Sabarimala Sri Dharma Sanstha Temple is the most pious and sacred temple of Kerala. Situated at an altitude of 914 m above the sea level, it is dedicated to Lord Ayyappa who is believed to be the union of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. According to local beliefs, Lord Parasurama enshrined the deity at the foot of Sabari hills whose reference is also found in Ramayana.
Lord Ayyappa brings together the Shaivite and Vaishnavite branches of Hinduism. Lord Ayyappa is also known as Dharma Shasta. Some scholars believe that it means Lord Buddha. There is no evidence that Lord Buddha ever visited Kerala and therefore this theory is challenged.
Sabarimala Temple Tour is strenuous and passes through the thick forests of the Sahyadri Mountains. It takes 3 days from the base of the hill to reach the temple. People visiting Sabarimala during the festival are supposed to observe strict self-discipline while on pilgrimage. A majority of the pilgrims are men who have to observe fast for forty days, celibacy, growing a beard and daily prayer rituals. Young girls women also undertake the pilgrimage trip to Sabarimala. The most auspicious day of the Sabarimala Pilgrimage is the Makara Vilakku Day somewhere around January 14th every year. Thousands of pilgrims pay their visit to the Sabarimala Temple to seek the blessings of Lord Ayyappa. One also gets the view of Makara Vilakku from Sabarimala Temple. It is a light that is visible on a nearby hill and is believed to be an indication of the presence of the divine.
On Sabarimala Temple Tour, you will witness the fine instance of religious tolerance and communal harmony. Near the Sabarimala Temple is the shrine of Vavar, a Muslim friend and devotee of Lord Ayyappa. Pilgrims who visit the Sabarimala Temple also pay obeisance at the shrine of Vavar.Sabarimala Temple does not believe in the boundaries of class, caste and region. The scenic destinations of Sabarimala can be visited year round, and it is quieter and less crowded during non-pilgrimage season.
The legend of Sabarimala states that King Rajshekhara, a direct descendant of the Pandya dynasty, ruled over Pandalam. He was childless and was forever worried as to who will succeed him after his death. Once, while returning from a hunting expedition, he heard the cries of a child in the forest, near the Pamba river. He followed the sound of cry and finally saw a child with golden chain and bell around his neck. The king fell into a dilemma whether he should carry the child back with him to the palace or not. At this point of time, a sage intervened and asked him to take the child home and name him Manikandan. He also informed the king that when the child attains twelve years of age, the king will know his divine history.
The king was overjoyed and returned with the child. The queen was very happy seeing the child, however, one person who could not take the arrival with joy was the deewan of Pandalam. He had his own plans of succeeding Rajshekhara and now his ambitions were in serious danger as the child was exceedingly brilliant and capable. By this time the queen had given birth to a son of her own. The deewan contrived with the queen, who in order to see her own son king, feigned illness. The physician, as per the deewan’s instruction, advised the king that only a tigress milk could cure the queen of her ailment. Hearing this Manikandan, who was just twelve years at that point of time, insisted that he be allowed to go and fetch the milk for his mother. The king allowed, though reluctantly. Enroute, Manikandan also killed Mahishi who was committing atrocities on Devlok. Thereafter, Lord Shiva appeared before Manikandan and offered to accompany him along with other devas as tiger and tigress. Manikanadan agreed and returned with a bunch of tigress. King Rajshekhara realized the divine power of Manikandan and became aware that he was incarnation of Dhramasastha
Before leaving for devlok, Manikandan selected a place for his temple by aiming an arrow. King Rajshekhara himself laid the foundation of the temple at the place, Sabari. Manikandan also made it clear that only those devotees who could carry on Vritha for 41 days will be blessed by him. During this period the devotees had to devoid themselves of all the carnal pleasure and eat vegetarian food. Also, the devotees needed to carry holy irumudi (a cloth bag containing puja and personal material) on their head in a similar manner as he himself carried it while going to forest. Moreover, the devotees will require to bathe in river Pampa shouting slogans of Saranam and ascend the 18 holy steps.
As per the instructions of God, Rajshekhera completed the temple and called Parsuraman to carve a figure of Lord Ayyappa, the Dharmasastha. The image was installed on the pious day of Makar Sankranthi.
Devotees undergo rigorous penance and austere living before starting on the pilgrimage. Devotees wear black ‘dhotis’ and are bare-chested as they prepare for the pilgrimage to Sabarimala.
The temple is at the top of the Neeli hills and the devotees have to climb the treacherous route carrying their meagre provision in a bundle called “Iru Mudi” meaning in “two folds”.
The distance from the base of the hill to the top takes about three days to cover and the most important part of the pilgrimage are the final 18 steps, which lead to the temple. The temple dome is covered with gold and the devotees break the coconuts before climbing the steps.
Getting there and Around
By Air – There are two airports that are near this pilgrimage at Trivandrum (170 kilometers) and Cochin (200 kilometers) and from there reach Pampa by bus/car.
By Rail – The nearest railway station is at Kottayam and Chengannur.
By Road -The pilgrimage is well connected to Kerala by a wide network of roads.
The multistoried pilgrim complex is located adjacent to the Nadapandal. There are a few pilgrim sheds on the northern side in Pandy thavalam and beyond Pandi thavalam. Beyond this area a series of public toilets are provided. There is a Government hospital and Ayurvedic Hospital functioning during festival season on the southeastern side near the Nadapandal. Near Malikappuram temple complex there is a dispensary run by NSS (Near the Donors Complex). The accommodation Office is functioning on the northern side of the lower thirumuttam near the Maramath Complex and Donor Building. All enquires for accommodations are to be made there. There is a Telephone Exchange and Public Call Office with STD/ISD facilities. Police force is stationed in all-important areas of the Sabarimala Pilgrimage.