Friday, January 26, 2007

Erumeli, Symbol of Secularism in India

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Erumeli is a place in South India where a temple and a mosque form an integral part of one's pilgrimage. It is situated 40 km away from the holy Hindu shrine of Sabarimala. No pilgrimage to Sabarimala is considered complete without a visit to this mosque devoted to Vavar, a Muslim friend of Lord Ayyappa. This year too, the doors of the mosque were open to all.

Taking the place of Hindu & Muslim God, in Erumeli is Lord Ayyapa and Vaver who according to mythology had been the best of friends. The Hindu God is said to have visited Vaver enroute to Sabarimala. Their friendship was so thick that Vaver, a staunch Muslim king is now known as Vaver Swamy and for all those going to sabarimala, a stop at the mosque is a must.

So Ayyapa devotees queue up at the mosque every day once the season starts and get vibhuthi from there – especially the `kanni ayyapans' or the first-timers for whom this is significant.

And the Muslims in Erumali are more than happy to receive their Hindu counterparts with open arms – something they have been doing for years now.

'Vaver and Ayappa met here and became friends. Today we celebrate that rare bonding here and all these customs you see here had been going on for so many years so much so that this mosque is now an integral part of Sabarimala pilgrimage and we Muslims are more than happy to have Hindus in our mosque,' said Erumeli Vaver Mosque President Abdul Sallam.

Devotees also perform the Pettah Thullal, a customary dance which celebrates the killing of a demon by Lord Ayappa with the help of his friend Vaver.

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