Sabarimala is a Hindu pilgrimage centre located at the Periyar Tiger Reserve in the Western Ghat mountain ranges of Pathanamthitta District, Perunad grama panchayat in Kerala. It is one of the largest annual pilgrimages in the world with an estimated 45-50 million devotees visiting every year. Ayyappan's temple is situated amidst 18 hills. The temple is situated on a hilltop at an altitude of 1260 m (4,133 ft) above mean sea level, and is surrounded by mountains and dense forests. Temples exist in each of the hills surrounding Sabarimala.
Sree Dharma Sastha Temple, Sabarimala
Sabarimala Sree Dharma Sastha Temple, dedicated to Lord Ayyappa, is the most famous and prominent among all the Sastha temples in Kerala. The temple is situated on a hilltop (about 3000 feet above sea level) named Sabarimala in Pathanamthitta district, which is unique in many respects. The uniqueness gathers its voice, as the temple is open to all, irrespective of caste, creed or religion. There is a place near the temple; east to Sannidhanam, dedicated to the Vavar (a sufi and friend of Lord Ayyappa) which is called 'Vavarunada', an epitome of religious harmony. Another interesting fact is that it is not open throughout the year. It is open for worship only during the days of Mandalapooja, Makaravilakku and Chitra Vishu. It is said that the pilgrims have to follow fasting for 41 days to cleanse their minds before going to Sabarimala. The journey to the temple is to be taken through difficult paths in the forest as the vehicles can go only up to Pampa.
Time to Visit:
The temple is open for worship only during the days of Mandalapooja (approximately 15 November to 26 December), Makaravilakku or "Makara Sankranti" (14 January) and Maha Vishuva Sankranti (14 April), and the first five days of each Malayalam month.
Quick interesting facts about the pilgrimage:
- The devotees are expected to follow a Vratham (41-day austerity period) prior to the pilgrimage.
- Pilgrims trek the Neelimala to reach the shrine to worship Lord Ayyapa after observing strict abstinence vows for 41 days.
- Devotees who has taken the vow are supposed to strictly follow the rules that include follow only a lacto-vegetarianism diet, follow celibacy, teetotalism and not use any profanity.
- They have to control the anger, allow the hair and nails to grow without cutting.
- They must try their maximum to help others, and see everything around them as lord Ayyappa.
How to Reach:
- By Air: Nearest airports are Thiruvananthapuram International Airport (170 kilometres (110 mi)) and Cochin International Airport (160 kilometres (99 mi)).
- By Rail: Chengannur (82 km), Kayamkulam Junction (102 km), Sasthamkotta (100 km), Kottayam (120 km) and Kollam Junction (129 km) are some of the closest accessible railway stations from Sabarimala.
- By Road: KSRTC has started bus services to Coimbatore, Palani and Thenkasi from Pampa Besides, the Government of Tamil Nadu & Karnataka have been given the permission to operate buses to Pampa.
Top other attractions to visit:
- Malikkappuram Devi Temple: It is a place where Goddesses Malikapuratha matha is present for the worship. According to the life story of Ayyappa, it has been said that Ayyappa kill Mahishi(who is the devil) then she turn back into a lady (who is sa saint wife in the previous life) and ask Lord Ayyappa to marry her but Ayyappa refused to marry her but she did not listen and pleased him to marry, so so Ayyappa later on gave boon saying that whenever there is no Kanya Swamy visits to my temple then I(Ayyappa) will marry you. This is how the temple have been established over there. Every year and number of Kanya Swamy come and give the Kanne Swamy banam at Sharangutti. So every year the Lord malikapurathamma come on Elephant and count the wooden sticks(banam) and disappoint herself and comes again next year. The temple is part of the journey after you vist ayappa at sabarimala, the temple surrounding are under renovation. It is a mandatory visit when you are visting sabarimalai.
- Vavar Shrine: One who goes to sabarmala for the 1st time needs to go here pray and then proceed. the mosque has grown bigger in the last 15 years and now is very big pilgrmiage center, located on the erumeli road. For any Sabarimala pilgrim, a visit to Vavar shrine is a must. Located opposite to the ayyappan temple at Erumeli, all pilgrims visit the shrine as part of their pilgrimage. Lord ayyappan and vavar were friends and therefore this tradition of visiting vavar mosque. The place can be very crowded especially during the Sabarimala pilgrimage season.