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Sabarimala; the Ayyappa temple in the forests of Kerala

Updated on January 06, 2017
Ayyappa temple, Sabarimala
Ayyappa temple, Sabarimala | Source
Sri Ayyappa
Sri Ayyappa | Source
Pilgrims of Sabarimala
Pilgrims of Sabarimala | Source

Have you heard of a Hindu temple in Kerala where worship is open to all religions? Most of you would be answering a ‘yes’ uttering Sabarimala as it’s becoming popular day by day. Because of its location on a hilltop amidst dense forests, Sabarimala may seem to be blessed with God’s presence as is told by its significant legend. Open once in a year during Mandala Kala (November-December), Makaravilakku (January 14), Chitra Vishu(April 14) and the first six days of Malayalam month, this Ayyappa temple is being visited by enormous pilgrims for ‘darshan’ from all parts of India.

About Sri Ayyappa

Sabarimala is a Hindu pilgrimage center located in the Western Ghat mountain ranges of Pathanamthitta District, Perunad Grama Panchayat in Kerala. The popular legend surrounding this temple is that the Hindu God Ayyappa did meditation here after killing the cruel demoness, Mahishi. The temple is situated amidst 18 hills at an altitude of 468 m (1535 ft) from sea level with several temples in its proximity. It is reported that Sabarimala is the largest annual pilgrimage in the world with an average of 70 million pilgrims visiting annually.

As Lord Ayyappa was a Brahmachari (celibate) throughout his life, men only are allowed to visit the temple. Young women and ladies are prohibited from entering its premises, though children and old aged are allowed. Men have to follow a strict 41 days penance before visiting Sabarimala. During this period, they should wear blue or black dress and a garland (made of Rudrakha or Tulasi beads), dab Vibhuti (a natural, sacred powder) in their forehead and should not shave. Also they’ve to lead a saintly life depriving all luxury and comforts of this material world.

Sreekovil, Sabarimala
Sreekovil, Sabarimala | Source

Who can visit Sabarimala?

As Lord Ayyappa was a Brahmachari (celibate) throughout his life, men only are allowed to visit the temple. Young women and ladies are prohibited from entering its premises, though children and old aged are allowed. Men have to follow a strict 48 day penance before visiting Sabarimala leading a saintly life.

About Sabarimala pilgrimage

The forest trail to Sabarimala is bothersome and challenging. Vehicle transport is available up to Pampa only. Afterwards, pilgrims have to trek about 5kms up the hills to reach Sannidhanam (temple premises). Pilgrims can bring their offerings, usually ghee, in their Irumudi or Pallikkettu (a cloth bag they carry in their head) to hand over to the priest for doing the significant ritual Neyyabhishekam. This symbolizes the merging of Jeevatma with Parmatma. The Prasadam distributed to the pilgrims from Sabarimala is Aravana and Appam.

In the night, the song Harivarasanam in Sanskrit is recited for the divine sleep. The golden rendition of this verse by the acclaimed singer K.J.Yesudas is played for this.

A pilgrim has to look for the information on present geography and weather reports while visiting Sabarimala. There are several travel packages offered by Kerala Government for those who want to go on a pilgrimage. Kerala becomes flooded with Ayyappa pilgrims during the season of Mandala Kala.

Makarajyothi
Makarajyothi | Source

Makarajyothi

Sabarimala, the serene Ayyappa temple in Kerala surrounded by dense hills and thick forests becomes revered on the day of Makara Sankranti every year. The transition of sun to the next zodiac sign in the constellation Capricorn (Makara) is termed as Makara Sankranti that is celebrated with great zest in Indian culture. After sunset, the star of light (jyothi) that appears in Sabarimala is widely believed as Lord Ayyappa himself who appears to bless his devotees.

The legend behind this belief is that Lord Sriram reached Sabarimala and visited Sabari, an ardent devotee of Sri Rama. When he turned back, he saw a holy man meditating on the hills nearby. It was Sastha (Lord Ayyappa) and Sri Rama walked towards him. Sastha was surprised to see Sri Rama standing beside him and he greeted him stopping his tapas. This day was Makara Sankranti.

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Harivarasanam song played in Sabarimala

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Sabarimala, Kerala, India
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© 2014 Radhika Sreekanth

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    • radhikasree profile image
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      Radhika Sreekanth 2 years ago from Mumbai,India

      Thanks ignugent17 for reading and for giving the comment. You're always welcome. :)

    • profile image

      ignugent17 2 years ago

      Very interesting. Thanks for sharing the information and the pictures. :-)

    • radhikasree profile image
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      Radhika Sreekanth 2 years ago from Mumbai,India

      Thanks Ruby for showing the interest in learning about our culture. I also read many articles on several cultures prevailing around.

    • radhikasree profile image
      Author

      Radhika Sreekanth 2 years ago from Mumbai,India

      Dear Sunil,

      Thanks for adding to the discussion. It's great to hear that our respected PM is going to visit Sabarimala soon. I will read your hub and thanks for notifying me of the correction. It was a typing mistake. May God bless you too!!

    • radhikasree profile image
      Author

      Radhika Sreekanth 2 years ago from Mumbai,India

      Dear srsddn sir,

      Sabarimala is divine because of the female saint 'Sabari' and Lord Ayyappa. So the number of pilgrims would rise up only and thank you for the long comment. Thanks for the votes and share.

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 2 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Radhika,

      Please note that you have written: Men have to follow a strict 48 day penance before visiting Sabarimala leading a saintly life.

      It is 41 days not 48 days. Hope you will correct it.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 2 years ago from Southern Illinois

      Interesting article. I was surprised that women could not attend. The many beliefs around the world is amazing. I enjoy learning about other cultures. Well done.

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 2 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Sabarimala is one of the most busiest temples in India. It is believed that around 5 crore people visit the temple every year. But here the pilgrimage is mainly in the season, that is from Nov. to Jan. Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to visit the temple soon and the temple is going to get National Pilgrimage status anytime after his visit. I too have done a hub on the Sabarimala temple. You have done well and it is the apt time for its publication. Let Lord Ayyappa bless you!

    • srsddn profile image

      srsddn 2 years ago from Dehra Dun, India

      Radhika, India is a land with many faiths and this diversity makes her unique in the world. It is rather surprising that in spite of restrictions imposed for visiting, a record number of pilgrims visit this temple. Its location also seems to be a great charm for meditation. Thank you very much for sharing this unique temple. Voted up, interesting and useful.

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