Wearing Of Garland
As the preliminary ritual of the pilgrimage, the aspirant wears a beaded garland usually of Thulasi or Rudraksha as a symbol. Most of the devotees wear the garland from the first day of Vrischikam. Wearing the garland on a Saturday or on the day of asterism of Uthram, just prior to the first day of Vrischikam is considered auspicious, for Dharma Sastha came into being on first Vrischikam on a Saturday, the asterism being Uthram. The occurrence of these three features on the same day is a rare phenomenon. Therefore anyone of the three is chosen. As a rule, the garland is received from Guruswami, the one who has been privileged to be in the holy presence (Sannidhanmn) of the Lord repeatedly on several occasions. Ordinarily, the ritual is conducted in the precincts of a temple or any other such sacred place. From the moment the garland falls round his neck, the aspirant reposes complete faith in Ayyappa and he identifies himself with the Lord. He surrenders his thoughts, words and deeds to the powerful deity. He begins to lead the life of an ascetic which entails the observance of rigorous austerities. Taking bath in the pre-dawn hours, smearing forehead, chest, arms, legs etc. with Bibhoothi and sandal paste followed by meditation and singing songs of prows of Ayyappa become his daily routine of life. Celibacy, restriction of food confined to vegetable dishes and fruits, abstinence from intoxicants etc. must strictly be adhered to. No shaving is admissible. It is a common practice for the aspirants to congregate in a common place at dawn and dusk and worship the Lord singing Bhajans in chorus, very often to the accompaniments of musical instruments. Singing in group helps shedding inhibitions. Such congregations go along towards developing a feeling of oneness and cohesion and sense of equality.