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The WEEK, December, 2000

Saviour in the deep
A Muslim saves Ayyappa devotees from drowning!

They might not be the babes or the brawny ones of Baywatch. But they do their job just as effectively. This season, when pilgrims on their way to Sabarimala, the holy shrine of Lord Ayyappa, take a dip in the river Nila in North Kerala, they will do so without any worries of drowning. Because, help will be at hand in the form of C.M. Kunju and his team.


Noble deed: Kunju (extreme left) and his team under the Kuttippuram bridge

More than forty feet deep, Malloor Kadavu in Nila under the Kuttippuram bridge used to be a virtual death trap for Sabarimala pilgrims from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. For many pilgrims, a dip at the Kadavu and a darshan at the nearby Shiva-Parvathi temple have been mandatory, though frought with danger. But since 1996, Malloor Kadavu has been safe, thanks to Kunju and his team, who have so far saved 23 lives.

What keeps Kunju going is the memory of his brother, who got drowned in the Nila river in 1971 after saving a woman and her two children on Vishu, which is New Year's Day in the Malayalam calendar. It was this incident that made him take up the unusual vocation.

A former block panchayat member, he retired from his job as a bus driver in the early eighties. Since then, he had been devoting most of his time for humanitarian services in the Kuttippuram-Ponnani areas. Kunju helps road accident victims and donates blood.

When drowning incidents increased at Malloor Kadavu during the Sabarimala season, Kunju set up a team along with other villagers to warn all those who step into the river in that area. Kunju says: "There are no notice boards to warn potential victims."

The life-saving operations got a big boost when C.T. Bappu Haji from Qatar donated an open fibre boat to Kunju. With warnings in different languages displayed on boards placed inside the boat, the team would camp at the Kadavu from 3 a.m. to 11 p.m., when drownings occur.

There was a setback in the form of a heart attack in 1996; doctors advised Kunju not to swim in the river. But, he still continues to guide and motivate his team. Says Kunhapputti, a team member: "The thrill of saving a life motivates us."

Recognising Kunju's good work, the local police, block panchayat authorities, merchants and the local temple committee have offered their co-operation. They will sponsor the food requirements of the team during the Sabarimala season. They have also made available 14 drums for storing drinking water for the pilgrims.

That Kunju, a Muslim, is doing such a service for Hindu pilgrims is noteworthy. Kunju explains: "I am a humanist and people of all religions are important to me." A noble thought indeed in these days of communal fanaticism.

Vinu Abraham



  • Never before scenes of Aratu at Pamba
  • Padi Pooja
  • Mandala Pooja
  • Erumeli Pettai Thullal
  • Malikaipuram
  • Gurukulam of Lord Ayyappan
  • Sword of Lord Ayyappan
  • Achan Kovil
  • Aariang Kaavu
  • Kulathupuzha
  • Sabarimala
  • Journey of Golden Angki of Ayyappan
  • Ratha journey of Golden Angki



Dinamani 2.12.2000:
Aaratu to Lord Ayyappan at Pamba:

Picture published in Dinamani on 2.12.2000

Sabarimala Thandhri Shri Rajeev and Melshanthi Shri V.P.Shanbu Vadthiyar Namboodri performed Aaratu to Lord Ayyappan on 1.12.2000

Dinamani 23.11.2000:
Flag Festival begins at Sabarimala:

Picture published in Dinamani Newspaper on 23rd November 2000 Sabarimala Ayyappan Temple's annual ten day flag hoisting festival began today. The Tandhri Shri Rajeev hoisted the holy flag.

After Pooja to the Dwajasthambam (Flag Post) the flag was hoisted atmidst thundering Sarana Ghosham by devotees.

In this ceremony the current Melshanthi Shri V.P.Shanbu Vadthiyar Namboodri and others priests participated. Travancore Devasom Board Members / officials - Shri T.Sashidharan, A.C.Gothavarma, P.Menon Pillai and others participated.

During this period of festival the Sanctom Sanctorum shall be open at 5 PM it self. Palli Vetai Shall be performed on November 30th and Aratu shall be performed on December 1st 2000. On Aratu day the Sanctom Sactorum will remain open only for a short while.

Chennai Online News 22.11.2000:
Ten Day Sabarimala Festival begins:

Pathanamthitta, Nov 22: The 10-day-long festival at the famed Sabarimala Ayyappa temple began today with 'kodiyettu'.

