It’s that time of year again when men in black can be spotted at traffic intersections all over the city. This past weekend, while waiting at a red light, one of these bearded, barefoot and black-clad men tapped on the car window and made a short speech of which I only understood two words: “Sabarimala” and “Ayyappa”. He held out something shaped like a coconut in which he was collecting donations. I’ve always been intrigued by this annual pilgrimage so I was happy to make a small contribution towards his journey to Lord Ayyappa’s abode in Sabarimala in Kerala.
I have written about the Sabarimala pilgrimage before here. This is a popular pilgrimage undertaken only by men (pre-pubescent girls and post-menopausal women are also ‘allowed’ to take part). For weeks before embarking on the journey, pilgrims must (among many other things) walk barefoot, not shave or cut their hair, eat only vegetarian food, sleep without a pillow and “have no connection with wife” (this is how someone explained this to me!).
My landlord told me that he would go to Sabarimala every year. But he finds the pilgrimage too strenuous now at his age. Pilgrims have to walk for a long time, barefoot, uphill, on difficult terrain. He also said that this pilgrimage has become increasingly popular in the past ten years and that it’s become difficult to negotiate the huge crowds.
But today I learned that Mohammed doesn’t need to go to the mountain, the mountain can come to him. When I logged onto the website of a courier company this morning to check the status of a shipment, an interesting advertisement popped up announcing the ‘Holy Prasada Express Home Delivery Service’. DTDC Courier and Cargo has launched a “holy venture to distribute the prasada of Lord Ayyappa.” Thanks to DTDC, there’s no need to submit to 41 days of austerity and walk for kilometres through thick forests all the way up to Sabarimala to receive Ayyappa’s blessings. Instead, you can easily pop into your neighbourhood DTDC branch and place your order for prasada (holy food blessed by the god). The company guarantees quick service: “the holy prasada will reach your door step within 10 days from date of booking.” For the more technologically-inclined, on-line booking will soon be available.
Intrigued and almost tempted by this ‘holy venture’, I did a bit of research on the prasada offered by Lord Ayyappa in Sabarimala:
- Called ‘avavana prasadam’, it’s made of rice, jaggery, sugar, raisins, cardamom, cumin, ghee and coconut.
- Between 120,000 - 160,000 250ml cans are sold on average each day during the two-month pilgrimage period.
- Around 100,000 cans are produced daily. (Not surprisingly demand surpasses supply and shortages are common!)
- The shelf life of a can of ‘avavana prasadam’ is one year.
- To make 100,000 cans, 38kg of rice, 200kg of jaggery, 3.6kg of ‘sugar candy’, 1.8kg of raisins, 0.720gm of cardamom, 0.360gm of cumin powder, 10 litres of ghee and 16 coconuts are needed.
Photos: Wikimedia Commons.