kerala in the 19th and early 20th century, the descendants of migrants in Mumbai now outnumber those that still live in the village.

"There are 350 or more families in Mumbai that can trace their roots to Nurani," said Bharat Doraiswamy, a doctor and Matunga resident whose father had moved to Mumbai in the 1930s.

Range of celebrations

As part of the festival at Asthika Samaj, there will be Thulasiamman pooja, devotional songs and bhajans on the first day. The second day will have Sasthapreethi, Rudra Abhishekam, Navakam Abhishekam to Lord Ayyappa and Annadhanam.

According to N K Venkitaraman, a Chartered Accountant who lives in Vile Parle, migrants from Nurani who live in Kolkata, Bengaluru, and New Delhi replicate the festival in cities that are their new homes. "In Nurani the event is held for 42 days and is an important regional festival. Descendants of migrants who could not travel to Kerala for the festival replicated the event, with similar programmes and the same process, except that it is only for a few days," said Venkitaraman whose 103-year-old father, N Y Krishnamoorthy, was among the first migrants from Nurani to Mumbai, arriving as a 19-year-old.

Krishnamoorthy, who worked for a petroleum company, visited Asthika Samaj temple for the festival every year till the covid epidemic restrictions.

About Ayyappa pujas

Ayyappa pujas are held between November and January to coincide with the pilgrimage period at the main shrine to the deity in the hills of Pathanamthitta district in Kerala. The temple opened for worship on the first day of the Malayalam month of Vrishchikam which was on November 17 and 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.

Shree Ayyappa Bhaktha Samithi, Dadar, will be holding their 74th Shree Ayyappa Pooja Mahotsav from January 12 to 14 at the Napoo Garden, Matunga. Besides Sahasranama Archana, Usha Pooja, and Bhajans on the first two days, there will be grand procession on the concluding day accompanied by Chenndai, Udukku Pattu and Ayyappan thullal led by Machhad Subramanian and party from Thrissur in Kerala. There will also be on display replicas of four temples and a mosque, made out of plantain stems, similar to the temples in Sabarimala in Kerala said V G Nair, honorary secretary of the Samithi.

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