Sabarimala Shri Ayyappa temple is one of the most ancient and prominent Sastha temples of the country. Despite being located in a remote hilltop in the Western Ghat mountain ranges of Pathanamthitta district of Kerala, the temple attracts almost 3-4 million pilgrims every year. This temple is an epitome of harmony, welcoming people regardless of caste, creed or religion they belong to. However, women who fall under the age bracket of 10 to 50 are restricted from entering the temple compound. Pilgrimage period begins in the month of November and ends in January.
Pilgrims are supposed to undergo an austerity period of 41 days, abstaining from non-vegetarian food and carnal pleasures to learn control over the senses and clean mind. Normally, pilgrims set out in groups under a leader, each carrying a cloth bundle called Irumudi Kettu, containing a coconut filled with ghee, puja materials, rice and banana which will be folded into two halves and carried on one's head. The journey to the temple is not an easy one as vehicles reach only to Pampa. Pilgrims have to climb almost 4-5 kms through dense forest to reach the Sannidhanam. The temple welcomes with the message “THATHWAMASI”, which means “That is you”. Due to this, pilgrims call each other Swami, acknowledging their divinity.
Story Of Origin:
Manikandan, an adopted child of King of Pandalam dynasty, was revealed as a divine power. The Lord further asked the king that he could construct a temple at Sabarimala, where his deity can be installed and further explained what the devotees can attain his ‘darshan’. Then after blessing the King, Lord disappeared in the forest and after that the king built the temple dedicated to Lord Ayyappan.
The city is well connected with the rest of the country with superb road and rail networks.
Nearest Railway Station:
Chengannur railway station, which is located at a distance of about 90 km from Pamba, is the railway station nearest to Sabarimala. Chengannur is en route between Thiruvananthapuram and Kottayam and hence is connected to all other important railheads in India. One can avail taxi services from Chengannur to Pamba.
The nearest airports are the international airports in Cochin and Thiruvananthapuram. Pilgrims reaching Kochi by air will have to travel about 160 km by road and those flying in to Thiruvananthapuram will have to travel about 170 km by road in order to reach the temple.
Best Visiting Time:
November - January
Dress Code To Be Followed At The Temple:
Devotees wear blue, black or saffron-coloured costumes. Devotees abstain from shaving during the 41 days of austerity period and wear a Rudraksha/Tulsi chain. They also wear Vibhuthi/Sandal paste on their forehead.
www.keralatourism.com and www.sabarimala.tdb.org.in