Another important aspect of pilgrimage to Sabarimala is the preparation of the travel kit which is termed irumudi kettu. Only those who observe the 41-day vritham are allowed to carry it and without the irumudi, the devotee cannot climb the pathinettaam padi at the Sannidhanam. The bag is evocative of Lord Ayyappan’s trip to the forest for tigress’ milk; it has twin pockets, the Munmudi (the front portion) and the Pinmudi (the rear pouch), in addition to an opening in the middle. The pooja articles and offerings to Lord Ayyappan are placed in the front bag while the pilgrim’s personal belongings are packed in the rear pouch.
Irumudi binds the worshipper with the worshipped. It is such a strong tie that the devotee and the devoted are no longer two different entities but a single whole. Munmudi comprises Mudra bags, usually 2 or 3 in number, which hold items for vazhipadu (offering) at the Sannidhanam like:Coconut filled with ghee for Abhishekam (also called Neithenga), 2 to 4 coconuts (vidalai thengai), Beetel leaves, beetel nut, coins (kanikkappanam), Jaggery (achuvellam), cashewnuts, raisins, dry ginger, poha (thin & thick variety)Cardamoms, dates, honey, avil ( beaten rice), kadhi chakkar, Dried turmeric, turmeric powder, blouse piece, kumkum, vibhooti, sandal paste Sambarani, camphor, agarbathi (incense stick), rosewater,lemon, rice & dal.The front portion of the Irumudi represents the good acts of the devotee and the rear one his sins.
To prepare the ghee coconut (neithenga) for abhishekam, a medium sized coconut is selected. Its outer shell is cleaned and polished using a polishing paper. A hole is made in one eye of the coconut with a pointed instrument to empty the water inside; the opening is then closed with a cork of appropriate size. It is later, filled with ghee during kettunira. The vidalai thenga are broken at regular intervals during the actual pilgrimage – one each at Erumeli and Sharam Kutti and two upon pathinettam padi (the sacred 18 steps at Sabarimala). The jaggery, cashewnuts, raisins, cardamom, honey and dates are used to make Panchamrutam for the Neivedya; with jaggery, dry ginger and cardamom, another neivedya termed panagam is also prepared.
Articles for the pilgrim’s personal use are kept in the pinmudi; these include items for use from the day of commencement of the journey after Kettunira till return. The second bag contains some snacks and other ingredients such as rice and pulses for food that’s prepared during the journey.It is the Guruswami who prepares the irumudikettu and places it on the head of the devotee. The journey to the Ayyappa temple on Sabarimala is invariably conducted in groups. The traditional route to the shrine covers Erumeli, Kalaketti, Azhutha, Karimala, Pampa and eventually Sabarimala. The Ayyappa swami who ascends the Patinettampadi 18 times plants a coconut sapling on Sabarimala.