1. When is this festival celebrated?
  2. What is the festival related to?
  3. Why did the queen want that Ayyappa should die?
  4. Where from the idol was brought to Udaipur?
  5. What makes the procession grand?

To the rainbow colour horizon of Lake City, different communities keep on adding new hues. One such group is the Keralite Hindus who celebrate their festivals throughout the year in a highly fascinating manner. One of the most attractive of them is the Makarvillu festival on 13th and 14th January. It coincides with the celebration of Makar Sankranti by Hindus, Lohadi by Sikhs and Lal Loi by Sindhis. No wonder, Udaipur vibrates with festive fervor in mid-January.

            Makarvillu festival is associated with Lord Ayyappa and his temple in Sabarimala. It is believed that Lord Shiva was attracted by the Mohini form of Lord Vishnu and as a result Ayyappa was born. The new born, left alone in the forest, was adopted by the childless Raja Pandalam who had come hunting to the spot where the child was left sleeping.  Named Ayyappa, he grew up as the Raj Kumar. Later on, the Rani gave birth to a son. However, the king wanted Ayyappa to become the king after him. In connivance with a minister, the queen sent Ayyappa to the forest to bring leopard milk to cure her pretended illness. To everyone’s surprise and horror, Ayyappa brought not just milk but a whole flock of leopards in case the milk was not enough. The queen realized her mistake and apologized. Ayyappa wanted to return to the forest and requested the king to build a temple at the place where the arrow shot by him fell. The arrow fell at Sabarimala and a temple was erected there. Ever since, believers go on pilgrimage to Sabarimala.

            Wherever Ayyappa temples are built, the idol is taken from Sabarimala. The attractive black stone idol brought to Udaipur was first kept in the temple in the premises of RSMM but now it has been shifted to the new temple in Sobhagpura.

            The devotees seek the Lord’s blessing before starting any new work. In the Udaipur temple the rituals are performed as is done in Sabarimala. For over three decades, the grand festival of Makarvillu has been celebrated with great enthusiasm. Elaborate rituals start a day before Makar Sankranti and the temple is decorated tastefully.

            An eagerly awaited event for Udaipurities, the grand procession in the evening is led by Lord Ayyappa clad in yellow roles riding an elephant. The ‘rath’, chariot, is decked with flowers, garlands and flags. It is followed by men and women attractively dressed in traditional south Indian costumes. Children walk holding flags and men carrying colored umbrellas. Women welcome the Lord with flowers and coconuts in ‘thalis’. Artists who come from Kerala are there playing on typical South Indian musical instruments. The splendid procession wends its way through different parts of the town and at night returns to the temple where it concludes with display of scintillating fireworks. On the way the procession is watched by people with deep reverence. The next day is also very busy as several rituals are performed throughout the day.

            Makarvillu is an annual event that is eagerly awaited by Udaipurities.

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