Sabarimala, the world’s greatest annual pilgrimage centre is located on a hilltop in Pathanamthitta district of South Indian state Kerala. A visit to this world-renowned secular shrine is grand enough to give you spiritual as well as physical ecstasy. It’s a journey to realize your soul.
The abode of Lord Ayyappa, Sabarimala Sree Dharma Sastha Temple, is the most visited pilgrimage center in Kerala. A signature of secular ethos, this Sastha temple is situated on a hilltop (about 3000 feet above sea level) called Sabarimala. Cutting the barriers of religion, caste, and creed the temple is open to all human beings. With an estimated 45–50 million followers visiting every year, the Sabarimala Temple is marked as the largest annual pilgrimage centre in the world. The Sabarimala pilgrimage season is commonly called mandalakaalam
The History of Sabarimala
Once there was a powerful demoness called Mahishi, as per the Hindu mythology. Lord Ayyappan was destined to kill Mahishi, and he had to act. After killing the demoness, Ayyappan had a meditation at Sabarimala. The temple is situated amidst 18 hills surrounded by mountains and dense forests. Sub-temples exist at many places in the surrounding areas like Nilackal, Kalaketi, and Karimala, remnants of old temples survive to this day on remaining hills.
One can identify a Sabarimala pilgrim easily as they wear a black or blue dress. The temple is open for worship only during the days of Mandalapooja (approximately November 15 to December 26), Makaravilakku (January 14- “Makara Sankranti”) and Vishu (April 14), and the first six days of each Malayalam month.
Erumeli Sastha temple is another important meeting place in Sabarimala pilgrimage. Ayyappas goes to Sabarimala after worshipping at Erumeli and Vavarunada.
The name Erumeli is extracted from “Eru AK Olli” (Killed the buffalo). The myth tells that Lord Sree Ayyappa Swami killed “Maharishi”, means buffalo in English and “Eruma” in Malayalam and hence the name extract “erumakolli”. All devotees going for Sabarimala Pilgrimage visit this place. There are two temples in this town of Lord Ayyappa and Famous Petta Thullal is there in November, December & January months.
East to Sannidhanam, there is another temple dedicated to the Vavar (a Sufi and friend of Lord Ayyappa) known as ‘Vavarunada’. It is highly acclaimed as a symbol of religious harmony. Vavar is considered as the companion of Ayyappa. It is believed that Vavar swami is at the masjid. Devotes goes to Cheriya Ambalam from masjid and then go to the Valiya Ambalam. The visit to Vavarunada and Valiyambalam is done in the form a dance known as Pettathulal. This is done by colouring self, holding wooden bows and arrows. The myth is that during the killing of Mahishi, the local tribals had helped Ayyapa Swamy and post the killing, they danced in joy. Pettathulal represents the joy amongst the people. At the end of the season, there is a festival called Pettathullal.
Makarasankranti Day is a very special day for Ayyappa devotees. The day is the 1st of Makara (a month of the Malayalam calendar) which will fall between January 14 and 16. The day is known for its miraculous events. Devotees can view the Divya Jyothi from nine places in and around Sannidhanam. They are Sannidhanam, Pandithavalam, Pulmedu, Saramkuthi, Neelimala, Marakootam, Hilltop, Chalakayam, and Attathodu.
The beautiful and popular Ayyappa song Harivarasanam is recited before closing the temple door every night. Harivarasanam song, which is sung at Sabarimala as a lullaby at night (Urakkupattu) was composed by Sri Kambangudi Kulathur Srinivasa Iyer. It is said that Srinivasa Iyer used to recite the composition, after the Athazha Puja, standing in front of the shrine of Ayyappa in the main temple. The composition has 352 letters, 108 words in 32 lines (8 stanzas).