The Sannidhanam (The Temple) The layout of the Ayyappa temple is believed to have originated from the specific instructions of the Lord himself, who wanted Malikappurathamma, on his left a few yards from Sannidhanam, and his trusted lieutenants Vavur and Kadutha to be positioned as his guards at the foot of the holy 18 steps. The pilgrims worship in this place also. This exemplifies the unique feature of the temple. The temple is open to all faiths. The divine qualities like equality, fraternity, tolerance, humanity etc.. are shining well in the pilgrims.
Ayyappa cult gives much importance for the secularism and communal harmony and has turn out to be a model for the whole world. Another significant aspect of the pilgrimage is that all the pilgrims whether rich or poor, learned or illiterate holding position or not master or servant are all equal before LORD AYYAPPA and all address each other as AYYAPPA.
The pilgrims on their sojourn to Sabarimala worship at Erumeli Sree Dharma Sastha Temple and conduct "Petta Thullal". They also worship in the mosque at Erumeli as a part of their pilgrimage.
According to legend, the temple of Sabarimala and the deity of Ayyappa have always been regarded as the Pandalam Raja's very own. So permission from the King has to be attained before proceeding to the temple. To make it easy for pilgrims to obtain the necessary permission, a representative of the king sits with all the royal insignia, on a raised platform at the base of the Neelimala Hill. The pilgrims offer a token amount (not necessary) to the royal representative, and receive vibhuti from him.
This marks the beginning of the steepest climb of the pilgrimage, the 3 km trek up the majestic Neelimala Hill, atop which sits Lord Ayyappa in all his glory. The pilgrims wind their way up the difficult trail in an unending stream, the hill reverberating with the constant chanting of thousands.
At the first sight of the Patinettampadi, the holy eighteen steps, a full throated cry goes up from the devotees, "Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa!" It is the realisation of a mission.
The shrine of Lord Ganapati: To the south-west of the main temple is the shrine of Lord Ganapati, known as Kannimula Ganapati. The special offering to this deity is Ganapati homan.
Homakunda: There used to be a large homakunda in front of the shrine, which burned constantly, fed by the coconut shells thrown by the devotees, after offering the ghee. As the coconut shells gets consumed by the fire, the sins of the devotees are believed to be cleansed. Due to the growing crowds in the temple, the homakunda has now been shifted to a location below the temple.
Bhasma Kulam: About a 100 metres away is the shrine of Malikappurathamma. En route to the shrine is the temple tank, Bhasma Kulam, in which hundreds of devotees take a holy bath in memory of the tapaswini Sabari who entered a fire to end her mortal life. It is after her that the peak is named Sabarimala. On account of the number of people who bathe in the tank, the water is frequently drained out and refilled with fresh water.
Malikappurathamma: Situated on a small hillock, the Malikappurathamma temple houses the shrines of the Devi and Kaduthaswamy. Devotees also worship a trident and lamp here, and offer coconuts. The coconuts are not broken, however, but are just rolled on the ground .
To the left of this temple are the shrines of the snake god and goddess, Nagaraja and Nagayakshi. Here, tribals beat on drums, play stringed instruments and sing sarppa pattu to protect devotees and their progeny from the harmful effects of snakebites.
Shrines of Kaduthaswamy and Karuppaswamy: At the foot of the Patinettampadi are the two shrines of Kaduthaswamy and Karuppaswamy, who stand like dwarapalakas or guardians of the holy steps, to ensure that they are not polluted by those who tread on them without fulfilling the rigid austerities required of them. They are also believed to protect the devotees from the evil spirits of the forests.
According to legend, Kadutha was a great warrior who helped the Pandalam king defeat the armies of Udayanan and other enemies. When the king came to Sabarimalai to reconstruct the temple, Kadutha came with him to protect him. Ultimately, he became so attached to Ayyappa that he decided to spend the rest of his days with his Lord.
Also near the Patinettampadi is the shrine of the Muslim Vavurswami. While there are several accounts of identity of Vavur, it is generally believed that he was a warrior who was defeated and subdued by Ayyappa, and later became a close associate. It is believed that Lord Ayyappa himself instructed the Pandalam king to build a mosque for Vavur at Erumeli and a shrine at Sabarimalai.
Golden 18 Steps: The original granite steps were badly damaged due to continuous breaking of coconuts on the steps by pilgrims climbing the steps. The Devasom Board with the approval of Lord Ayyappan through a devaprasanam, covered the steps with panchaloka. The work was completed by 15th November 1985. Later on these steps were covered with gold.
Makara Jothi The most important event at Sabarimala is the Makara Jothi (usually on January 14th). Thiruvabaranam or the sacred jewels of the Lord (presented by Padalam King) arrives at Sabarimala in three boxes. On the arrival of the jewel boxes the whole mountain reverberates to the chanting of 'Saranam Ayyappa' by millions of devotees gathered there to watch the event.
The Thiruvabaranam box - still the private property of the Pandalam royal family, starts its journey two days before Makara Jothi day from Pandalam. The person who carries the box dances in a peculiar trance. Thiruvabaranam travels through Valiakoikkal Sastha temple at Pandalam, Ayiroor Puthia Kavu Temple, Perunattil temple, Vlakkai, Nilaikkal Siva temple, Vellachimala, Pamba and Sabari Peedam before reaching at Sannidhanam around 6.00 PM on the Makara Jothi day. Every year a Garuda hovers and flies above the Thiruvabaranam boxes as if to guard them.
