Sabarimala Ayyappan Temple
Best known pilgrimage in Kerala is Sabarimala,high up in the Sahyadri Mountains.
Sabarimala Sri Dharmasastha Temple is most famous and prominent among all Sastha Temples.
The pilgrimage begins in the month of November and ends in January. The temple attracts pilgrims not only from the southern states of India, but also from other parts of the country and abroad.
Pilgrims set out in groups under a leader, and each carry a cloth bundle called Irumudi kettu containing traditional offerings. Unlike certain Hindu temples, Sabarimala temple has no restrictions of caste or creed.
The temple is open to males of all age groups and to women who have either passed their fertility age and those before reaching the stage of puberty.
The pilgrimage to Sabarimala starts after severe Viratham (fast) for about 41 days. On the day of departure, pilgrims have the ritual of “Irumudi Kattu” or “Kattu Nirai” in which they accept the Irumudi (a bag with 2 portions) from their Guru. The front portion of the Irumudi consists of the ghee filled inside a 3 eyed coconut. The back portion contains eatables or provisions for consumption during the rigorous trek.
Pilgrims with much devotion carry the Irumudi received from their Guru and leave their homes. While leaving their home, pilgrims neither even bid good bye to their folks nor look back, as it’s believed that once started to Sabarimalai they are in the hands of the Lord Himself. So, one can’t inform his folks that he would be back. They are at the discretion of the Lord which depends on the sincerity of their devotion to God. In Sabarimala pilgrimage, Guru is the supreme of all and pilgrims strictly follow their Guruswamy's instructions throughout their fasting till they reach back home.
The traditional route to Sabarimala by walk starts at Erumeli. This place got its name from Mahishi who was in the form of Eruma (bull), killed by Lord Ayyappan in this forest. Erumeli can be reached by road from Chengannur or Kottayam, which are well connected by trains.
Pilgrims after reaching Erumeli perform a traditional ritual called Pettai Thullal. Pettai means area and Thullal means Dance. Pilgrims disguise themselves like tribes, with leaves tied on their head applying color powders all over. Dummy weapons like Swords, Bows etc, are carried on their shoulders. They also hire music accompaniments like Dhavil or Chenda Melam and Nadhaswaram with them, chant “Swami Thinthakkathom – Ayyappa Thinthakkathom” and dance along the way for about half a kilometer stretch.
This is celebrated to mark the victory of Lord Ayyappan over Mahishi. Also this enables the pilgrims to give up their ego and realize that everyone is the equal in front of Lord Ayyappan. After this, pilgrims take bath in the nearby pond; get fresh and all set for the Peruvazhi trek. A refreshing bath in cold waters after a tiring dance makes one energetic and prepared for the rigorous walk. There is a Dharma Saastha temple at Erumeli. Pilgrims gather here at, worship Saastha and then proceed to walk with Irumudi on their head.
Location : Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple, Erumeli, Pathanamthitta, Kerala, India.
Gods : Lord Parasurama
Landmark : By Rail The pilgrims can reach Kottayam & Chengannur by Rail and from there by road to Pampa. By Air The pilgrims can reach Thiruvananthapuram or Nedumbassery by Air and from there by rail/road to Pampa. By Road KSRTC has started operating buses to Coimbatore, Palani and Thenkasi from Pampa for the convenience of the Sabarimala pilgrims. Besides, the Government of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka has been given the permission to operate buses to Pampa. A chain service exists between Pampa and Nilackal base camps.
The pilgrimage season in Sabarimala commences from November 14 and extends to January 19 till Makara Vilakku. During this period, millions of Ayyappa aspirants converge on the tiny temple complex from all over India. Also the temple is open for brief spells during certain Malayali festivals like Onam and Vishu. All through the year, monthly poojas are offered at Sabarimala, usually during the first of week of every Malayalam month (which actually falls in the middle of each English month); the shrine is open for the first five days of every month.
Girls who have not yet attained puberty and elderly women who have reached menopause are allowed entry into the temple. Men are expected to walk barefoot, sleep on the floor with their hair and nails uncut and refrain from self-indulgence during their 41-day vritham and journey to Sabarimala.
The most important festival at the Ayyapppa temple on Sabarimala is Makara Vilakku. It is a seven-day festival, beginning on the day of Makara Sankranthi, the day when the sun is in summer solstice. According to legend, the idol of Dharma Shastha was enshrined in the temple on this day. The annual festivities of Makara Vilakku commemorate this sacred event.
The jewellery to adorn the idol during the celebrations is brought from Pandalam Palace in a ceremonial procession that starts from Valiya Koyikkal Sastha Temple at Pandalam, three days prior to Makara Sankranthi. The boxes containing the sacred jewels are borne by an oracle; the procession reaches Sabaripeettam in the evening on Makara Sankranthi and is led to the Sannidhanam to the accompaniment of lights and music. Incidentally, a kite appears in the sky at this very moment and hovers around the boxes, as if to safeguard the precious cache comprising a diamond diadem, gold bracelets and necklaces embedded with precious gems, Lord's swords, silver arrows and images of elephant, horse and leopard fashioned out of gold.
Another highlight of this festival is the appearance of Makarajyothi that leaves an indelible impression on the millions who view it. The poojas and rituals associated with Makara Vilakku are performed on the Manimandapam (sacred platform) adjacent to the Devi's shrine. A picture depicting Lord Ayyappan on the back of a tiger is placed on the podium.
Afterwards, Malikappurathamma is mounted on an elephant's back and taken in a procession of torch bearers, drummers and buglers to Pathinettampadi (18 holy steps). The procession stops abruptly as the Vettavili (call for hunting) is given out and returns, circumambulating the main temple. Makara Vilakku ends with the ritual called 'Guruthi', offering made to appease the god and goddesses of the wilderness. None remains within the temple and its precincts after the 'Guruthi'.
Other important festivals celebrated at the temple include Onam, Mandalapooja and Vishu Vilakku.
One of the special offerings to this deity is ‘Ganapathi homam’.
Other offerings presented include betel leaves, turmeric powder, silk cloth, saffron and money. Kanikka, gun shots and lighted lamps are the offered by the worshipper to propitiate Malanada Bhagavathi.
Before ascending or descending the steps, pilgrims break coconut as an offering to the steps.
Following are list of some offerings:
Thanka Anki Charthu
Velli Anki Charthu