Pampa The Paradise
The next phase of the pilgrimage provides the most salutary experience. While, the pilgrims climb down the Karimala in sagging spirits, the wholesome breeze blowing through the cool limpid waters of the sacred Pampa cheers them up, providing imminent quietude and tranquility.
The river Pampa is renowned for its sacredness. The water of the Pampa is the conglomeration of the waters of all holy rivers of Bharathavarsha. It was brought to this place by Parasuralma with the blessings of Mahadeva to redeem his people from the sins; needless to speak of its greatness further. The Pampa valley is the confluence of all pilgrims heading towards ‘Sabarimala', whichever route they come along.
On reaching the banks of Pampa each devotee finds a place for him to take rest and spreads his blanket there as the mark for identification. The otherwise silent mountain valley virtually turns into an ocean of humanity on festive occasions. A bath in the river invigorates the pilgrim and renews his lost spirit and enthusiasm. Pithrutharpanam, (ritual to propitiate the ancestors), Pampa Sadya(feast), Gurudakshina and Pampa Vilakku (lighting of lamps) are the outstanding ceremonies that take place in the valley of Pampa.
Taking into consideration the holiness of the waters of the Pampa, ceremonies are performed for the propitiation of ancestors, which is known as 'Pithrutharpanam '.
Tents are pitched on the banks of the river and banners of different colours are flown on them. Hectic preparation for a feast begins. No devotee is seen idle or relaxing. Everyone is found engaged in assisting the preparation of the feast in some way or other irrespective of their status, caste, creed or religion. The sociability and amity evinced on the occasion deserve special mention. Various items of the feast are readily cooked and made ready to be served. As a mark of invitation to participate in the feast 'pappads' of different sizes are hung in front of each tent. It is considered to be an honor to be visited by a co-worshipper not belonging to the group as a guest for the feast.
Another belief prevalent among the people is that the Lord himself is present incognito to participate in preparing and tasting the feast. Any one of the Ayyappans can be the true Lord. The sacred touch of the Lord is believed to have rendered the ashes of the oven sacred. So it is a practice among the devotees to collect ashes from every oven and mix them together. This is deemed to be a ‘Prasadam' of the Lord.
The feast is fo11owed by the ritual of 'Gurudakshna " Showing reverence to Guruswamis, the guides and guardians of the pilgrims. Each member of the group pays money to his Guruswami with due respect and devotion as a token of his gratitude for leading him aright to the presence of the Lord.
‘Pampa Vilakku' is a resplendent spectacle. By the time the dying sun goes down the western horizon, the Pampa valley remains fully illuminated, thus presenting the intrusion of darkness. Lamps are lit in front of every tent and also before every Irumudikettu. Further, blazing flames of Aazhi are seen at intervals. Small towers made of bamboo twigs illumined with tiny ghee lamps are set afloat on the waters of Pampa. A number of these illuminated towers get reflected on the placid waters and create an ineffable scenic excellence. A comprehensive view of the whole scene gets etched in the inner most recess of ones mind.