'Punyam Poonkavanam' to cleanse Sabarimala
Sabarimala is not just another temple. The purpose of the pilgrims who climb the steep hill after 41 days of penance is not the darshan of Ayyappa alone. During that journey to the abode of Ayyappa, they know Nature. And as a result, they learn to see him everywhere and in everything in the universe.
Cleanliness and devotion go together. How can one believe that god is in a place which is dirty? It is the duty of every devotee to do their bit to turn Sabarimala into its beautiful self. And they should do it without any compulsion.
The project 'Punyam Poonkavanam' was launched in 2011 with this goal.
Objectives of the project
- 'Punyam Poonkavanam' is a unity of the Police, Devawsom, Health departments, and the Fire Force, voluntary organisations Ayyappa Seva Sanghom and Ayyappa Seva Samajam, and a group of devotees.
- It is a mission to maintain the purity of Sabarimala. Its only objective is to protect this place for the generations to come, by making the devotees aware that what Lord Ayyappa wants is 'responsible and conscious pilgrimage'.
Dos and don'ts
- Every devotee should make sure that they don't bring things that pollute and harm the Sabarimala forests, especially plastic materials
- Pilgrims should take the things they bring back with them, even if they are no longer of use, instead of throwing them away into the forest
- Every pilgrim should take part in the cleanliness drive at the Sannidhanam and its premises, for at least one hour
- Keep Pamba as 'papanasini'. Don't use soap and oil while bathing in the river. Don't leave clothes in Pamba while returning from Sabarimala
- Keep the toilets clean. Never urinate or defecate in the forests
'Punyam Poonkavanam' centres
- From the activities in the past five years, it became clear that it is difficult to reach the goal of the project by creating awareness among the pilgrims at the Sannidhanam or near Pamba river. Instead, the Ayyappas should be made aware of the importance of the pilgrimage and the 'Punyam Poonkavanam' mission at temples and bhajan mutts. Hence it was decided to open 'Punyam Poonkavanam' centres in all temples associated with Sabarimala pilgrimage, inside and outside Kerala.
- It is the responsibility of the regional centres to coordinate the activities aimed at responsible and conscious pilgrimage. Every pilgrim should be informed about the things they should not do. The volunteers at these centres are known as 'Ayyappa sevaks'.
The centres will also coordinate the regional-level activities of the scheme, and frequently contact with the main centre outside Sabarimala.
Activities of the centres
- Organise drives every week to keep the respective temples and their premises clean. Create awareness among Ayyappa devotees on the customs to be followed at Sabarimala temple.
- Make the pilgrims aware of the objective of Sabarimala pilgrimage and the customs to be followed during the 41-day penance and the journey to the Sannidhanam
- Make sure that there are things that pollute the Sannidhanam in the 'irumudikkettu'
- Encourage the devotees to clean the Sannidhanam, Erumeli, Nilakkal, and Pamba
- Every 'Punyam Poonkavanam' centre will have five executive members, comprising the chief priest, two senior office-bearers of temple committee or administrative council, a senior guru swami, and a prominent person associated with the temple. All Ayyappa devotees will be general body members.
- The patron of the temple committee and the president of the 'Punyam Poonkavanam' centre concerned will be the chief priest.
- The respective district committee will evaluate the activities of the 'Punyam Poonkavanam' centre
- Boards (other than flex, plastic) displaying the objectives and activities of 'Punyam Poonkavanam' scheme should be placed on temple premises
- General body should meet once in six months, before November 10.
(P Vijayan is State Intelligence DIG and the chief coordinator of the 'Punyam Poonkavanam' project.)