Poonkavanam or the Divine Grove, as the forest around Sabarimala Shrine is known, is the gift of God on earth. Regrettably after every pilgrimage season,garbage-piles heap up as lakhs of pilgrims dump refuse, mostly plastic, in and
around the temple and en route-says Punnyapoonkavanam project state co-ordinator and Intelligence DIG P.Vijayan I.P.S
” Massive environmental pollution causes degradation of the Divine Grove. Most ironically the same pilgrims who do penance to reach Sabarimala for Ayyappa Darshan are the root cause of polluting the sacred river Pampa and the Divine Grove. Punyam Poonkavanam is the Divine Call to preserve and protect the sanctity and pristine purity of Pampa,
the paths leading to the precincts of the temple and the Parikrama. Every pilgrim is duty bound to desist from throwing garbage specially plastics around in the course of the pilgrimage.
“The Punyam Poonkavanam initiative has evoked wide spread appreciation.The High Court of Kerala has lauded the movement and has placed its appreciation on record. The Court has observed “the project at Sannidhanam has contributed much to keep the premises clean. The project has now evolved to be of people’s and pilgrims project; appreciated throughout the length and breadth of the nation and in particular, the states from wherever people in huge numbers come to Sabarimala. The pilgrims have taken Punyam Poonkavanam project to their heart and soul and are participating in it with devotion, as if, it by itself, is an offering to the Almighty. We hope that this conducive eco-friendly approach continues. Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) and the State Government shall do everything required in this regard”. The movement is now all set to extend to all pilgrim-centers across the country to spread the message“Cleanliness is Godliness”.-he says.
“For the present, the initiative is focusing on ensuring a clean and garbage free Sabarimala. Right from Nilackal, the gateway to Sabarimala, to Sannidhanam,the shrine – the attempt is to keep the entire stretch clean.
The movement plans to achieve the goal through the Saptha Karmas that should motivate and guide pilgrims to the shrine.Ensuring that the pilgrims do not bring plastics and abstain from dumping waste materials and instead carry the waste generated by them back with them is the major challenge of Punyam Poonkavanam. At the same time the initiative aims at motivating the pilgrims for their participation in the cleaning process for maintaining the sanctity and purity and Sabarimala Sannidhanam and helping
them line by the precept “Cleanliness is Godliness””-said the DIG (Intelligence)
THE SABARIMALA YATRA AND THE EIGHTEEN STEPS:
The pilgrimage begins with the devotee putting on a beaded chain and observing rigorous penance of 41 days, with total vegetarian food and abstinence from worldly pleasures. Purged of all impurities, physically and spiritually, the pilgrim prepares himself for the yatra. Right from the day the pilgrim puts on the beaded chained, symbolizing the penance, he is addressed as Ayyappa. The faithful becomes one with the faith. Man and God are no longer two entities. The Chandogya Upanishad concept of Tat Tvam Asi or Thou Art That is the essence of the Sabarimala pilgrimage and the Ayyappa cult. Tat Tvam Asi welcomes every Ayyappa who completes the arduous yatra, climbs the 18 golden steps to the parikrama of the temple and in front of the abode of the Lord. The pilgrimage is complete when the devotee stands with folded hands chanting “Swamiye Saranam; Saranam Ayyappa” in front of the Ayyappa murthy and realizes the God within himself
Tips for devotees (SAPTA KARMA)
- Pilgrimage is a penance. Be frugal. Bring with you what is most essential.
- Prepare your Irumudi without plastics and non-degradable materials. No waste to be left in the abode of the Lord and the sacred paths leading to it.
- Carry back with you what you have not used. Take back the waste you generate.
- Devote at least one hour for cleaning the holy river Pampa, its surroundings and Sannidhanam. ‘’Srmadhan”is service to Ayyappa Swamy!.
- Polluting sacred river Pampa is a sin. Avoid oil and soap when you dip in the holy waters. Do not throw clothes or other materials into it.
- Always keep toilets clean after use. Don’t defecate or urinate along the pilgrim paths & its surroundings. Pilgrims who arrive at Sabarimala after undergoing penance are expected to show a great deal of patience while waiting in queues and should avoid other alternatives to avoid queues.
- Practice and preach the precepts: Cleanliness is Godliness. Tat Tvam Asi : Thou Art That.