Located in South India, Sabarimala is a popular religious site that was the former abode of Lord Ayyappa and attracts thousands of devotees from all over the world seeking blessings – for some, it is their first visit, while others have made multiple pilgrimages.
History of Sabarimala
Sabarimala has a fascinating mythological history. The King of Pandalam, who had no children of his own, discovered a blessed infant during one of his visits to the forest. They named the child Manikandan, which means ‘the one with a bell around his neck.’ As per the mythological tale, the blessed infant born to King Rajashekhara Perumal was a result of the union between Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva.
Manikandan grew older and had many remarkable accomplishments, including defeating the demon woman, Mahisha, who was causing chaos. Despite his achievements, Manikandan faced jealousy from the queen and ministers due to his extraordinary growth. In a devious plot, they attempted to send him away permanently by pretending that the queen was gravely ill and suggesting that the tiger’s milk was the only cure.
Manikandan proceeded to Erumeli to defeat Mahishi, which was his true purpose of birth. Upon his successful victory, he requested his father to build a temple at the spot where his arrow had struck, and thus, the Sabarimala temple was constructed. Lord Ayyappa is commonly known as ‘the one with the bell around his neck.’
The Sabarimala Temple Locations
The Sabarimala temple stands at an altitude of roughly 1547 feet above sea level in the Pathanamthitta district of Kerala. The Poonakavanam area houses the temple, which is surrounded by 18 mountains, each with its distinct name.
The temple of Lord Ayyappa is located on the Sabarimala mountain. The sacred river Pamba, which is considered one of the holiest rivers in India, originates from these mountains. Devotees of Lord Ayyappa traditionally take a dip in the river before going in for their darshan at the temple.
Sabarimala Temple Rituals
Every year, devotees of Lord Ayyappa embark on a pilgrimage to climb the 18 sacred steps leading to the temple. This pilgrimage involves undergoing rigorous penance, where devotees concentrate on chanting the Lord’s name throughout the penance period. They must also observe strict fasting and follow the rules of the “Vrutham”.
Devotees trek through dense forests, mountains, and rivers carrying their “Irumudikkettu” or bag of sins on their head, trusting the divine to guide them. They reach the sacred 18 steps dressed in black, chanting the Lord’s name, and calling themselves “Ayyappans” to receive his divine blessings.
Sabarimala is open to all religions, but women aged 9 to 60 are not allowed to enter the temple premises.
The main rituals are
- Throughout the entire period of fasting until the end of the pilgrimage, the devotees must wear the blessed chain and black attire, observe strict penance, carry the “Irumudikkettu”, and bathe in the River Pampa.
- As part of their pilgrimage, the devotees must follow strict penance and Vrutham, and bring the Thiruvabharanam from the Pandalam palace in a procession led by representatives of both the palace and the devotees.
- During the pilgrimage, the devotees also pay obeisance at the Erumeli Sree Dharma Shastha Temple and the shrine of Malikappurathama, which are located just 100 meters away from the Sannidhanam.
- The climax of the pilgrimage is the climb up the 18 steps, also known as the “Pathinettampadi”.
- Once the pilgrimage is completed, the devotees return home and remove the “Irumudikkettu” and the chain, which marks the end of the rituals.
Ayyappa pilgrims start their 41-day fast by wearing a Rudrakshamala or Tulasi mala with a locket of Lord Ayyappan after a pooja at the temple. They dip in the River Pamba to wash away sins before chanting “Swamiye… Saranamayyappa” and ascending the 18 steps, which symbolize different aspects of human nature. Climbing the steps signifies the devotees’ journey towards self-realization.Season to Visit Sabarimala Temple
Sabarimala’s significant day is Makara Sankranti, falling on January 14th annually. The penance begins on Vrichikam 1, or November 15th, and after completing the 41-day fast, pilgrims visit the temple during the November to January pilgrimage season, Mandalakala. Sabarimala Q (Sabarimala virtual queue), a Sabarimala online booking system, helps manage the peak season’s high volume of visitors, avoiding long waiting times. Pilgrims who are looking for Sabarimala online booking 2022 to 2023 can use Sabarima Temples official website for booking. The famous Makaravilakku festival occurs every January, attracting millions of devotees worldwide.
Locations near Sabarimala Temple
The Ayyappa devotees continuously chant the name of the lord during their journey, and their chanting gains momentum as they approach the temple. Notable places near the temple include:
- Erumeli Sree Dharma Shastha Temple, where it is believed that Lord Ayyappa killed the demon Mahisha.
- Kalaketty Siva-Parvathy temple, where Lord Shiva tied his bull while visiting his son after the Mahishi’s killing.
- Malikappurathamma houses the shrine of Malanada Bhagavathi, where the goddess anticipates her perpetual union with Lord Ayyappa. He pledged to marry her in a year when there are no “Kanni Ayyappans” (first-time visitors to the temple).
- After his defeat by Lord Ayyappa at the shrines of Vavaruswami in Erumeli and Sabarimala, Vavaru, a Muslim, became Lord Ayyappa’s closest confidant.
We trust that this article has provided insights into the history and importance of Sabarimala. It is indeed an enchanting destination for the ardent traveler!
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How to reach Sabarimala, the hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa
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