“Mandalam” is a term used in the context of the Sabarimala pilgrimage in Kerala, India. It refers to a specific period within the annual pilgrimage season when devotees undertake a 41-day fasting and spiritual observance before embarking on the pilgrimage to the Sabarimala temple. The Mandalam season typically starts on the first day of the Malayalam month of “Vrishchikam” (around mid-November) and continues until the Makaravilakku festival, which falls on Makara Sankranti (usually January 14th).
Key aspects of the Mandalam season:
Fasting and Austerity: The Mandalam season is a time of heightened spiritual devotion and self-discipline for devotees of Lord Ayyappa. Devotees follow a strict 41-day fasting period known as “Mandalam Vratham,” during which they abstain from various activities, maintain celibacy, adhere to a vegetarian diet, and engage in prayers and meditation.
Preliminary Rituals: Devotees who intend to undertake the Sabarimala pilgrimage start their preparation during the Mandalam season. They wear a special mala (prayer bead necklace) and observe various rituals that are part of the Mandalam Vratham.
Pilgrimage Planning: Many devotees plan their journey to Sabarimala during the Mandalam season. They begin their pilgrimage after completing the 41-day fasting period, with the aim of reaching the temple for the Makaravilakku festival on Makara Sankranti.
Offerings and Donations: Devotees often make offerings, donations, and contributions to the temple and to charitable activities during the Mandalam season as part of their spiritual practice.
Community and Devotion: The Mandalam season fosters a sense of community and shared devotion among the pilgrims. Many pilgrims form groups and undertake the fasting and rituals together, enhancing the spiritual experience.
Cultural Significance: The Mandalam season and the Sabarimala pilgrimage are deeply rooted in the cultural and religious traditions of Kerala. The pilgrimage and associated practices have a significant impact on the cultural identity of the region.
The Mandalam season is an integral part of the Sabarimala pilgrimage, and it serves as a period of preparation, purification, and deep spiritual reflection for devotees before they embark on their journey to seek the blessings of Lord Ayyappa at the Sabarimala temple.