Mandala Pooja celebrations continues for a period of 41 days beginning from first day of the Malayalam month of Vrishchikam (November-December) and culminating on eleventh day of Dhanu (December-January). During this period devotees make a pilgrimage to the famous shrine of Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala. As a tradition, those visiting Sabarimala also visit the temple at Guruvayur. Mandala Pooja signifies 41 days of austerities. Main Mandala pooja is conducted on the 41st day after the 1st of Vrichikam.
Rituals and Traditions
Vrutham or austerities is the essential component of Mandal Pooja and are strictly followed by the orthodox and traditional people. The austerities prescribed are stiff for the people who wish to take pilgrimage at Sabarimala shrine on the day of Mandala Pooja or the auspicious Makara Sankranti day.
Ideally Vruthum should be of 41 days in which devotee must lead a simple and pious life. Vruthum starts from the day the devotee wears Tulasi or Rudraksha Mala with a locket of Lord Ayyappa till he makes a pilgrimage to Sabarimala and removes the Mala. Between the period of wearing of Mala and taking it off, the devotee is called 'Ayyappan' or 'Swami'. In this period devotee should keep his mind and body clean and pure and must restrain from indulging in worldly pleasures. Devotees must not smoke or consume alcohol and non-vegetarian food. He must abstain from sex, pray twice during the day and should not hurt the feelings of others. It is believed that proper vruthums help to cleanse the soul of a devotee and pilgrimage without proper vruthums is not advised. Female between the age of 1-9 and 50 above are also eligible for vruthum and are called 'Malikapuram' ( The Shakti of Lord Ayyappa).
Mandalam comes to an end with 'Kalabhaattam'. In this mixture of sandal paste, saffron, camphor and rose water is poured on the deity. The offering is made once in a year and is a privilege of the Zamorin Rajas only.
Celebrations at Guruvayur
special ceremonies are also organized at Guruvayur. Here, abhishekam with panchagavya (mixture of five products of cow - milk, curd, ghee, urine and cow dung) is held on all days. Panchagavya is believed to have cleansing properties. Besides, the famous Guruvayur Ekadasi festival, Melpathur statue installation day, Narayaneeyam day and Kuchela day are also organized during the Mandalam period.