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Aazhi-pooja

Azhi

Aazhi-pooja is another major group-oriented ritual performed near the Padukka-pandal during these days of austerities. The Guruswami begins the Pooja in the Brahmamuhoortham, the auspicious hours in the early morning around 4 a.m. In the evening all the pilgrims in the group offer prayers in a nearby temple during the Deepaaraadhana, the ritualistic worship by the rhythamic waving round of oil or camphor lamps. From there they return to the Paduka-pandal and the Guruswami conducts the Deepaaraadhana at the Sreekovil there. After that , the Guruswami and the pilgrims, go to a specially arranged place near the Padukka-pandal to set up an Aazhi, a big heap of smouldering embers of sacred fire. For this purpose, certain high quality fire wood pieces are used and they are arranged only in one direction. When the logs burn, the pilgrims walk around the Aazhi several times chanting aloud with devotional fervour “Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa”. They offer cocounut pieces, fried rice powder, Malaru etc., to the sacred fire. They sing the Ayyappan-paattu, old devotional songs on the exploits of Lord Ayyappa, to the accompainment of traditional instrumental music. One such distinctive performance is the Vilppaattu, an energetic rendering of ballads accompained by rhythmic beating on a bow-like musical device with many bells hanging from it.

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