Want to witness a miracle? Whether you are a believer or want to debunk the myth, the Makar Sankranti festival at Sabarimala is an exhilarating experience.
For pure dramatic flair, few festivals top Makar Sankranti, especially the celebrations at the hilltop shrine of Lord Aiyappa, Sabarimala. The pageantry and mysticism begin 40 days before Makar Sankranti when black clad devotees take a pledge of austerity and begin their journey to Sabarimala. The rigors of the journey, the vow of austerity and the grand climax with two mystical apparitions it is high drama.
Legend has it that the lord of Sabarimala born of a surreal union of Shiva and Vishnu in the form of Mohini. Uniting the lords of creation and destruction, he is considered emblematic of communal harmony and unity. Attracting millions to the shrine, the pilgrimage to Sabarimala is considered second only to the Haj.
The pilgrimage ends on Makar Sankranti, a festival that is unique in Hinduism as being the one solar event in a lunar calendar. It is the day the sun moves into the northern hemisphere and heralds the season of growth and prosperity. While it is celebrated across the country as Lohri, and Pongal among others, nowhere does it build to fever pitch as it does in Sabarimala.
On this day, sacred jewels arrive at the temple, and as they approach the temple, two eagles appear in the sky hovering over the temple until the jewels reach. After the lord is adorned the priests perform the arathi. At this point, a light flares in the hills across from the temple. It is believed to be the arathi that the rishis and devas perform to the lord. With the frenzied chanting of the devotees, the temple resounds with mysticism and spirituality.
Sabarimala is not without controversy, however. From the admission of women to the shrine, to the constant quest to prove the eagles and flame in the forest to be a massive religious scam, it is a temple that has been in the news a lot. Nothing keeps the devotees away however, and a record three million celebrated Makar Sankranti last year. The flames of scandal only add to the drama and celebrating Makar Sankranti at Sabarimala continues to be a beacon for the devout across the land.
So what do you think? Massive religious scam or true miracle? Do you think women of all ages should be allowed into the shrine? Will it take away from the sanctity to allow women in? Why?