Mandala Pooja is a ritualistic observance in Hinduism that is typically performed during the Mandalam season, which lasts for 41 days. The Mandalam season usually begins in November and concludes in December. This period is considered auspicious and is dedicated to Lord Ayyappa, a popular deity worshipped in South India.
The word “Mandala” refers to a circular or geometric pattern that holds significant spiritual symbolism in Hinduism. During the Mandalam season, devotees undertake a pilgrimage to the Sabarimala Temple in Kerala, India, which is believed to be the abode of Lord Ayyappa.
Mandala Pooja is the culmination of the Mandalam season and is performed on the 41st day. It involves elaborate rituals and ceremonies to honor Lord Ayyappa. The devotees fast and observe strict austerities throughout the Mandalam period as a form of penance and purification.
On the day of Mandala Pooja, the Sabarimala Temple is beautifully decorated, and a grand procession takes place. Devotees carry the sacred offering called “Irumudi,” which contains ghee-filled coconuts, camphor, rice, and other items, on their heads as they climb the hill to the temple.
The Mandala Pooja ceremony includes the chanting of sacred hymns, performing aarti (ritual of waving lamps), and offering prayers to Lord Ayyappa. The main highlight of the ritual is the pouring of sacred ghee over the idol of Lord Ayyappa, known as “Ghee Abhishekam.” This act is considered highly auspicious and signifies the fulfillment of devotees’ wishes and their devotion to the deity.
Mandala Pooja marks the end of the pilgrimage season, and after the ceremony, the temple is closed for a few days for ritualistic purification. The following day, the temple is reopened for the Makaravilakku festival, which attracts a large number of devotees.
It’s important to note that while Mandala Pooja is specific to the Sabarimala Temple and the worship of Lord Ayyappa, different temples and deities may have their own unique rituals and observances during this period or other times of the year. Hinduism encompasses a wide range of practices and traditions, and rituals can vary across regions and communities.