At Sabarimala devotion blends harmoniously with nature, culture, beliefs, myths, legends and people. This is a unique hill shrine in the Pathanamthitta district of Kerala situated amid the eighteen hills of Western Ghats mountain ranges. A Hindu pilgrimage centre dedicated to Lord Ayyappa, Sabarimala usher in 40 to 50 millions of devotees every year not only from the southern states but also from north India.
For the devotees it is the place where Lord Ayyappa meditated after killing the demoness Mahishi. It is also believed that the idol was consecrated by Lord Parashurama. The temple of Ayyappa is situated on top of the Sabari hill at an altitude of 468 metres above sea level.
The origin and development of the pilgrimage refuse to be confined in the scribbled pages of history. The temple remained hidden in the deep forests for centuries It is said that the original path was rediscovered by a king.
The temple remains open during the 41-day Mandala Kaalam, which starts on the first day of the Malayalam month of Vrischikam and ends by the month Dhanu (roughly between November and December). The temple will be closed for a brief period of three days before it opens for the Makaravilakku Pooja. The temple will also be opened for the first six days of every Malayalam month and on special occasions like Onam and Vishu.
Devotees have to take special vrataas (austerities) for 41 days before the pilgrimage. There is no restriction on people belonging to other religions to enter the temple. But since Lord Ayyappa is a brahmachari (celibate), it is strictly followed that only those women who have either passed the fertility age or not reached the stage of puberty are allowed to pray at the temple.
Devotees also visit the vavarupalli dedicated to Vavar a Sufi saint and a friend of Ayyappan epitomizing the religious harmony in Kerala. The main halting point en route to Sabarimala is the banks of the river Pamba. From here one has to trek 4 to 5 kms through the dense forest to reach the temple. To enter the temple devotees have to climb the eighteen holy steps, called ponnu pathinettampadi, each representing a desire one must conquer in life.
This year Sabarimala temple opens on November 16, 2011 evening and closes on December 27, 2011 after Mandala Puja. The Temple will be reopened on December 30, 2011 for Makaravilakku Puja.