On reaching the Sannidhanam the Melshanthi and Thandhri receive the sacred jewels amidst the thundering echoes of Sarana ghosham. The Thiruvabaranam box contains a diamond crown, golden bracelets, necklaces and a sword. The priests adorn the Lord with these and perform arathi.
At the same moment a brilliant light of amazing magnificence appears in the northeastern side to the temple at the opposite mountain in a place called Kantamala (the home of devas and rishis). It is believed that this brilliant flame of light is the arathi performed by the rishis and the devas. This event marks the culmination of the pilgrimage to Sabarimala.
Makara Vilakku festival:
After the jothi, that night Malikappurathuamma, mounted on an elephant comes in a procession to the Patinettampadi (18 steps ) and returns back to her abode. This is the beginning of the Makara Vilakku festival. This festival lasts for seven days. Many pilgrims stay back till this festival is over and Kuruthi pooja (offering of water mixed with chunnambu and turmeric powder to the forest deities) is performed.
Even some who leave Sabarimala after witnessing the Jothi observe fasting till the Makara Villaku and Kuruthi pooja is complete at Sabarimala.
Other festivals :
Onam, Mandalapooja, Pankuni Uthram (Lord Birthday) and Vishu are the other festivals celebrated at Sabarimala with pomp and glory.
The Legend of Lord Ayyappan
King Rajasekara: The descendants of Pandya dynasty were living scattered in places like Valliyur, Tenkasi, Shengottah, Achankovil and Sivagiri and in parts of Travancore, where they were the ruling dynasty. The descendants of Pandya dynasty belonging to Chempazhanattu Kovil, living in Sivagiri were given the right to rule the country of Pandalam, by the King of Travancore eight hundreds years ago. King Rajasekara was the direct descendant of this dynasty.
King Rajasekara was a very talented, courageous and just ruler in all his dealings. People were living happily and prosperously during his regime. However, the king was very unhappy that he had no children and his subjects were also worried that he had no heir to inherit his kingdom. As per the wish of the queen, both of them prayed to Lord Shiva for blessing them with a child.
Lord Shiva, answered Rajasekara's prayer and ordered Dharmasastha to take the avathar of Ayyappan . Ayyappan took the form of a baby with a golden chain and bell around his neck and placed himself near the Pamba river.
(Dharmasastha born to Lord Shiva and Lord Mahavishnu who was in the disguis of Mohini to get back the Amrutham from the asuras and restore to the devas.)
King Rajasekara who was returning after hunting in the forest adjoining the banks of River Pampa, along with his men, heard a child crying from somewhere in the forest. Surprised, he went round and reached the banks of River Pampa. There he saw a beautiful and divine child (i.e. Ayyappa) kicking its legs and crying out, and was in a dilemma whether to take the child to the Palace or leave it there itself.
While the King was engrossed in his thoughts, a Sanyasi (Yogi) appeared before him and told the King that he need not be afraid of the child and take him to the Palace and that the child belonged to Kshatriya dynasty capable of mitigating all sufferings. The Sanyasi further stated that since the Child had a gold bell around his neck, his name be called "MANIKANDAN" and when the child completed twelve years, the King would know his divine history. After uttering these words, the Sanyasi disappeared.
The King of Pandalam was very joyous; he took the child to his Palace and briefed the Queen about the incident. The King and the Queen, having prayed to Lord Shiva, for a child, were very happy that they had been blessed with a child. The people also felt happy that a heir to inherit the Kingdom after the King, had been found.
The Diwan However, the Diwan of the Kingdom who was thinking that he would be the next crown after Rajasekara was worried.
The Study period of Ayyappan
He was taught all martial arts and sastras and the Guru was surprised at his brilliance and agility and the extraordinary talents. The Guru came to the conclusion that he was not an ordinary child, but a divine power. After completing his education under the Guru, Manikandan approached the Guru to offer his Guru Dakshina.
When Manikandan went to his Guru for his blessings, the Guru told him that he already knew that he was a divine power and he was blessed for having been given an opportunity to have Manikandan as a student. The Guru further told Manikandan that he had one request to make and that was that his only son who was dumb should be given the ability to speak. Manikandan called the Guru's son and put his hands on his head and immediately there after the Guru's son began to speak. Manikandan requested the Guru not to reveal this to anyone and went to the Palace.
Birth of RajaRajan
In the meanwhile, the Queen gave birth to a male child and the child was named RajaRajan.
Enthronement King Rajasekara, impressed with the talents of Manikandan, decided to crown him, treating him as his eldest son. He ordered the Diwan to make arrangements for the same.
The Diwan's plot
The Diwan started devising plans to prevent Manikandan from being crowned to the throne and to annihilate him. He tried various methods including poisoning of food, but failed in all these. However, Manikandan's body bore an injury due to these and ordinary physicians could not cure it. Lastly, Lord Shiva disguising himself as a physician, treated Manikandan's injury and cured him.
