The Ballad of Ayyappā’s People

Ayyappa's followers in the face of abominable state and police action have been rendered powerless.

The Ballad of Ayyappā’s People


I hear the fearful sound

Of barbarians pounding at the gates –

Of Your terrene home, my sacred pilgrimage.

Śāstā! keep us, bless us with Your right hand,

So Your servants may stand guard over this stately shrine.


I know, my Lord, that no vain man

Nor any minion of the conceited king

Can breach the abode that You grace;

Nor can a servant, in his high vanity

Pride himself as the keeper of Thy place.

And yet, O Tamer of the fierce beast!

Duty calls to action a billion scarred souls, who,

Rising from their huts, rushing from the woods,

Marching down the streets and halting their towns,

All gather round the dark hills of good Śabarī

Where once the Blest Prince of Ayodhyā did rest.


Once tigers; and now toothless, disarmed, dimmed –

Your people, rendered powerless by the tyrant’s decree,

Shame of defeat their only crown, garment guilt:

They have failed to let their Swami’s pledge be.


That hour in the Great Cycle has come,

When clarions trumpet the inescapable strife

And with hurried feet the gallant folk reach

The Field of Dharma, Field of Kuru, with patience ripe.


What will they fight with? Their weapons gone;

Gone with it the wisdom of wielding strength too.

Words it is then: sharpened, and carefully chosen,

And with Hope undying, they stick to What Is True.


It is but a saga – to be played in the lyre of betrayal;

A tale of heroic souls who died knowing Death all too well.

Perchance, they thought of glory; but thought mostly of Love –

Transcendent, much abused Love – wherein a realm has dwelt.  


At last the enemy’s here, and I

Am made immobile with a Great Fear.

Ignorance it must be: for Ignorance is Terror,

Which shackles beings with indecision, fills with inertia.

O Slayer of enemies! You who trample playfully

The mighty foe underfoot – prithee, give me Your Ear!

I put my trust on no one – not the scholar’s intellect,

Nor the ruler’s goodwill – but You.

Nowhere do my eyes can find recourse,

O Lord of Śabarī’s Hills! You, are my sole refuge –

And I seek shelter in Thee.


I seek You in failure, I seek You in victory;

Keep me from error, and grant me refuge in Thee.

I’ll brace my ears for the rude banging on the door

I’ll take on my body the deathly blows flung at me.

’Tis not walls they strive to break, ’tis my very being –

And if they succeed, then O Resplendent Lord!

will seek refuge in Thee.

I’ll know no words then, except for the japa:

Śaraṇam Ayyappā, Svāmī śaraṇam Ayyappā

About Author: Sreejit Datta

Sreejit Datta teaches English and Cultural Studies at the Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham University in Mysore. Variously trained in comparative literature, Hindustani music and statistics; Sreejit happens to be an acclaimed vocalist who has been regularly performing across multiple Indian and non-Indian genres. He can be reached at: Email: Blogs:

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