Irumudi

The pilgrimage to Sabarimalai starts after severe Viratham (fast) for about 41 days. On the day of departure, pilgrims have the ritual of “Irumudi Kattu” or “Kattu Nirai” in which they accept the Irumudi (a bag with 2 portions) from their Guru.

 
The Irumudi is filled at the temple or in one’s own pooja room. The ceremony is conducted with the assistance of the Guruswamy amidst chanting of 'Saranam Ayyappa'. Irumudi is carried on the head with due reverence. Irumudi Kettu is divided into two parts. The front pouch and the rear pouch. The front pouch, for identification, is marked with the symbol `OM'. The front portion is meant for stocking pooja articles such as coconuts filled with cow ghee, camphor, unboiled rice, plantain (kadhali), aval (flattened rice), pori, sandal paste, incense sticks, vibhuti (sacred ash), kumkum (vermilion), turmeric powder, jaggery, kalkkandu (candied sugar) and coins for dakshina.
 
The rear pouch of the Irumudi Kettu contains consumable edible items which are used by the pilgrim for his personal sustenance during the journey to Sabarimala and back. The personal belongings represent the Prarabhdha Karma or the accumulation of the merits and demerits accrued from countless births of the individual. The personal belongings that get exhausted on the journey towards Sabarimalai represent the burning of the karma that result in more births hindering the oneness with the divine. Realization or oneness with God is possible only on the exhaustion of one's karma (the results of past actions).
 
The outer shell of the coconut represents the ego or the very association of oneself with the body. The two of the holes or eyes that the coconuts have represent the intellect and the third the spiritual eye. The ghee that is poured and corked in the coconut for worship on reaching Sabarimalai represents the 'Atman'. Realization is possible only when one transcends the mind, body complex. The intellect is within the realm of the mind. The third eye of the coconut which is corked is the spiritual eye that is opened and through which the ghee (Atman) is poured over the Lord who is the Paramatma on reaching Sabarimalai. This signifies the union of the Jeevatma or Atman with the Paramatma.
 
Once the ghee is emptied over the lord (union of the Jeevatma with the Paramatma), the shell is thrown into the fire that signifies the end of the body which does not assume any more forms in endless births. This signifies the culmination of the cycle of birth and death on realizing the true nature of oneself which represents the union of the Jeevatma and the Paramatma.
 
Pilgrims with much devotion carry the Irumudi received from their Guru and leave their homes. While leaving their home, pilgrims neither even bid good bye to their folks nor look back, as it’s believed that once started to Sabarimalai they are in the hands of the Lord Himself. So, one can’t inform his folks that he would be back. They are at the discretion of the Lord which depends on the sincerity of their devotion to God. In Sabarimalai pilgrimage, Guru is the supreme of all and pilgrims strictly follow their Guruswamy's instructions throughout their fasting till they reach back home.