Mandala Puja is a ritual observed at the Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple in Kerala. It is observed from the 1st day of the ‘Vrishchikam’ month till the twelfth day of the ‘Dhanu’ month according to the traditional Malayalam calendar. The day of Mandala Puja marks the end of the 41 days long austerity observed by the devotees of Lord Ayyappa which commences from the first day of the Malayalam month of ‘Vrishchikam.’ Mandala Puja and ‘Makar Vilakku’ are the two major events held at the Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple. As a part of the tradition, devotees visiting the Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple during the Mandala Puja also visit the ‘Guruvayur Temple.’ A special ‘Abhishekam’ ceremony is organized in the ‘Guruvayur Temple.’
Significance of Mandala Pooja:
The importance of Mandala Puja is stated in Puranas. A person’s destiny can be changed for his betterment only by performing Mandala Puja which can be conducted by any individual, but it can only be done once during his/her lifetime. Mandala Puja grants fulfilment of all the desires if performed with devotion, faith, and dedication. It is believed that a person's desire has been grant after completion of Mandala Puja. The celebrations of Mandala Puja indicates the 41 days of austerities. The strictness of the Vrata during Mandala Puja helps to cleanse the soul.
Celebration and Rituals:
Fasting is an important and integral part of Mandala Puja which is observed with dedication and strictness by the traditional devotees. It is mandatory to follow austerities for devotees who visit the pilgrimage at Sabarimala shrine. During Mandala Puja, devotees lead a pious and simple life. They wear Rudraksha or Tulsi mala with Lord Ayyappa’s locket till they visit Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple. The devotees who performed austerities are referred as ‘Swami’ or ‘Ayyappan ’ during this period. It is important to pray twice daily. The austerities of Mandala Puja ends with ‘Kalabhaattam’ where a mixture of Rose water, Camphor, Saffron, and Sandalwood paste is offered to the deity.
Celebrations at Guruvayur:
Special ceremonies are organized at Guruvayur temple. An Abhishekam with Panchagavya ( a mixture of five products of cow - milk, curd, ghee, urine and cow dung) is conducted on all days. Panchagavya is believed to have cleansing properties. Besides, the famous Guruvayur Ekadasi festival, Melpathur statue installation day, Narayaneeyam day and Kuchela day are also organized during the Mandalam period.