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Sri Ayyappa 35th Annual Mandala Pooja at Sri Meenakshi Temple, Houston

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by Venkat Prasad
This year’s 35th Annual Mandala Pooja for Lord Ayyappa at Sri Meenakshi Temple was a very special event.
During MTS Maha Kumbhabhishekam on November 23, 2017, 18 holy steps were consecrated at the Lord Ayyappa sannadhi. The ascending of 18 holy steps by the Ayyappa devotees is extremely sacred act after fasting for 41 days, by adorning tulasi mala with austerity. On Saturday Dec. 23, 2017, there were more than 75 devotees living within and outside Texas participated in this special event and ascended the 18 holy steps. It is believed this (18 holy steps) is the first of its kind among Hindu Temples in the Southwest region of the United States.
While there are quite a few ways of interpreting the 18 holy steps, one of the most common understanding is that first five steps indicate one should control five senses (vision, auditory, smell, taste and touch), next eight steps identify control of values or ashtaragas (love, anger, avarice, lust, pride, unhealthy competition, jealous and ego), next three steps signify gunas (such as Satvika, Rajasika, and Tamasika) and last two steps denote Vidya (Knowledge) and Avidya (Ignornace). After controlling all these 18 aspects of day to day life, one surrenders oneself to the Lord Ayyappa.

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