Having failed in all his attempts to kill Manikandan, the Diwan approached the Queen and told her that as she had her own son, it was not correct to crown a person who came from the forest. He further told the Queen that since Arthasastra itself has justified any misdeed if it was done to extract a good thing, he would suggest that the Queen should pretend as if suffering from severe headache and stomach pain and he would make the physician tell that only a tigress' milk should be brought to cure the Queen and since Manikandan would only go to the forest to bring the milk, he would be in danger from the wild animals and even if Manikandan returned without bringing the tigress' milk, the King's love for him would not be as before. The Queen, became a prey to the Diwan's plot and agreed to do what he told, so that her son could succeed the King to the throne.
The Queen, as told by the Diwan, cried out loudly that she was suffering from severe headache and stomach pain and the King, believing this, called the Diwan to bring in the best physicians to treat her. The Physician, brought by the Diwan examined the Queen and told the King that the Queen had been suffering from a dangerous disease and it could be cured only by applying Tigress' milk .The King sent several of his men to the forest for bringing this milk. The King understood that it was an impossible task and wanted his dear Queen to be cured at any cost and offered half of his Kingdom to anybody who brought the Milk.
Manikandan asked the King to let him go to the forest promising to bring the milk. However, the King told him that he was awaiting to be crowned to the throne that he was also not of age and hence refused to let him go. Manikandan told the King, in spite of his refusal, he had to go lest he would be cursed for not curing the Queen. Since the King persisted in his refusal Manikandan wanted the King to promise to do something he wanted. The King gave the promise and asked him what he wanted and immediately Manikandan asked the King to permit him to go to the Forest. The King felt disappointed that he had been tricked and with no other alternative permitted Manikandan to go to the forest.
King Rajasekara made arrangements to send a group of his loyal men along with Manikandan, which however was refused by Manikandan on the ground that the tigress might run away seeing the crowd of soldiers.
King Rajasekara sent along with Manikandan necessary foodstuffs and coconuts with three-eyes, in remembrance of Lord Shiva. The Panchabuthas, sent by Lord Shiva, accompanied Manikandan to Forest.
Visiting Devaloka and destroying Mahishi
However, on his way Manikandan, came to know the atrocities of Mahishi in the Devaloka, he went there and fought a battle with Mahishi. During the conflict, Manikandan threw Mahishi down to earth from devaloka and she fell on the banks of Azhutha River. Manikandan clashed with her at Azhutha river again. At the end, of the battle between Mahishi and Manikandan at Azhutha River banks, Manikandan climbed up on her chest and danced violently. The impact of his dance was felt on the Earth and Devloka and the Devas were afraid. Mahishi knowing that the divine power dancing on her body was none other than the son of Hari and Haran, prostrated before Manikandan and died.
(Mahishi- blessed by Lord Brahma that nobody , except the son created out of the union of Vishnu (Hari) and Shiva (Haran), would be able to kill her. She wanted to take revenge upon the devas who killed her brother)
This dance was witnessed by Lord Shiva and Mahavishnu from a place called Kalakatti. (It is said that Leela, daughter of Kavalan, a Maharishi, due to her husband's curse,was born as daughter of Karamban, with a face of Mahishi and freed herself from the curse and obtained Moksha by the grace of Shri Dharmasastha, which is described in Sabarimala Temple as Malikapurathu Amma, by which name she has a temple there)
Comfort to the King Rajasekara
After killing Mahishi, Manikandan went to the forest for the tigress milk, when Lord Shiva appeared before him and told him that though he had done good for the Devas, still there was one main task and that was to give comfort to the King Rajasekara who was very concerned about him. Lord Shiva further told him that he could go to the Palace with Lord Devendran in the form of a tiger. With Manikandan on the tiger, all female devas in the disguise of a tigress and male Devas, as tigers started their journey to the Palace.
When Manikandan, with the tigers, approached the Palace, the people who ridiculed him when he started his journey to forest if he wanted a toy tigresses etc , really got panic seeing the violent bunch of animals and started running helter shelter.
Revealing of Manikandan's identity
Just then, the same Sanyasi who appeared before King Rajasekara when he picked up Manikandan at the forest as a baby, appeared again at the palace and told King Rajasekara the real identity of Manikandan.
Hearing this, the King stood in great surprise and silence. He saw Manikandan riding a tiger and people running away. Seeing the King, Manikandan descended from the Tiger and told him that since the tigresses were there, he could get the Queen cured with their milk. King Rajasekara, fell at his feet and asked to forgive him for whatever happened without his knowledge, and asked him to send back the tigers as the Queens ailment had been cured the moment Manikandan went to the forest. On that day Manikandan reached the age of twelve.
King Rajasekara told Manikandan that the Diwan was responsible for all these things and hence he should be punished. However, Manikandan told the king that he need not punish the Diwan and all had happened only through the will of God, and he told further that time had come for him to go to Devaloka since the task for which he took avatar himself on the Earth is completed and asked the King what boon he wanted from him and he was ready to give it as he was much pleased by his devotion.
Immediately, King Rajasekara told him that they wanted to raise a temple in his memory and suggest a suitable place for the temple. Manikandan aimed an arrowwhich fell at a place called Sabari, where in Sri Rama's era a Sanyasini called Sabari observed Dhavam. Lord Manikandan told the King to build the temple in that place and then he disappeared.
