Hindu pilgrims pray at a mosque in Kerala

Kerala: Cutting across the religious barriers, thousands of Hindu pilgrims held prayers at a mosque on their way to the famous hilltop Sabarimala temple in Kerala.

Devotees on their way to the Sabarimala temple held special prayers, at the shrine dedicated to saint Vavar or Babar, also known as Vavaraswami, a Muslim saint who became a devotee of Lord Ayyappan.

“We visit the Sabarimala temple every year. We make offerings to Lord Ayyapan, only after paying offerings to Vavaraswami. They bless our body, mind and souls,” said Sethu Raman, a Hindu devotee.

The gates of the mosque are thrown open to Hindu pilgrims during the daylong ceremony. Some devotees take a round of the mosque riding on elephants.

Muslims greet Hindu devotees by smearing their faces with ash and sandal paste while the pilgrims offer coconuts at the shrine.

“Erumeli has a special place in the history of the world, because this is an epitome of communal harmony. People believe that Vavaraswami also visits the Sabarimala temple with the devotees,” said Mohammad Yousuf, a Muslim devotee.

Legend has it that Vavar was a warrior who reached the shore of Kerala as a pirate in a ship to loot and plunder. During his encounter with Lord Ayyappan, he was defeated and subdued by the Lord, and since then he became a close associate of the Lord.

Vavar later settled down at Erumeli and breathed his last there. A shrine was later constructed at his tomb.

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