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What is Makara Vilakku? It's Meaning

About Makara Vilakku

Makara Vilakku is a religious festival of Kerala, celebrated annually in the famous Sabarimala Temple. Makaravilakku falls on the first day of Makara Masam(month), as per the Malayalam calendar (in the month of January) which is the same day as Makara Shankranti, which is celebrated in other regions of India. On this auspicious day devotees and Sadhus from all over India gather at the revered Ayyappa Swami temple in Sabarimala for Makara Vilakku darshan and sighting the Makara Jyoti. Makara Vilakku meaning in literal sense is, Makara is the Zodiac sign of Makara (Capricorn) and Vilakku means light. In Makara Vilakku festival beholding the Makara Vilakku and the Makara Jyoti is the most important event. The divine Gold ornaments of Lord Ayappa, called ‘Thiruvabharanam’, is brought in a procession from Pandalam palace to the temple at Sabarimala, which is eagerly awaited by the devotees gathered at the Sannidhanam.

Lord Ayyappa or Ayyappa Swami, as He is called reverently, is said to be the son of Lord Shiva and Mohini, the only female form of Lord Vishnu. Ayyappa Swami is highly regarded and worshipped by devotees all over India. His temple at Sabarimala is a pilgrim site. The preparation of Makaravilakku starts two months prior on the first day of the Vrichikam month (Mid November- December) of Malayalam calendar. Devotees observe a compulsory 41 days of austerities and fast before visiting the Ayyappa Swami temple in Sabarimala for Makara Vilakku festival or Mandala Pooja. The Mandala Pooja is said to be highly meritorious and ends on the Makaravilakku day at the Swami Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala. It is said to fulfil wishes of devotees and is life-changing. Makaravilakku Kerala is a festival which is looked forward by devotees every year.

The Makara Vilakku darshan can be done from 9 different places which are Sannidhanam, Paandithavalam, Saramkuthi, Marakootam, Pulmedu, Hilltop, Neelimala, Chalakayam, and Attathodu.

When is Makara Vilakku Celebrated? Date and Timing

Makara Vilakku date 2023 – 15th January, Sunday
Makara Vilakku Moment- 08:57 pm on 14 January, Saturday
Punnyakal Muhurt : 07:15:13am to 12:30:00pm on 15 January, Sunday

Importance and Significance of Makara Vilakku

Makara Vilakku Importance

Makaravilakku festival has been celebrated since ancient time in the Sabrimala Ayyappa Temple, in Kerala. This annual festival is not only celebrated by the people from Kerala and other southern states of India but attended by people from other states. The prime Makara Vilakku significance includes seeing the Makara Jyoti and the Makaravilakku, in the evening. The Makara Jyoti is the bright Sirius star which rises that evening, positioned in the eastern direction of Sabarimala, above Ponnambalamedu. Makara Vilakku is the sacred light which is seen thrice from Sabarimala, while it occurs in the forest of Ponnambalamedu located near Sabarimala, in the western ghats. Devotees start to arrive at the Sabarimala temple in the morning that day, on foot from Pampa and observe the Makara Vilakku vrat(fast) through the day.

The Thiruvabharanam, which are the Gold ornaments of Lord Ayyappa are ceremoniously brought in a procession from the palace of Pandalam to Sabarimala Ayyappa Swami temple. The erstwhile Royal family of Pandalam is the custodian of the ornaments of Lord Ayyappa. It is said, as observed down the years, an Eagle is said to hover above the Thiruvabharanam, throughout its journey from Pandalam palace to the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple and on reaching Sabarimala, the Eagle circle the temple premises, the Sannidhanam, 9 times to pay His respect to Lord Ayyappa. The Eagle is said to be Garuda, the vahana of Lord Vishnu. The procession arrives by the evening, and the ornaments are carried on head by appointed men, in the procession. Ayyappa Swami is adorned with the holy ornaments which is followed by ‘Deeparadhana’ of the divine deity. At the precise time, the Makara Jyoti is sighted which marks the beginning of the 7 days Makaravilakku festival celebration. The atmosphere resounds with the chant of "Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa" by the huge gathering of devotees. Then the devotees behold the sacred light, Makara Vilakku from Sabarimala.

