Here, in this small town in Western Kerala, members of two communities have managed, through legend, lore and ritual, to create a shared spiritual and social space and bridged what many claim is an insurmountable divide. The Sabarimala pilgrimage, in the course of about forty days, will bring nearly 50 million pilgrims through this town, and to the Vavar mosque. The seventy kilometre trek from Erumeli to the mountain top shrine of the god Ayyappa at Sabarimala cannot be completed without first paying respects to his friend the Muslim pirate/saint Vavar and asking his permission to proceed.

 

Legend has it that the king of Pandalam said so. And so it is for the millions who pass through here. And they do so despite the attempts of the ‘orthodox’ to stop this unison and reduce a pilgrimage, one that theoretically sees not caste nor creed, into a ‘Hindu’ or a ‘non-Muslim’ one. The fundamentalists have petitioned, complained and attempted to physically stop the pilgrims from their homage to Vavar but to no avail. By the end of forty days as the pilgrimage comes to its climax on around January 14th—in the Hindu month of Markali (December 15th to January 15th) a most inauspicious time, millions will defy the divisions of caste and creed and complete the journey.

 

From the essay The Reality of Legends: The Sabarimala Pilgrimage and The Dance of Faiths by Asim Rafiqui
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