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What is the significance of 18 holy steps - Lord Ayyappa?

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What is the significance of 18 holy steps - Lord Ayyappa?

Symbolism of the 18 steps?

Those who carry the irumudi on their head are only allowed to use the 18 holy steps.

steps 1 - 5: symbolize the five human senses(Panchendriyas - signify the `mortal’ nature of one’s body) - vision, hearing, smell, taste n touch.

steps 6 - 13: symbolize the eight ashtaragas - Kama, Krodha, Lobha, Moha, Madha, Maltsarya, Asooya n Dhumb. (Love, Anger, Avarice, Lust, Pride, Unhealthy Competition, Jealousy and Boastfulness).

steps 14 - 16: symbolize for three gunas; nature born qualities
i.e. Satva,( perspicuity, discernment) , Rajas(activity, enjoyment) and Thamas(inactivity, stupor).

steps 17 - 18: symbolize vidya (Knowledge) and avidya (Ignorance).

Why 18 steps?

The steps represent the 18 hills existing in and around the region of Sabarimala. Ponnambalamedu, Gowdenmala, Nagamala, Sundaramala, Chittambalamala, Khalgimala, Mathangamala, yladummala, Sreepadamala, Devarmala, Nilakkalmala, Thalapparamala, Neelimala, Karimala, Puthuserrymala,
Kalakettimala, Inchipparamala and Sabarimala.

Could be derived from epics-

Eighteen is considered as the code number to break into the soul of the Nature. The significance of 18 can be traced back to the Vedic age. The first Veda, believed to be protected by Lord Brahma himself, had 18 chapters. Later, Veda Vyasa divided it to create the four vedas: Rigveda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharava Veda. Each of these vedas had 18 chapters.Veda Vyasa also wrote 18 puranas and 18 upa-puranas. The Bhagavad Gita has 18 chapters and the Kurukshetra war lasted 18 days.

What is
Irumudi & it is used for?

Basically it means 2(iru) compartments,

- Munmudi(front) meant for Pooja articles

- Pinmudi(back) for journey requisites.

Significance of ghee-filled coconut?

Symbolically, the ‘ghee’ in the coconut represents the ‘soul.’ And the human body is represented by the coconut. After the arduous trek, when a devotee stands face to face with Lord Ayyappa – the ghee poured on the Lord symbolically represents the merging of the individual soul with the universal soul or the ‘Jivatma’ with ‘Paramatma.’
Finally, the empty coconut, which represents the body, is consumed by the fire in the ‘homakundam.’

Why 40 + 1 days of vratham?

Since the human form is the last form to get this enlightenment, 40 days spiritual discipline is undertaken to remind us the 40 weeks we were in mother's womb and the finally on the 41st day we take the final journey to Sabarimala. This knowledge of the Self requires help of a guru and so Ayyappa Vratham should be initiated with a Guru. The Guru initiates the practice by putting a Tulsi mala (108 beads that represents the mathematical rhythm of nature).

Why do we wear black or blue dress?

Wearing black clothes is the traditional dress to indicate total with-drawl of mind and total absorption into the "Self" or "Atma". (Objects are black due to complete absorption of color spectra). Blue color is the color of illusion like the blue sky or blue ocean. To remind us the maya (illusion) of this mind, blue color is worn.

Why not to cut nails, shave not cut hair?

It is a great practice to give up the thought that we are not this body that is born and dead, but the immortal Consciousness principle, Brahman. Importance is not given to physical comforts of body and so no shaving, no nail cutting, no wearing shoes etc is done so that it helps the mind to transcend from the body sense to the awareness state and finally to consciousness state.

Analytical Spider: What is the significance of 18 holy steps @ Lord Ayyappa?
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