Swamithope Pathi, Kanyakumari
Swamithope Pathi is the primary Pathi of the Ayyavazhi, the head of all Worship centers of Ayyavazhi, and the sacred venue of the Thavam. This Pathi is also called as Manavai-Pathi or Thamarai-Pathi. Swamithope Pathi is the headquarters of the five pathis of Ayyavazhi, and its geographical focal point. Swamithope Pathi, is located in the town of Swamithope, which lies southeast of the City of Nagercoil, the headquarters (capital) of the District of Kanyakumari in the State of Tamilnadu at the extreme southern tip of India. Religiously Swamithope is considered primary among the Pancha Pathi and the primary centre of the incarnational activities of Vaikundar.
According to Ayyavazhi legends, Ayya Vaikundar, an incarnation of Lord Narayana, carried out his Thavam at Poovantanthoppe, attracting many followers from across India. On his pass-away Ayya Vaikundar was believed to be interred there, and the square-shaped 'Pathi' was constructed enveloping him. The holy book Akilathirattu Ammanai of Ayyavazhi refers to the temple as "Thoppuppathi". As per Akilam, Ayya Vaikundar incarnated from the Sea, and after providing rules and regulations to God-heads, came to Detchanam (Swamithope) and performed Thavam for six years in the place which was now known as Vada-va-mugam in Swamithope. Then when the Kalineesan came to arrest him he went once again into the sea at Muttappathi and after that (in Tamil called the Vinchai), he returned Swamithope, from where he was arrested.
Then after his trial he was carried in a Vahana by his devotees to Swamithope where he incinerated the evil spirits and unified the Seven Virgins with himself. Then after the marriage with the deities in Ambalappathi he returned to Swamithope. According to Akilathirattu Ammanai, Swamithope is the only place Narayana (Vaikundar) slept after the incarnation. Then he send 700 families to Thuvayal Thavasu to Vakaippathi and organised festivals and celebrations. And after all the Avathara Ekanais he attained Vaikundam and his physical body was interred in the place which is now the Palliyarai of Swamithope.
The Palliyarai contains two oil lamps (kuthuvilakku), an elunetru, and a large mirror. On a raised pedestal, covered with Kavi cloth, the temple also preserves some articles believed to have been used by Ayya Vaikundar, including a rattan cane (perampu) and a pair of wooden sandals. The Palliyarai is surrounded by inner corridors. There is a fifty-five feet tall Flag mast at a distance of 50 feet from Palliyarai. And in north of flag mast there is a Unpanpurai. Here, they cook the food and distribute it to the devotees.
There is a common well some 300 meters from the main Pathi. Akilathirattu Ammanai states that all the eighteen castes take baths from that well. It was considered sacred to bathe in and to drink the water from that well. Then there found a Paal Kinaru, in the extreme east, Vatakku Vasal in the north and Sivaye Medai, which is also called Karuda Medai in the west of Palliyarai. Then all these were surrounded by outer corridors. There is a bell tower above the spot where Vaikundar performed the Thavam.
The main celebration of Swamithope includes Kodiyettru Thirunal, which was celebrated thrice in a year during the Tamil months of Vaikasi, Aavani, Thai. It starts with Kodiyettru (flag hoisting) and ends on the eleventh day with Car procession. People from different parts of Tamil Nadu and Kerala take part in this festival.
Thiru Eadu Vasippu:
Then the Thiru Eadu Vasippu, the Seventeen-day festival, in which the whole contents of Akilathirattu where read melodiously. It was celebrated during the Tamil month of Karthigai, the month at which it was written by Hari Gopalan Siddhar.
As per the instructions in Akilam, the Swamithope Pathi conducts daily festival (i.e.) every day is considered as a festival day. So, the ritual practices conducted during festival days are conducted here throughout the year, though not in a grand scale as during the other festivals. The daily Panividai starts very early in the morning. Every day, around 3:00 A.M the Payyans and the people staying at the temple go to Muthirikkinaru and take a holy bath. Then, they return to the Pathi and start the Panividai. The Payyan chant Ukappatippu, and the devotees repeat it. Then, they open the door of sanctum sanctorum. It is considered sanctifying to witness this scene with the sounding of a dozen temple bells and conch. Then, there is the Vahana pavani.
Vahana pavani comes around the temple and along the four car streets, first through the Santhana Veethi and then through Ratha Veethi. The Nithiyapal is prepared daily and offered to Ayya Vaikundar ritually. It was the only food Ayya believed to be ate when in human form at Swamithoppe. This offering is done daily. The descendants of Podukutty, the first Pattathu Ayya of Payyan dynasty, prepare this daily at the Pathi. Thavanaipal, a gruel prepared with rice and green gram, is distributed to the devotees. The Noon Panividai starts around 11 O’ clock. Daily Ucchipatippu is chanted. The devotees will repeat it and Thavanaipal is distributed to the devotees. One Sundays, large number of people from far and near come over here to participate in the Ucchipatippu.
In the evening, Panividai starts around 5 O’ clock. The door of the sanctum sanctorum is opened amidst the sound of the temple bells and Conch. Then, the Payyan would chant Ukappatippu. Those followers who congregate for the evening Panividai would repeat this. Then, there will be vaahana Panividai. The Vahana is taken around the temple as well as the four car streets. After this, there will be Annadharmam. This is the daily routine of Swamithope Pathi. One can have a worship at any time of the day in this temple.
Ayya Vaikunda Avatharam:
The most important festival is Ayya Vaikunda Avatharam, the day at which Ayya Vaikundar incarnated from the sea at Tiruchendur. Though many worship centers including other Pathis conduct celebrations during this festival, it is considered sacred to visit Swamithope on this day. So, on this day Swamithope will get populated with the nationwide Ayyavazhi followers. This is the largest festival conducted in Swamithope Pathi. Several processions were held on that day which starts from different places including Thiruchendur and Thiruvananthapuram and ends at Swamithope.
This Pathi lies northern most to all other Pathis within Pancha Pathi. Swamithope Pathi is located at about 14 Kms from Nagercoil, 10 Kms from Kanyakumari, 7 Kms from Suchindrum, 35 Kms from Colachel and 96 Kms from Thiruvananthapuram. Kanyakumari Railway Station (10 Kms) is the nearest Railway Station and Thiruvananthapuram is the nearest International Airport. Town buses are available to Swamithope from Nagercoil and Kanyakumari.