Foundation stone for the building the Sabarimala Shrine and the purpose
As per Saint Agasthya's advise, King Rajasekara laid the foundation stone for the building the Sabarimala Shrine.
Bhagwan Manikandan, had made it clear that he would grace only those devotees who offer Dharshan after performing Vritha for fortyone days keeping themselves isolated from family desires and tastes and leading a life like Brahmacharya, thinking of good things always, and that while coming for his darshan, they shall carry the holy irumudi on their heads, as the Bhagwan did when he went to the forest to fetch tigress milk, and bathed in River Pampa raising slogans of Saranam and climb the eighteen stairs.
The completion of the temple
As graced by the Bhagwan King Rajasekara completed building of the temple with eighteen steps to reach it. When the King was thinking how to put Dharmasastha's figure in the temple for darshan to devotees, he recalled the words of the Bhagwan, the River Pampa was a holy river as River Ganga, Sabarimala was a holy place as Kasi. Dharmasastha sent Parasuraman to Sabarimala who carved the figure of Lord Ayyappa and installed it on the day of Makarasankranthi, the day on which the Makara Jothi appears.
Every year lakhs and lakhs of people throng to Sabarimala irrespective of caste or creed and adorn themselves with garlands and irumudis, chants slogans on Lord Ayyappa, bathe in holy river Pampa, climb up the eighteen steps and get the grace of Lord Ayyappa, the Dharmasastha.
Adorning the jewelleries on Ayyappan on the Makarasankranthi day
The Jewel Casket is carried on head from the ancestral residence of the royal family of Panthalam to the Shrine on that day. A Garuda, the Brahaman kite, follows this ornaments carrying procession, hovering about in the sky. After these ornaments are worn on the Lord the bird circles the temple in the sky three times and disappears. Excited by this sight the devotees begin to chant "Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa". A Star never seen before in the sky appears on the day of Makara Jothi day before the sighting of the Jyoti. A Jyoti is seen for a little time on the hilltop showing the presence of Swamy Ayyappan gracing his devotees.
Lord Ayyappan - A Historical version
AYYAPPAN know as AYYAN who belonged to the Vellalar Kulam, was the army chief of the Pandalam royal family. He lived with his uncle Perisseri Pillai of Erumeli, Kottayam dist, Kerala. This was about ten generations ago.
Ayyan was instrumental in the defeat of Udayanan, who attacked Sabarimala and tried to demolish the ancient Sastha temple in the thick forest of present Pathnamthitta district.
Meanwhile the Royal family of King Pandya had migrated from Tamilnadu about 800 years back. The King reconstructed the destroyed Sastha temple at Sabarimala with the help of Ayyan, Vavar, a Muslim youth from Kanjirappally, Kadutha, a Nair youth from Muzhukeer, Chenganoor, Alapuzha dist.
During a clash, Ayyappan got killed. His uncle,Perissery Pillai, constructed the KOCHAMPALAM - an old small Sastha temple - at Erumeli, opposite the VAVAR PALLY (MOSQUE), constructed by Muslims in memory of Vavar swamy.After the demise of Ayyappan people thought that he was the avathar of Lord Sastha and began to worship him. Later Ayyappan and Sastha became synonymous.
Some say that Ayyappan was the son of a Brahmin but Nalankal Krishna Pillai in his book "Mahashekthrangalkkumunpil" states that Brahmins never had the name AYYAPPAN or AYYAN. In the age old "Elavarsevampattu" it was clearly mentioned that Ayyan belonged to "Vellalar kulam, Near Erumeli, Kottayam, Kerala.There still exists a vellala house called Puthenveedu in Erumely. In the same compound there is a 300 year old, thatched, depleted, mud house, the house of Perissery Pillai, Ayyappan's uncle and the Vellal Chieftain of Erumeli. There even today one can see the ancient swordused by Ayyappan to kill the monstrous ERUMA- mahisham. The place where the "eruma" was killed became Erumakolly and later Erumeli.
Sabarimala pilgrimers ,Ayyappans, conduct the Erumeli PETTAITHULLAL (Pettatullal is painting the face with colours and dancing with wooden weapons to make one look odd. The essence of this practice is to give up ones ego and surrender to Lord Ayyappa. )This is to commemmorate the killing of mahisham by Ayyan and is celelebrated during the month of December-January every year. "Ayyan / Ayyappan" Pillai is very common name among vellalas of Kottayam, Alapuzha, Pathanamthitta, Idukki and Ernakulam districts of Kerala. A number of Ayyappan kovils are constructed by Vellalas who migrated from Tamilnadu to Kerala e.g. Erumeli, Kanam etc.
Lakhs and lakhs of Tamilian Ayyappan devotees called the "Ayyappans" - come to Sabarimala every year to worship Tamil origin "VELLALAR KULA JHATHAN AYYAN AYYAPPAN".
Near the Patinettampadi is the shrine of the Muslim Vavurswami. While there are several accounts of identity of Vavur, it is generally believed that he was a warrior who was defeated and subdued by Ayyappa, and later became a close associate. It is believed that Lord Ayyappa himself instructed the Pandalam king to build a mosque for Vavur at Erumeli and a shrine at Sabarimalai.
