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Playing Host to DeityFestival Religion in the South Indian Tradition$
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Paul Younger

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780195140446

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0195140443.001.0001

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Return to the Mountains

Return to the Mountains

The Ayyappaṉ Festival in Sabarimalai, Kerala

(p.17) 1 Return to the Mountains
Playing Host to Deity

Paul Younger

Oxford University Press

One of the oldest festivals in South India is the pilgrimage to the Sabarimalai shrine of Ayyappan in the mountains of Kerala. About 10 million male devotees make this pilgrimage each December and January. On the way, bands of devotees shout antiphonally “Ayyappan saranam” “I take refuge in Ayyappan” and “Swamiye saranam” “I take refuge in the Lord” , and initiate new pilgrims in the rigors of this form of devotion. Reinterpretations of the Ayyappan stories have taken place a number of times over the centuries, with a major one being that Ayyappan can be called ”HariHara” because he was born of a union of Visnu (Hari) in female form and Sivan (Hara). The recent increase in the popularity of this festival indicates that it still provides a sense of the deepest foundation of South Indian or Dravidian culture.

Keywords:   Dravidian, Hari Hara, initiation, mountains, pilgrimage, Swami, Sivan, Visnu

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