October 14, 2017
The issue of ban on women in the menstruating age visiting the Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala in the Pattanamthitta district of Kerala or undertaking a pilgrimage through the wild will, hopefully, come to its logical end soon, as the Supreme Court has referred the case to a 5-member Constitution Bench.
Many women devotees from the south Indian states have always been aspiring to visit the temple that is managed by a statutory body – the Travancore Devaswom Board, and financed out of the consolidated fund of Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
But the authorities’ opposition to allowing women aged between 10 and 50 to visit the temple situated amidst hills on an argument that the practice is founded in tradition serves as a stumbling block for them to get their wish realised.
However, there had been reports, even as recently as in April last following the circulation of a photograph in social media, that women in menstruating age offered prayers to Lord Ayyappa at the temple, which forced the Left government batting for women’s right to worship to order a probe into the allegation.
Whether or not some of them had dared to exercise their right to worship, it has always been the desire of many young women devotees to go on a pilgrimage to Sabarimala temple. But they need to wait till the outcome of the case.
Until then, these women have an option other than hearing stories from men in their families who have been to the hill abode of Lord Ayyappa. They can take a virtual tour on https://www.p4panorama.com/panos/sabarimala/ that gives an amazing 360 degree panoramic view from Erumeli to the Ayyappa temple. Against the background of the Tamil devotional song of ‘Pallikkattu sabarimalaikku, kallum mullum kaalukku methai, swamiyae Ayyappa, swami saranam Ayyappa saranam’, the viewers are taken on a tour that simulates a real life experience.
The virtual tour spanning for several minutes takes the viewers through Erumeli Kochambalam, Vavar Palli, Erumeli Sastha Temple, Puthen Veedu, two breathtaking views of river Pamba and then to the first steps to Sabarimala leading to Pamba Ganapathi temple. Then comes the ascent to Neelimala, the last lap of the virtual pilgrimage, atop which is the abode of Lord Ayyappa, a celibate.
The climb-up ends at Appachimedu, a grassy meadow with dark and deep ravines on either side. After Sabaripeedam and Marakkoottam comes the spiritual destination – Sree Dharma Sastha Temple dedicated to Lord Ayyappa. Pathinettampadi, the holy 18 panchaloka-covered steps that lead to the shrine, Malikappuram and Nagaraja Temple are also shown in close-up. The virtual spiritual journey concludes with the scintillating night view of the temple and the hill.
Interestingly, the video, with information about the spiritual significance of the places, is shot by Leen Thobias, a 360 degree virtual reality panoramic photographer who heads the P4Panorama production team.