The Vavur deity is believed to be as old as the original deity of Ayyappa himself, and records show that the shrine was renovated sometime in 1905. Here, the poojas are conducted by a Muslim priest. There is no distinguishable idol, but a carved stone slab that represents the deity. A green silken cloth is hung across one wall, and there is also an old sword. The special offering here is green pepper. Many devotees also bring a goat to offer to Vavurswami, mainly in the belief that pilgrims accompanied by a goat will reach the temple safely. These goats are later auctioned by the temple authorities.
The austerities and regulations
The austerities and regulations that has to be strictly followed for taking pilgrimage to Sabarimala Temple:
1. The vritham has to be undertaken after getting permission from parents. Then one has to get the permission of the the Guru. After this the date is fixed to commence the vritham. The previous day before the said date one has to offer prayers to ones' family deity and make a holy knot with yellow cloth with 1.25 currency units within and present it to the family deity, thereby taking Her/His permission to commence the vritham.
2. Previous day before starting the vritham, the devotee will cleanly shave, clip his nails, trim his hair and make himself physically clean. The holy mala / garland (tulsi / uthradsham) should be cleaned and smeared with sandal paste and placed before the portrait of Lord Ayyappa. The devotee should also buy a new pair of coloured (black, blue, saffron) dhoti and towel/shawl.
3. On the day of starting the vritham the devotee shall rise early, bathe and offer prayers to family deity, Navagrahas and perform pooja to the holy mala. Then he shall go to temple with his Guru. The mala has to be received from the Guru in midst of chanting of Saranam. After wearing the mala the devotee becomes Lord Ayyappa himself and starts the demands of pious life.
4. The devotee shall withdraw from all social activities and spend his time by taking part in praying, poojas, bajans, visiting temples, cleaning temples, feeding the poor, helping the poor/sick and attending religious discourses.
5. He shall take only vegetarian food and refrain 100% from taking meat, intoxicating drinks / drugs, chewing betel leaves and from smoking.
6. He shall bathe twice, if possible thrice, daily and perform pooja by at least chanting 108 Ayyappan Saranam. He shall continuously chant Saranam Ayyappa in mind, both at work and at home.
7. He shall not hurt anybody verbally or physically.
8. He shall treat all co-devotees as Lord Ayyappan himself and serve them in all the ways.
9. He shall not feel proud of the respect and privileges he gets when he is wearing the holy mala. When others prostrate themselves on his feet he shall not feel proud but dedicate the same to Lord Ayyappan and say aloud 'Lord Save everybody for their faith in you'.
10. He shall not cause inconvenience to his family members on account on observing the vritham.
11. As he starts his vritham every year, he shall think that he is doing the same for first time and follow all the rules of the vritham strictly.
12. He shall strictly follow brahmacharya (celibacy) and refrain from sex, avoid thinking of sex, avoid developing a passion for women including his wife, and treat all women with motherly feeling.
13. He shall not apply oil to his hair and shall not take bath with oil smeared over his body.
14. He shall not attend any social functions like birthdays, engagement, wedding etc. and shall not feast in anyone's home who has not undertaken the vritham.
15. He shall avoid being in the proximity of dead body and shall not eat anything till he bathes if he accidentally sees a dead body.
16. He shall always carry a tulsi leaf with him to prevent him from evil feeling and from Thitu.
17. He shall not sleep on bed but on floor, he shall not use pillow but wooden block, he shall not use footwear but walk with bare feet.
18. He shall totally surrender himself to Lord Ayyappa.
One should remember that Lord Ayyappan of Sabarimala will continue to shower his blessings on any one who observes the above rules strictly.
After having taken bath and worshipping the house diety, the devotee shall make all arrangements for the pooja. The photo or idol of swami Ayyapa has to be placed on a raised platform with 18 steps decorated with flowers.
Ayyappan Mala Mantram-(Mantram to wear the mala)
Ayyappan Saranam- (108 saranams)
Ayyappan Moola Mantram
Mantram for taking off mala- (This has to be recited after coming home from Sabarimala and before removing the Sacred Mala).
The guru has a significant role to play in the Ayyappa cult. The Guruswamy is usually an elderly person who has undertaken pilgrimage to Sabarimala not less than seven consecutive years in the traditional long route and had darshan of Makara Jothi. The devotees treat the Guruswamy as Ayyappan himself. It is important that pilgrims gain knowledge from the Guru on all the aspects of the Pilgrimage. One should serve the Guru physically, mentally and verbally.
The pilgrims should give the due respect and reverence that the Guru deserves. All instructions of the Guru should be carried out without fail. The Guru will enlighten the Shisyas about the austerities to be followed. He will teach them the slokas and way to perform pooja and bhajans. He shall prepare them for the pilgrimage mentally and physically. He will lead the pilgrims safely and comfortably to Sabarimala.
lrumudi is the only travelling kit which a pilgrim carries on his head during the pilgrimage. Only those who observe fasting for 41 days are allowed to carry it. Without the Irumudi one is not allowed to step onto the holy 18 steps at the Sannidhanam.
This bag is in two compartments - the Munmudi (the front part) and the Pinmudi (the back part) & the opening at centre.
