The Idea of India
Where Muslim Warriors Defend & Protect Hindu Gods, January 10th 2010

At the Sabarimal, Erumeli, Kerala

It is perhaps one of the more unique Hindu pilgrimages in India. Its circuit takes the pilgrims through the domains of two Muslim men – a saint and a warrior, who are considered companions and protectors of the deity Ayyappa.

The shrine to Ayyappa lies at the top of a mountain in Sabarimala, but the pilgrims must pay homage to these two men who are his companions. In particular, they must stop at the mosque of the warrior Vavar in the small town of Erumeli and seek his permission and blessings, before proceeding onwards to Sabarimala.

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The saint is the Sufi Shaikh Fariduddin whose shrine is also on the pilgrimage route. But more about him in a few adys. For the moment it is this mosque that I travel towards, to participate in the Sabarimal pilgrimage that is taking place here now, and has been going on for about 30 days. There are many legends that surround this festival and I will explore these in further writings.

For the moment, I prepare to leave for this small town in Western Kerala, and join a pilgrimage that has managed to, despite opposition from orthodox groups of all leanings, to bring together Muslims and Hindus in legend and in life.

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