Preparation for the auspicious event began early this morning, with meticulous cleaning and purification of the sanctum sanctorum and the front courtyard.

At the eastern court, before the lighted traditional lamp, Tantri Kantararu Rajeevaru offered worship to the festival flag. Then the head priest, 'Melsanthi' V P Sambhu Vadyar Nampoothiri carried the flag into the "Sreekovil" (the main temple).

After transferring the divine spirit of Lord Ayyappa into the flag, it was taken in a procession.

"Dhwaja pooja" (flag worship) was conducted by 'tantri' and he hoisted the flag amidst the chanting of "Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa" by thousands of ecstaticdevotees.

The time of "Ucha pooja" was advanced to 1230 hrs. "Sree bhootha Bali" began after "Athazha pooja" to the accompaniment of primordial percussion instrument "pani" invoking "Bhootha ganas".

"Utsava Bali" will commence from Thursday and it will be held on all the festive days after "Ucha pooja" from 1230 hrs to 1350 hrs.

"Ucha Bali Darshan" is scheduled from 1330 hrs to 1400 hrs. "Sreekovil" will remain closed during "Utsava Bali" and devotees will be barred from climbing the 18 sacred steps.

"Pallivetta" falls on November 20. "Arattu" in Holy River Pampa will be held on December 1, marking the end of the Sabarimala Festival. (UNI)

Dinamani 20.11.2000:
Sabarimala Temple Pooja Timings:

Pathanamthitta, Nov. 19th 2000: Given below are the temple pooja timings on account of Mandala Pooja

04.00 am Temple opens
04.05 am Nirmala Dharshan
04.00 am Ghee Abhisekam
04.45 am Ganapathy Homam
07.30 am Morning Pooja
12.00 noon Noon Pooja
01.00 pm Temple closes
05.00 pm Temple opens
06.00 pm Pushpa Abhisekam
10.00 pm Night Pooja
10.30 pm Temple closes

Dinamani 19.11.2000:
Special bus service to Sabarimala:

Pathanamthitta, Nov. 18th 2000: A press release today said that the State Bus Transport Corporation has said it has planned for Sabari Specials from December 1st, 2000 to 16th January 2001 to Pamba, Sabarimala. This facility is availabe from Chennai, Cuddalore, Madurai and Sengottai. Advance Booking is available for Chennai-Pamba route service, from 10 days before the date of journey.

For further details contact: Chennai: 5341835, Madurai: 739754, Sengottai: 33216 Pondicherry: 203464.

Dinamani 18.11.2000:
Ayyappan's Golden Kavasam on exhibit for public:

Pathanamthitta, Nov. 17th 2000: The Golden Kavasam of Lord Ayyappan has been placed on display at the Pandalam Palace for the benefit of the Public. It will be on display till December 26th 2000.

Then after a 4 day break it will be again displayed till 12th January 2001.
The display timings are: 6.30 am to 11.00 am and 3.00 pm to 7.00 pm.

The Hindu 16.11.2000:

The Hindu on indiaserver.com : Sabarimala temple opened

Dinamani 12.11.2000:
423 Special Trains to Sabarimala:

kOCHIN: For the benefit of the Sabarimala devotees 423 special trains has been planned for the comming season said Railways Joint Minister O.Rajagopal.

These trains will be operational from 16 November 2000 to 20 January 2001. These trains are planned from Chennai, Bangalore and Mangalore.

Visit Southern Railways

Advt. by Devaswom Commisioner on 1st November 2000 in 'The Hindu' :

Devotees coming on Pilgrimage to Sabari Mala should strictly follow and observe the special religious practices of the Temple. Only pilgrims with "IRUMUDI KETTU" will be permitted to enter "PATHINETTAM PADI" (Holy eighteen Steps). Women in the age group of 10 to 50 years will no be allowed "Temple Darsan" and they will not be permitted to go beyond Pampa.

In order to prevent environmental pollution using of articles made with plastic and plythere etc., are strictly prohibited in Pampa area and all roads / paths to "Sannidhanam" and surroundings of "Sannidhanam".

Smoking is also strictly prohibited in the above areas.

All pilgrims are humbly requested to co-operate with the Devaswom Board Authorities for the sucessful conduct of the Festival.

1.11.2000: The Hindu on indiaserver.com : Sabarimala roads still in bad condition

18.10.2000: The Hindu on indiaserver.com : Sabarimala Melsanthis selected


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