The forest of Ponnambalamedu is not accessible to common public, as per the rules of Forest department of Kerala. The light Makaravilakku, is said to be the light from the temple in Ponnambalamedu plateau. Previously it was a ritual which the Malayaraya tribe performed at the temple in Ponnambalamedu. However, now the Travancore Devaswom Board, is in charge and the age-old religious rituals continue to be performed. After the Makara star or Makara Jyoti is seen, at the temple in Ponnambalamedu too ritualistic Aarti is performed and the Makara Vilakku is the light emitted from the camphor lit during the Aarti, seen thrice from Sabarimala. The devotees also like to believe that the Makara Vilakku or sacred light is celestial. The enthusiasm of the devotees reaches its peak on sighting of Makara Vilakku and their spiritual mission of the Makara Vilakku festival is accomplished. For the devotees it represents the omnipresent Ayyappa Swami’s validation of His presence and blessings.

The devotees eagerly receive the special prasadam of Aravana payasam and Appam to eat and carry home.

Another Makara Vilakku importance is that, it is on the auspicious day of Makar Shankranti, which is the day when the Sun or Surya Dev starts His journey in the north direction and shifts from the zodiac sign of Saggittarius (Dhanu) to Makar(Capricorn). On this day Surya Dev is worshipped and thanked for His nurturing help in cultivation of crops and for the harvest He has blessed with.

Makara Vilakku Vrat Vidhi and Rituals

The Makaravilakku festival requires the devotees to follow the Makara Vilakku Vidhi which is called Mandala Kalam meticulously before they visit the Sabarimala Ayyappa Swami temple. The Mandala Kalam starts from the first day of the Malayalam Vrichikamn (Scorpio)month and is compulsory for every devotee who wants to go for the pilgrimage to the Sabarimala temple. As far as ladies are concerned, only ladies above 50 years of age and girls between 1 to 9 years of age are allowed to visit the holy Ayyappa Swami temple at Sabarimala.

Makara Vilakku Festival
  • A 41 days austerity and Makara Vilakku vrat has to be observed. The Makara Vilakku vrat vidihi includes abstinence from having food during the day and having a simple vegetarian meal once a day. The main objective of the Makara Vilakku fast is to cleanse the body, mind and soul.
  • Devotees who wish to visit Sabarimala Ayyappa Swami temple for Makaravilakku wears a necklace/Mala of Rudraksha and Tulsi beads with a locket of Lord Ayyappa, which they take off only after the Makara Vilakku puja and sighting of the sacred light on that day.
  • For the 41 days, consuming alcohol, smoking, gambling or indulging in any such addictions is prohibited.
  • Devotees should observe celibacy for the 41 days as Lord Ayyappa is said to be a Brahmachari.
  • The devotees should walk bare foot and sleep on the floor and resist luxuries and worldly pleasures of any kind and devote time to prayers and meditation during this period. For those who are doing jobs, and have time constraints, praying twice a day is a must.
  • Men are not allowed to shave their beard, moustache or trim their hair.
  • Those who observe the Makara Vilakku vidhi, wear black, deep blue or saffron attire during this period, till the final day of Makara Vilakku celebrations at the divine Sannidhanam of Lord Ayyappa.
  • During this period one should lead a pious life, be conscious of not hurting others .
  • As per the tradition the pilgrims carry ‘Irumudi’ or ‘Ketunira’, a cloth bundle, partitioned into two parts on their head. This bundle or Irumudi contains a coconut with rice and ghee, which they reverently offer to Ayyappa Swami when they visit the divine shine on Makara Vilakku.
  • From Pampa after doing darshan and Puja at the Pampa Ganapathi temple, the devotees have to walk bare foot to the abode of Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala. The trek is through forests and rough paths and then the climb up the hill to reach the Sannidhanam of Ayyappa Swami. No vehicle is allowed beyond Pampa.
  • The rituals also include visiting the Krishna Temple at Guruvayur after the Makara Vilakku darshan and puja.
  • The 41 days of fasting and austerities end after the Makara Vilakku day.

Many devotees stay back in Sabarimala and leave only after the 7 days festival is over with the Kuruthi Puja.

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