The front portion is reserved for keeping all the puja articles and offerings to the deity.
The rear part is meant to hold the pilgrims' personal requirements for the journey.
Front portion contains
Mudra bags, consisting of 2 - 3 in numbers - one for the GheeCoconut and the other two for the remaining offerings(Vazhipadu) at the Sannidhanam are as under:
Coconut filled with ghee for Abhishekam (bathing the idol of the Lord)+
Dried turmeric tubers, Turmeric powder, Blouse piece, Kumkum, Vibhooti, Sandal paste, Sambarani, Camphor, Agarbathi (Incense stick), Rosewater, Lemon, Rice and Dal for offering.
Coconut for ghee Abhishekam : Well before the Kettunira time, select a medium size coconut. Clean and polish the outer shell using a polishing paper. With a pointed instrument, open one eye of the coconut and empty the coconut water. Close it with a cork of correct size. The coconut is now ready for the Kettunira.
Coconut (Vidalai Thengai) one each to be broken at Erumeli, Sharam Kutti and two for Padinettampadi (the sacred 18 steps - once while climbing up for Shasta Darshan with the Irumudi and 2nd while returning after the worship
Part of the jaggery, cashew, raisin, cardamom, honey and dates can be used to make Panchamrutam for the Neivedya; part of the jaggery, dry ginger and cardamom can be used for preparing 'Panagam' as Neivedya
Back Portion contains
Items for use of the pilgrim from the day of commencement of the journey after Kettunira till his return and is kept in the back compartment(Pin Mudi), which are as under :
Some snacks which one may require now and then during the trip and other raw materials for food items to be prepared during the journey. And pulses and rice needed for cooking can be included in Pinmudi.
+ The Rigorous Trek
After filling the holy coconut with ghee and packing the essentials for offering to Lord Ayyappa in the Irumudi (called ketunira), the Guru places the sacred Irumudi on the head of the pilgrims chanting Saranam. The pilgrims leave the place without looking at anyone or bidding goodbye to family or friends. Walking barefoot the pilgrims proceed to realise his Self and attain Lord Ayyappa.
There are three routes to Sabarimala (0929 North 7706 East)
(a) The Erumeli route - the most arduous - the pilgrims cover about 61 km on foot through forest and hill track.
(b) The Vandiperiyar route - starts at 94.4 km stone on the Kotayam - Kumili road.
(c) The Chalakayam route. - the easiest of all. Chalakayam is near Pampa river. Sannidhanam is just 8 km from here.
The Erumeli route, used by Ayyappan himself during his forest expedition to kill Mahishi is described here.
It is about 56 km from Kottayam. There are shrines for Lord Dharmasastha and Vavar Swamy (the Muslim lieutenant of Lord Ayyappa).
The first timers to Sabarimala, called Kanniswamy, perform pettatullal. Pettatullal is painting the face with colours and dancing with wooden weapons to make one look odd.
The essence of this practice is to give up ones' ego and surrender to Lord Ayyappa. They go round the Ayyappan Temple and Vavar Shrine and later bathe in the river.
Then the temple is visited again to seek authorization from Lord Ayyappa to tread the sacred hill Sabari. Later the pilgrims leave Erumeli under the guidance of their Guru for Sannidhanam.
It is a river about 4 km from Erumeli. Lord Ayyappa rested here during his expedition. It is from here the rise begins. Giving alms here is important. By giving alms, one is disposing of all dharma and seeking asylum in Ayyappa. The forest beyond Perur Thodu is poongavanam (Ayyappan's garden).
About 10 km from Perur Thodu is Kalaketti. The legend says that Lord Shiva, Ayyappa's father, came on his ox and tied it here and witnessed Lord Ayyappa killing Mahishi. There is a shrine where the pilgrims light camphor and break coconuts.
Azhutha river, a tributary of Pampa, is about 2 kms from Kalaketti. On the far side of the river is the steep Azhutha hill, famous for its arduous track. In the 2 km of steep ascent there is hardly anyone who does not shed tears. At the summit of Azhutha is Kallidumkunnu. The pilgrims drop the pebble taken by them from Azhutha river here. This is done as the mortal remains of Mahishi was cast off from here and filled with stones.
`The next important place is the Inchipparakota where there is Kotayil Sastha shrine. Pilgrims offer prayers here and break coconuts. From here the pilgrims descent the slippery path carefully. The descent ends at Karimala thodu (canal) with Azhutha hill on one side and Karimala hill on the other. Pilgrims rest here for a while.
Karimala is the abode of elephants which visits the Karimala canal to drink water. Pilgrims light the aazhi (campfire) to protect themselves from wild animals and cold weather. Karimala hill consists of seven levels and is climbed in stages. As the ascent of 5 km is difficult the pilgrims continuously chant saranams. On top
of Karimala the terrain is flat suitable for the pilgrims to rest. It is interesting to see the Nazhikkinar - a well within a well with fresh spring like water. Prayers are then offered to Karimalanthan, Kochukaduthaswami and Bhagawathi, all deities. From here after the exhausting descent one reaches the Pampa river that is about 5 kms.
