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Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple, Kerala, South India- A Unique Hindu Shrine in the World

Updated on March 17, 2017
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Travel, especially the pilgrimage are the great pleasure for Sunil Kunnoth. He loves to wander with his spiritual sojourns.

Swami Ayyappa
Swami Ayyappa | Source

  • 41 days’ harsh penance or ‘vratha’
  • Abstain from non-vegetarianfood
  • No alcohol
  • No smoking, tobacco
  • No sharing of bed with spouse, leave alone sex
  • No haircut, shaving or any kind of facial makeups
  • Daily two bath, one in the early morning and one in the evening
  • Wearing only black or blue clothing
  • Avoid Chappals/foot wears (so as to practice walk barefoot for 5 km long difficult trekking to the temple later)
  • No film watching
  • Visiting nearby temples at least once in a day, if twice not possible
  • Give food and alms to neighbors and ‘Swamees’ (Ayyappa Devotees)
  • Wear a Mala ( a garland made of ‘Rudraksha’ or Tulsi beads) till the pilgrim is completed
  • Smearing ‘Vibhuti’ (Vermilion or ‘Bhasma’) or sandal paste on the forehead.
  • Use only good language; avoid quarrels and bad company
  • Avoid rice and rice foods as far as possible at evening
  • No admission for women between the age of 10 and 50 (women in the menstrual age group strictly prohibited).

Too strict, too rigorous and too tough.

An Ayyappa Devotee
An Ayyappa Devotee

A Local TV Report on Foreigners' Arrival at Sabarimala Temple

Are you ready to observe all these strict disciplinarian regime at least for a few weeks? Then you are eligible for the pilgrimage to Sabarimala Ayyappan Temple in Kerala, South India. Your eligibility is still at stake (even after the observance of all these stringent practices) unless you carry an ‘Irumudikettu’ on your head or shoulder. Without ‘irumudikettu’, you can reach up to the starting point of the holy 18 steps. But to climb the most sacred 18 steps, you need to carry the cloth bundle known as ‘Irumudikettu’, which carries the worship (pooja) materials such as coconut, ghee, flowers, camphor, etc.

No temple in the world demands such a harshest penance prior to pilgrim as Sabarimala does. Yet, each year the number of pilgrims shows only increasing trend. It is the largest annual pilgrimage in the world. Sabarimala also holds the record of receiving the largest pilgrims during a particular season.

The temple is mainly opened for worship during ‘Mandala pooja’ season from November 15 to December 26 (there may be a slight deviation of one or two days). This time it started on the 16th November and ends on December 26, 2013. The lion share of the pilgrims reaches Sabarimala during the above season. The temple also opens for ‘Vishu’ (another great festival of Hindus of Kerala) and the first six days of each Malayalam month.

Irumudi Kettu Nira (Ritual Preparation) for Sabarimala Pilgrimage


The temple is situated on the Western Ghats mountain range of Pathanamthitta district of Kerala. The neighboring districts are Kottayam, Idukki, Alappuzha, and Kollam. The district has a border with Tamil Nadu. This shrine stands amidst dense forest.

How to Reach

Rail : Chengannur (82 km) and Kottayam (120 km)

Road: KSRTC (Kerala State Road Transport Corporation) operates adequate services from every major town of Kerala and neighboring states.

Nearest Airport – Thiruvananthapuram International Airport (170 km) and Nedumbassery (Kochi) International Airport (160 km).

Significance of The Temple on the Indian Religious Hubs

Though it is a Hindu temple, Sabarimala welcomes people of all faiths. Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and all other religious people can make pilgrim to this universal shrine provided they carry an ‘Irumudikettu’ on their head/shoulder. Before entering the temple, every pilgrim pays a visit to the nearby Vavar Palli (mosque). The Muslim priests welcome the ‘Swamees’ (devotees) and bless them. Only after praying at the Mosque, the pilgrims resume their journey. Vavar, a Muslim, was a close associate of Ayyappa. Thus, the Sabarimala temple is a shining temple for communal harmony. Interestingly, most of the traders doing business here are Muslims and Christians.

K.J. Yesudas, the famous play back singer in South India is an ardent devotee of Lord Ayyappa and a regular visitor of the temple. The ‘Harivarasanam’ (a religious song) sung by him is being played here every day at the time of closure of the temple.

Though the major chunk of pilgrims is from the South India, now people from North India and other countries too visit the shrine. Germans, Russians and citizens of Nepal, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia, USA and UK too visit the temple despite its hardest religious observance of rules. It is a general trend that once you visit this temple, you are tempted to make a repeated visit. The devotees are never tired of this tedious journey as they are very much blessed by the Lord Ayyappa. Sabarimala, a Temple in the thick forest of Kerala is slowly but steadily becomes an international pilgrim center being visited by all religious people. Religious tolerance, communal harmony, and rigorous penance are what make the shrine a unique one in the world.

Swamiye Saranamayyappa!

Google Map of Sabarimala, Kerala

show route and directions
A markerSabarimala Ayyappa Temple -
Sree Dharma Sastha Temple, Periyar Tiger Reserve, Sannidhanam, Sabarimala, Kerala 689713, India
get directions

B markerPamba River, Sabarimala -
Pamba, Periyar Tiger Reserve, Mlappara, Kerala
get directions


(NSD Code : 04735)



Motor Vehicle

094000 44991/095390 10261

Executive Officer


094474 63291

Devaswom Information


Admn. Officer-Sabarimala


Admn. Officer-Pampa




Guest House-Sabarimala


Guest House-Pampa


Railway Booking Office-Pampa


Police Control Room-Sabarimala


Police Station-Sabarimala


Police Station-Pampa


KSRTC (Bus Service)


Petrol Pump (Fuel Station)


Hospital-Sabarimala (Govt.)


Hospital-Pamba (Govt.)


Cardiology Centre-Appachimedu


Cardiology Centre-Sahas


Cardiology Centre-Neelimala


Press (Malayala Manorama)


Have you ever been to Sabarimala?

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© 2013 Sunil Kumar Kunnoth


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    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 4 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)

      Hi DDE

      Thank you very much for stopping by and leaving some encouraging comments. It is nice to note that you enjoy reading this article on yet another great temple in India. Enjoy the day.

    • sunilkunnoth2012 profile image

      Sunil Kumar Kunnoth 4 years ago from Calicut (Kozhikode, South India)


      Thanks for your comments. Glad to know your liked it.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Informative, useful and so interesting on Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple, Kerala, South India- A Unique Hindu Shrine in the World such an enjoyable read to learn more about another temple of India.

    • thumbi7 profile image

      JR Krishna 4 years ago from India

      Nice Hub.

      Pinned Lord Ayyappa's picture

      Thanks for sharing