Lake City has a rainbow-like multi-colored horizon due to the rich contribution from different communities. One such community is Keralite Hindus, who celebrate their festivals throughout the year in a highly fascinating manner. However, the most attractive of them is the two-day long Makarvilakku festival that falls on 13th and 14th January. It coincides with three other festivals viz., Makar Sankranti by Hindus, Lohadi by Sikhs and Lal Loi by Sindhis. No wonder Lake City vibrates with festive fervor in mid-January.
Makarvilakku festival is related to Lord Ayyappa and his temple in Sabarimala. As the interesting story goes, Lord Shiva was very pleased with Bhasmasura’s worship and asked him to get any boon of his choice. The latter asked for the ability to burn to ashes anything on which he placed his hands. No sooner had the Lord granted him the boon Bhasmasur ran after the Lord threatening to test the boon on him.
Lord Shiva sought help from Lord Vishnu and hid in a peepal tree as Bhasamsur ran here and then searching for him. Aware of the happenings, Lord Vishnu decided to take the form of enchantress Mohini and try to trap the demon. When Bhasmasur saw Mohini, he was bewitched by her beauty and tried earnestly to court her. Mohini put a condition that he must dance with her. Mesmerized by her beauty, Bhasmasur agreed and began to dance. During the course of dancing, he put his hand on his head as did Mohini on hers. The boon worked and Bhasmasur was reduced to ashes. Lord Vishnu disclosed everything to Shiva who asked if he could have a glimpse of Mohini. When Vishnu appeared in the form of Mohini, the Shiva united with her. The two gods thus became Harihara Murthi. From this union was born Lord Sree Dharma Sastha, a synonym of Lord Ayyappa who took this ‘avatar’ to annihilate Mahishi, the demon.
The newborn, left in the forest was adopted by the childless Raja Pandalam who had come hunting at the spot where the child was left. Named Ayyappa, he grew up as the Raj Kumar. Later on, the Rani conceived and gave birth to a son. However, the king wanted Ayyappa to become the king. In connivance with the minister, the queen sent him to the forest to bring leopard milk to cure her pretended illness. To everyone’s surprise and horror, Ayyappa brought home not just the milk but a whole flock of leopards in case the milk was not adequate. The queen realized her mistake and apologized. Having completed his mission of killing Mahishi, Ayyappa returned to the forest and requested the king to build a temple for him at the place where the arrow shot by him fell. The arrow fell at Sabarimala and a temple was erected there. Ever since believers go on pilgrimage to Sabarimala.
The peak on the high ranges of the Western Ghats in Pathana Mithitta district of Kerala, where the temple of Ayyappa stands is known as Sabarimala. Ayyappa is the presiding deity at Sabarimala. According to Valmiki Ramayana, when wandering in search of Sita, Rama reached this hill he was greeted by Shabiri who lovingly offered fruits to him, each fruit after tasting it herself.
Sabarimala is considered to be the most sacred temple of Ayyappa. The pilgrimage to this temple located in dense forest is very refreshing for body, mind, and soul. Pilgrims have to follow strict discipline for a long period to be eligible for ‘darshan’ in this temple. After a refreshing bath in Pamba River, they set on barefoot walk on a 5 km long hill path. There are some other temples of Ayyappa in Kerala. All the idols of the Lord taken by the devotees wherever they went are from this state. The one brought to Udaipur was kept in the temple in the premises of RSMM but now it has been shifted to the new temple in Shobhagpura. All the rituals in the temple are performed on the lines of those in Sabarimala.
The two- day grand festival of Makarvilakku has been celebrated on Makar Sankranti with great enthusiasm with the fall cooperation of the devotees for over three decades. Elaborate rituals start a day before Makar Sankranti and the temple decorated attractively. In the morning are performed rituals such as ‘abhishek’, Nada Thurakal, Ganpati Homam and Usha and Navaham Pooja. In the evening is there is the annual holy outing of Lord Ayyappa that starts from the temple in New Jyoti Nagar, Shobhagpura and wends its way through CPS school road, Bansi Pan Chouraha, Court Chouraha, Delhi Gate, Shastri Circle, Ashok Nagar, Ayad Puliya, 100 feet road and returns to the temple.
The grand procession is an eagerly awaited event for Udaipurites. It is led by Lord Ayyappa clad in yellow robes riding an elephant. The ‘rath’ is decked with flowers, garland, and flags. It is followed by men and women attired in traditional South Indian dresses. In front walk children holding flags, men carrying colored umbrellas were dancing. Woman with flowers coconuts in ‘thalis’ welcomes the Lord. Artists who come from Kerala are there playing on typical south Indian musical instrument. The fascinating procession is watched with great attention and reverence by passersby. The first day’s program concludes with scintillating fireworks at the temple and some more rituals.
On the Makar Sankranti day, elaborate rituals like Poojas, Homas, and singing are performed throughout the day. A 35 member troupe of artists from Kerala is a special attraction of this year’s celebration.