Periya Annai Vattam
Seriya Annai Vattam
Pampa is the most important and holy spot on the way to Sannidhanam. It is here that Lord Ayyappa was found by King Rajasekara. The Pampa river is as holy as the Ganges. The Pampa water purifies one from curse and evil.
Trek from Pampa to Sannidhanam
Pampa Feast :
Pampa Annadhanam (feast) and Pampa Vilakku are important rituals followed at the Pampa bank. Pilgrim groups prepare feast with the provisions taken from the Irumudi of the pilgrims. Thousands of pilgrims are fed at Pampa. When a group of pilgrims are ready to feed the fellow pilgrims they display a large papad outside their cottage. It is usually the kanniswamy who are fed first, as they are considered to be Lord Ayyappan himself. After the feast the Guru is honoured by pilgrims prostrating before him and offering him the Gurudakshina.
Kanni Ayyappas move from kitchen to kitchen collecting the ashes which are considered to be very sacred. It is done with the belief that Lord Ayyappa would have had the feast in one of the cottages in the disguise of a pilgrim. The ash is taken home as prasad.
Pampa Vilakku :
At sunset the pilgrims believe that Lord Ayyappan will be present at the banks of Pampa and the cottages are decorated with lights and candles. Small floats are decorated with lights called Pampa Vilakku and are let in the Pampa river.
The next morning after a dip in the cold Pampa river and performing pitru darpanam (offering to ones' departed soul) the pilgrims start their ascent towards the hill Neelimala after worshipping at the temple of Lord Ganapathi, Lord Rama (avathar of Balaji) and Lord Hanuman. On the foot of the Neeli hill is the representative of the King of Pandalam. The pilgrims offer their respects to the representative. After seeking the permission of the representative to visit the shrine of Lord Ayyappa they proceed with their journey. From here the Sannidhanam is about 6 km. The neeli hill is as difficult as the Azhutha and Karimala. The top of Neeli hill is called Appachi medu. Here there are two abysses - Appachi kuzhi and Ippachi kuzhi. Kanniswamys throw rice balls here to calm down the evil spirits present around the place. From this point the ground is almost even. Some distance from here is the Sabari peetam.
Sabari Peetam :
This was the Kota where Shri Sabari, in Sri Rama's era, performed Tapas. Pilgrims worship here breaking coconuts, firing crackers and lighting camphor.
Half way between Sabari Peetam and Sannidhanam is Saramkuthi. Kanniswamy leave the wooden arrow they picked from Erumeli here.
The holy Patinettampadi (18 steps) is 15 minute walk from Saramkuthi. The Golden steps is such a magnificent sight. Pilgrims chant saranams loudly. After breaking the coconut they climb the 18 steps to have the darshan of Lord Ayyappa
+The 18 Holy Steps - Patinettampadi
Pathinettapadi (18 divine steps) to the sanctum sanctorium is divine in all aspects. The first three steps depict "Bhoomi, Agni, Vayoo & Akash", 6 to 9 steps for Karmendriya, 10 to 15 for Jhanandriya, 16th for mind 17th Intelligence and 18th Jeevathma Bhava. Those who cross all these steps are believed to achieve "Punyadarshan". The steep steps are so important and holy that no one can climb them without fasting for 41 days and carrying the holy irrumudi on ones' head.There are many mythological stories associated with the holy Patinettampadi. Some believe the eighteen steps denote the 18 puranas. Some say that 18 weapons with which Lord Ayyappa destroyed the evil denotes the 18 steps. Others are of the belief that the first five steps denotes the indriyas (eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin). The next eight steps signifies the ragas (tatwa, kama, krodha, moha, lobha, madha, matsraya, and ahamkara. The next three steps signifies the gunas (satwa, rajas and thamas). The seventeenth and the eighteenth denotes vidhya and ignorance.
The Patinettampadi can be used only twice - once for ascending the temple and once for descending below leaving the hill. Before ascending or descending the steps, pilgrims break coconut as an offering to the steps. One needs to have the sacre Irumudi on head while going up or down the 18 steps. While descending the steps the devotees climb down backwards facing the sanctum sanctorum.
One who climbs the Patinettampadi for 18 times shall plant a sapling of coconut in Sabarimala.
Built on a plateau about 40 feet high, the Ayyappan temple commands a lofty view of the mountains and valleys all around. The ancient temple has been rebuilt after a fire in 1950. Within the confines of the sanctum sanctorium with a copper-plated roof and four golden finials at the top, two mandapams, the belikalpura which houses the altar, the flag-staff replacing the earlier stone image of the deity, sits a beautiful idol of Ayyappa in panchaloha, an alloy of five metals, about one and a half feet tall.
NILACKAL MAHADEVAR TEMPLE
This is an important Temple enroute to Sabarimala and located between Plappally and Pampa. This is an intermediate halting area (with parking facilities).
ERUMELI SASTHA TEMPLE
Erumeli Sastha Temple, an important meeting place in the pilgrimage trip to Sabarimala is famous on many counts. There is also a Muslim Temple very near to the Sastha Temple. Ayyappans go to Sabarimala after worshipping at these two temples, that symbolise the Hindu-Muslim unity. The pilgrims go to Sabarimala after 'Pettathullal' at Erumeli. Pilgrimage to Sabarimala without Pettathullal and worship at the above mentioned temples is against the traditional dogmas. Erumeli Temple is at a distance of 38 Kms from Kottayam. Nearest Railway station is Kottayam.
