Monday, 25 April 2011

Paul Patrick: Sabarimala Pilgrimage

Photo © Paul Patrick- All Rights Reserved
Paul Patrick is a Norwegian freelance documentary photographer who started traveling the world alone at very early age. His quest was stories to tell with his camera. Since starting his travels, he has produced stories on Algeria, Burkina Faso, China, Europe, Ghana, India, Nepal and Morocco.

What drew my attention to his website was that one of his galleries is of Sabarimala pilgrimage in Kerala which Paul describes as one of the largest religious festivals in the world, with an estimated 50-60 million pilgrims visiting it every year. It's virtually unknown outside of India.

The Sabarimala pilgrimage is frequently described by the Indian press as the 'Mecca of Hindus'. The temple is dedicated to Ayyappa, who is believed to be Shiva’s third son and brother of Murugan and Ganesha. It is situated on the mountain ranges of the Western Ghats. The temple is accessible only by foot, and the millions of pilgrims to Sabarimala vow to abstain from sex, and other acts, for 41 days before embarking on the pilgrimage. No women over the age of 60 is allowed on this pilgrimage, nor are girls younger than 6. The routes taken by the pilgrims can range in distance between 8 kilometers (the shortest one) and another of more than 60 km across three hills.

Note: I am in the process of scheduling a photo~expedition in March 2012 to document a couple of religious festivals in Kerala (but not Sabarimala though). Details will be forthcoming shortly.

Note: Sreekanth Sivaswamy, a photographer and reader of this blog emailed me a correction. It's women between certain ages (some websites claim it's between 6 and 60, while others it's between 10 and 50) who are not allowed to enter the temple, since the legend attributed to Ayyappa prohibits the entry of the women in the menstrual age group.