Pilgrimage to Sabrimala
In January of 1992 my mother came to Cochin to visit me. She had bronchial problem and could hardly walk. As the luck would have it, I faced allergic problems and had consulted dermatologists who prescribed antiallergens. My body did not respond favorably to their treatment. I felt burning sensation. It made me uncomfortable. A professor in the University noticed my discomfort. He asked me whether I needed medical support. He suggested that I might like to consult Dr Dhananjayan who is a homeopath and had a clinic near the University. I took an appointed from Dr Dhananjayan and visited him at his clinic. He asked me the treatment I was taking and found out their chemical compositions. After about an hour he told me that as I was taking antiallergens he had no better treatment to offer and that with time I will get over my problem. He looked at my disappointment and changed his mind and said that he would treat me. He gave me a dose of homeopathic medicine. It was a miraculous experience but is true that within five minutes of taking the dose skin of my body cooled down and I was out of the problem. Dr Dhananjayan and I became lifelong friends.
My mother was an ardent believer of homeopathy medication. I took her to Dhananjayan. My mother also responded favorably to his treatment and before long they admired each other. She started morning walks in the campus. One day she asked me to take her to Sabrimala. I knew it was a difficult journey as it required climbing over 2000 feet and it was also not the season for pilgrimage. I said that let us meet Dr Dhananjayan and seek his medical advice. Dr Dhananjayan meditated for some time and said, ‘ Professor Maheshwari take your mother to Sabrimala. He is a great God and would take care of your mother. After the main pilgrimage period is over the temple of Sabrimala opens once each month the day following the New Moon night.
I told my Private Secretary that I wanted to take my mother to Sabrimala. He asked me whether I wished to visit it formally as the Vice Chancellor of the Cochin University of Science and Technology or incognito as a pilgrim. I said that I wanted to go as a pilgrim. He told me that a typist in the VC’s office would escort me and as he knows the traditional rituals I and my mother will perform pooja after our dinner and proceed by a taxi around 9 pm. The pilgrimage was to be done in the night for a morning darshan of the deity. We had to return in the morning itself as it would get uncomfortably warm even in the forenoon .
My mother and I performed the pooja under the guidance of our escort who also functioned as a priest. I wore unstitched clothes. We were given offerings for the deity wrapped in black clothes. We left around 9 pm and reached the base of the pilgrimage around 1 am. My mother wanted to bathe in the Pampa river in pitch dark. I requested her not to insist on it as instead of allowing her to enter unknown water in total darkness I would prefer to return. My mother realized that I would do what I had said and decided to skip this ritual. We crossed the river using the connecting bridge and commenced our journey. It was dark, but about 100 meters further away we saw a streetlight and slowly started walking towards it. When we reached it, another streetlight could be seen. Following these lights, we steadily progressed and walked for nearly three hours. By around 4:30 am we saw at a distance lights of the buildings of the shrine. Our escort asked us to wait as he wanted to find a place where we could take bath before entering the shrine. He decided to go to the shrine and met there a trustee who had accommodation in the vicinity of the shrine. He happily told our escort that he would welcome us and let us use his facilities. We were happy to hear it and all the tiredness of the arduous climb disappeared along with the darkness of the night in the sunlit morning.
After we took our baths we proceeded to the shrine with the packets of offerings on our head. We reached the shrine and saw beautiful stairs. I enjoyed climbing the stairs and reached the main platform and were permitted to have the darshan of the Deity, the Lord Ayappa. We may have circumambulated the shrine. It was a glorious morning. We saw lush green hills enclosing the location of the shrine. Shrine is on peak of a hill and commanded a beautiful view all around. Words are inadequate in describing the joy I experienced.
We decided to return soon after. My mother carried a stick and carefully walked the steep slope downwards. I saw boulders randomly scattered in the path. We did not notice the rough path as we had climbed in darkness and were focused on our target. Coming down I slipped and fell a few times but was unhurt. My mother came down steadily and carefully. We began to feel the heat as heat rays remain trapped in valleys. After about three hours we reached where our taxy was waiting. We were dehydrated as we had neither taken meal nor drank fluid after commencing the journey. My mother was keen that I should drink tender coconut water. But in Kerala although the main greenery is of coconut palm trees, its water is not sold on roadside. We saw a street vendor selling bottled drinks. My mother ordered fresh lemonade. I felt refreshed after drinking lemonade. My mother looked at me with love and happiness. Our pilgrimage was over.