AS we drive on the Bangalore-Chennai highway, there’s always something to interest, amuse and entertain…and sometimes provoke thought, too. I passed this devotee:
I do not know which temple he is bound for…but usually, when a devotee undertakes such a pilgrimage, it’s quite often one of penance, too. After taking up the penance, the devotee will usually have restrictions on the diet, clothing, and even, sometimes, the way of sleeping (on the bare floor). The pilgrim often has to go barefoor (and, needless to say, no non-veg food, or drinking or smoking). The start of the penance is often marked by a pujA (worship) at the end of which the devotee wears a mAlai (any kind of bead necklace)…and the period is usually for 40 or 45 days. Devotees smear themselves with vermilion or holy ash, decorate themselves with garlands, and carry the prescribed articles, such as a kalasham in this instance, or “iru mudi”…and walk to the temple, often accompanied by others (here,you can see one person with an offertory plate, asking for donations.)
The devotee often makes a tour of it, visiting several temples en route to the temple that is the final destination.
Very often, the penance is marked by even greater austerities, or piercing the body, sometimes even the tongue, with small spears.
that I photographed in Kodaikanal a while ago.
Such penance/pilgrimage is very common in the month of mArgazhi (between Dec 15th to Jan 15th.) Devotees of sabari malai wear black; those of mEl maruvatthUr wear red…and so it goes. This pilgrimage is often the only way a person can tour around and see places without the guilt of having “taken off” from routine work.
I think faith often also demands a lot of self-discipline.