New Delhi: India celebrates a diverse variety of festivals, which has certainly left a profound impact upon the people living in the country and abroad.
For example, the festivities and traditions of south Indian states are not only observed in the states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, or Andhra Pradesh but even Delhi, the heart of India, celebrates the festivals with equal fun, frolic, and piousness.
One such example is Mandala Mahotsavam (celebration of 41 days).
Background: A Hindu deity, Lord Ayyappan (also known as Harihara, Sastavi, and Manikandan), is considered to be the son of Lord Siva and Mohini (incarnation of Lord Vishnu). In the months of Karthigai and Margazhi, the people of south India celebrate the “Mandala Mahotsavam.”
The most significant shrine of Lord Ayyappa is situated in Sabrimala, Kerala. The devotees address the lord as “Sri Ayyappan,” with the mantra, “Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa” (the only hope is Ayyappa) which instills the notion of religiosity.
“Sree dharma sasthaveyi saranam Ayyappa”
Delhi also celebrates Mandala Utsavam: With similar fervour, the famous festival of the south is also celebrated every year by Delhites, especially by the residents of Gazipur DDA Flats (New Delhi). It was in 1987 when a few South Indians initiated the festival in the area. And with the passage of time, other local people, regardless of their culture, custom and creed came forward to observe the festival and extol Lord Ayyappan with due rituals and customs.
This year too, the colony celebrated Mandala Puja which began from 17th November and ended on 27th December. The main ritual which takes place on the last Saturday of the 41-day period was celebrated on 26th December with great piousness and enthusiasm.
All the devotees performed various rituals including Mahaganapati Homam, Usha Pooja, Vishnu Sahasranamam, Laksharchana, and Laghubhakshanam right from the early morning.
These rituals are mainly performed by men, who offer flowers to the Lord and enchant mantras.
The “Guruvayur Bhajana Mandali,” with their bhajanas dedicated to Hariharan, filled the entire atmosphere with religious fervor.
This year too, the area witnessed a huge turnout when the bhajanas were sung.
The bhajanas continued till late after noon. It was followed by a two-hour Annadanam (offering of food) which showcased the culture of southern India and its sanctity.
The Annadanam included various delicious curries made of coconut, sambhar-chawal, rasam, and chutneys which were served on a banana leaf.
Further imbibing the cultural vibe of the south, dancers, elephants, and traditional drummers (Chendamelam) were called. The traditional dancers wore a colorful mask and showered their blessings upon the devotees. Ezhunnellippu along with Thalapoli began in the evening in which the women walk ahead of the caparisoned elephant with the lamplights in order to generate a vivacious vibe and prosperity. With classical and traditional music flooding the entire environment, the atmosphere was charged with religious energies.
After circumscribing the whole surrounding, the procession (jaloos) ended with Mahadeeparadhana and fireworks. Later, the entire tale about the life of almighty God Ayyappan was recited (Ayyappan Pattu) by Sarnadhwani.
The festivity concluded with Deeparadhana (aarti) and Annadanam, with the prayer that may the Lord shower his blessings every year upon his admirers.
(Inputs by Shivya Malhotra)