Sabarimala, famous pilgrimage destination in Kerala located in the Western Ghat mountain ranges of Kerala in Pathanamthitta District. Lord Ayyappan’s temple is situated here in the midst of 18 hills. The area is in the Sahya ranges of Kerala. The temple is situated on a hilltop at an altitude of 914m/3000 ft above mean sea level, and is surrounded by mountains and dense forests. Sabarimala is believed to be the place where Ayyappan meditated after killing the powerful demon, Mahishi. Sabarimala is the most important pilgrim site of Hinduism in this miniscule South Indian state is Sabarimala.
Sabarimala is one of the most visited piligrim centres in the world with an estimated 4.5 – 5 crores devotees coming every year, increment rate is more than lakhs per year. The world’s second largest annual pilgrimage (after Hajj in Mecca) is reported to be to Sabarimala. The shrine gets thronged with devotees especially during the main pilgrim season from November to January.
Mandalapooja on November 17th and Makaravilakku on January 14th are the two main events of the pilgrim season. The temple keep closed during the rest of the year except for the first five days of every Malayalam month and during Vishu (April).
Legend has it that the temple at Sabarimala was built by Parasurama, the warrior-sage who reclaimed the Land of Kerala from the sea. It is one of the five “panchashastha” temples erected by the powerful yogi to protect Kerala from destructive elements, the others being Kulathuppuzha, Aryankavu, Achankovil and Erumeli. At Kulathuppuzha, the Lord is worshipped as an infant boy, at Aryankavu as an adolescent on the verge of matrimony and at Achankovil, he is depicted as a “grihasthashrami” with his wives, Poorna and Pushkala.
The pilgrims undergo 41 days of fast to cleanse the mind. He carries on his head, the holy ghee for the Lord’s Abisheka filled in coconut in “Irumudi” (two compartment cloth bag). The temple is open only to males and menopaused females (beyond 50 years of age) and little girls below 10 years of age. This is because the Lord is a chaste yogi in Sabarimala. The male pilgrims are called ‘Ayyappan’ and the female pilgrims are called ‘Malikappuram’.