The “Irumudi Kettu” is an essential and distinctive aspect of the Sabarimala pilgrimage in Kerala, India. It refers to a special two-compartment bag carried by devotees who undertake the pilgrimage to the Sabarimala temple. The Irumudi Kettu is symbolic of the devotee’s offering to Lord Ayyappa and contains items for both the deity and the devotee.
Key elements of the Irumudi Kettu:
Offerings for Lord Ayyappa: One compartment of the Irumudi Kettu contains items meant as offerings to Lord Ayyappa. These offerings typically include coconuts, ghee (clarified butter), camphor, incense sticks, vibhuti (sacred ash), turmeric powder, sandalwood paste, and other traditional items used in Hindu rituals. These offerings are meant to express devotion, gratitude, and reverence to the deity.
Personal Items for the Devotee: The other compartment of the Irumudi Kettu contains personal items for the devotee’s use during the pilgrimage. These items may include clothing, towels, soap, a mirror, a small pouch of money, and other necessities required for the journey and stay at Sabarimala.
Symbolism: The Irumudi Kettu represents the dual nature of human existence, where material needs and spiritual aspirations coexist. It symbolizes the devotee’s readiness to detach from worldly comforts and focus on the spiritual journey.
Preparation and Ritual: Devotees perform specific rituals before preparing the Irumudi Kettu, including wearing a special mala (prayer bead necklace) and observing the Mandalam Vratham, a 41-day fasting and austerity period. The Irumudi Kettu is prepared with great care and devotion, and it is carried by the pilgrim during the pilgrimage to Sabarimala.
Pathinettam Padi: The Irumudi Kettu is often carried on the head, and it is also taken up the “Pathinettam Padi” or the “18 Holy Steps” at the Sabarimala temple. Climbing these steps symbolizes the devotee’s ascent to a higher spiritual plane.
Unified Identity: The Irumudi Kettu is a unifying element among Sabarimala pilgrims, as all devotees, regardless of their social or economic status, carry the same type of bag with similar offerings.
The Irumudi Kettu is not just a physical bag but a powerful symbol of the devotee’s faith, devotion, and surrender to Lord Ayyappa. It is an integral part of the Sabarimala pilgrimage experience and reflects the unique spiritual practices and traditions associated with the temple.