PANDALAM VALIYAKOYICKAL TEMPLE
According to legend Ayyaappa as a babe was found lying on the banks of the river Pampa, by the Raja of Pandalam. The Raja had no issue and the child was considered as a God-given gift. It was therefore brought up in court with all regal honours. Ayyappan grew up endowed with heavenly splendour, super human wisdom and physical powers. Sree Dharmaa Sastha of Pandalam Valiyakoyickal Temple is Dharma Deva to King to Pandalam. One of the Major events associated with the Makaravilakku Festival is the procession of the Thiruvabharanam of Lord Ayyappa from this Temple. The nearest town and railway station is Chengannoor-12 Kms away.
KULATHUPUZHA SASTHA TEMPLE
The Sastha Temple at Kulathupuzha is a very ancient one. The idol at Kulathupuzha is called 'Manikantan'. It is believed that the Temple was constructed by the Raja of Pandalam. But the idol was discovered by a Brahmin from Kottarakkara after several years and he started pooja there. The King of Kottarakkara heard about this and he constructed the present temple. Feeding the fishes in the nearby river is an important vazhipadu in the Temple.
ACHANKOIL SASTHA TEMPLE
Achankoil Sastha (Arachan) temple is a sacred place of worship where pilgrims from Kerala and Tamilnadu come in groups through out the year. According to a legend the God gave 'Darshan' to a worshipper who had undertaken long term penance at Kandamala, where the the present temple stands. The main festival season here comes during the Mandalam puja. The nearest town and railway station is Shenkottah-Tamil Nadu.
ARYANKAVU SASTHA TEMPLE
The legend behind the Ayyappa of Aryankavu is similar to that of Sabarimala Sree Dharma Sastha. The only difference between the two is that Sastha was brough up by the Pandi Raja of Madura and not the Raja of Pandalam. The temple is constructed about 35 feet below the road level. It is at a distance of 2 kms from the majestic Pallaruvi waterfalls located in the deep dense forests. It is believed that Ayyappa had relationship with Sourashtrans while living in the palace of Raja of Madura. Even now Sourashtrans reach here in groups during the time of Mandalapooja. The temple rests 86 Kms away from Thiruvananthapuram.
+SHRINE OPENINGS (During 2005-2006)
Details regarding the opening and closing of Sabarimala Sree Dharmasasta Temple for the year 2005 - 2006 are given below.
Mandala Pooja Maholsavam
Monthly Pooja (Kumbham)
Monthly Pooja (Meenam)
Utsavam Aarattu -
Monthly Pooja ( Edavam)
Prathishta Dina Pooja
Monthly Pooja ( Mithunam)
Monthly Pooja (Chingam)
Monthly Pooja (Kanni)
Monthly Pooja (Thulam)
Sree Chithira Aatta Thirunal
Except on the dates mentioned above in serial Nos. 2,4,8,9,10,19 ( Mandealapooja, Makaravilakku, Utsavam Kodiyettu, Utsavam Aarattu, Vishu Darsanam, Chithira Aatta Visesham) the Nada will open on the above mentioned dates at 5.00 pm. On other days (except from 31-12-2005 to 14-01-2006), the Nada will open at 4.00 am in the morning, and on completion of the Noon Pooja, the Nada will be closed. The Nada will be re-opened at 5.00 pm in the evening and will be closed at 11.00 p.m. From 31-12-2005 to 14-01-2006, the Nada will open at 3.00 am.
Devotees visiting Sabarimala Temple should strictly adhere to the customs and traditions followed at the temple. Only those coming with IRUMUDIKETTU will be allowed to ascend the Holy PATHINETTAMPADI (Eighteen Holy Steps) leading to the Sannidhanam. Women aged between 10 years and 50 years will not be allowed to trek the Holy Hills. At the time of the Thiru Aarattu Festival, presence of women aged between 10 to 50 is not allowed at Pamba also.
In order to avoid environmental pollution on the road leading to Pampa, Sannidhanam and enroute, all items manufactured in plastic and polythene are strictly banned. Betel chewing, using pan masala and smoking are also strictly banned in the above mentioned places.
Though the Board is trying its level best to provide all amenities to the pilgrims, due to the severe rush the facilities may not be enough. Hence pilgrims are advised not to overstay at the temple premises. Since the boarding facilities at the Sannidhanam are not enough to cater to the heavy rush of pilgrims, the devotees are requested to leave Sannidhanam at the earliest, after Darshan and other rituals.
Parking of vehicles except light vehicles has been arranged at Nilakal. The heavy vehicles should drop the devoees at Pampa and go back to Nilackal, to park the same at the parking area provided by Travancore Devaswom Board. After the Darshan devotees may avail the facility of chain services arranged by KSRTC to reach Nilackal and catch their own vehicles parked at the parking area. These arrangements are to avoid the heavy rush and traffic jam at Pamba. On days having heavy rush, hevy vehicles will not be allowed beyond Nilakkal.
In order to make this annual pilgrimage to Sabarimala a grand success, Devaswom Board requests the co-operation of all devotees in this regard.