Hundreds of people are still thronging to have a look at the auspicious goat at Erode, South India, which performed ritual pooja and garlanded the statue of Naga (snake goddess) on the first day of Karthigai, the month of Ayyappa pilgrimage. Dinamalar, a Tamil daily, dated 18th November reports this interesting incident.
Karthigai is the eighth month of Tamil calendar meant for religious festivals and pilgrimages. On the first day of this month the devotees of Lord Ayyappa begin their pilgrimage rituals. This month starts in the middle of November and ends in the middle of December. This Karthigai month is said to be the favorite month of Lord Siva, Lord Vishnu and Lord Muruga. Hence many festivals and rituals of devotion are held in this month. People who go on pilgrimages make pooja rituals and prepare in this month.
Lord Ayyappa of Sabarimala
Lord Ayyappa is a Hindu god worshiped in a number of shrines across India. Millions of devotees make pilgrimage to his temple located at Sabarimala on the Western Ghats in South India. Lord Ayyappa is believed to be the incarnation of Dharma Sastha, who is the son of Lord Siva and Lord Vishnu who took the female avatar as Mohini. More than 30 million devotees go on pilgrimage to Sabarimala every year, making it one of the largest pilgrimage sites in the world.
It is an interesting news that a goat also participated in the preparation for this pilgrimage this year.
Ritual wearing of Tulsi (holy basil)
On 17th November of this year, being the first day of Karthigai month, nearly two hundred devotees who were supposed to go on a pilgrimage to Sabarimala began their rituals at the temple located on the bank of River Kaveri at Karungalpalayam, near Erode city. They took ritual bath in the river and began chanting Lord Ayyappa Mantra. A goat which came there was watching all the ceremonies the devotees were doing and began to pick up the garlands left by them and wear them on the statue of Naga Goddess.
Tulsi garlands of Ayyappa devotees
The Ayyappa devotees are expected to follow a 41-day penance prior to their pilgrimage. This begins with wearing of a special garland made of Rudraksha or Tulsi (holy basil) leaves. They begin this penitential course with ritual bath with ceremonies and wearing a Tulsi garland. Wearing Tulsi garland in the local temple of Ayyappa on the first day of this course is a special ritual reminding them of their austere life refraining from all luxuries including sex.
The ritual of the goat
The goat that was standing there for a long time had been watching the devotees. After their bath they wore garlands on the statues in the temple as a devotion and wore fresh Tulsi garlands on their necks. Some devotees who already had garlands on their necks removed them and wore new ones. The goat took all the removed garlands strewn on the ground and began to wear them on the statue of Nagar (snake goddess) one by one. Even when the statue was overflowing with garlands, the goat did not stop its ceremony. It was just continuing its devotion.
What made this goat do all these rituals is the question of hundreds of curious people who still gather at this site, though the goat has left the place.