|District||Pathanamthitta District Ranni Tehsil|
|Elevation||468 m (1,535 ft)|
|• Official||Malayalam(മലയാളം), English|
|Time zone||IST (UTC+5:30)|
|Vehicle registration||KL-03, KL-62|
|Part of a series on|
Sabarimala is a Hindu pilgrimage centre located at the Periyar Tiger Reserve in the Western Ghat mountain ranges of Pathanamthitta District, Perunad grama panchayat in Kerala. It is one of the largest annual pilgrimages in the world, with an estimated over 100 million devotees visiting every year. Sabarimala is believed to be the place where the Hindu god Ayyappan meditated after killing the powerful demoness Mahishi. Ayyappan's temple is situated amidst 18 hills. The temple is situated on a hilltop at an altitude of 468 m (1,535 ft) above mean sea level, and is surrounded by mountains and dense forests. The dense forest, (Periyar Tiger Reserve), around the temple is known as Poomkavanam. Temples exist in each of the hills surrounding Sabarimala. While functional and intact 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.
Sabarimala is linked to Hindu pilgrimage, predominantly for men of all ages. Sabarimala pilgrims can be identified easily, as they wear black or blue dress. They do not shave until the completion of the pilgrimage, and smear Vibhuti or sandal paste on their forehead. Females who menstruate (usually between the ages of approximately 12 and 50) are not allowed to enter the temple, since the story attributed to Ayyappa prohibits the entry of the women in the menstrual age group. This is because Ayyappan is a Bramhachari (celibate). The temple is open for worship only during the days of Mandalapooja (approximately 15 November to 26 December), Makaravilakku or "Makar Sankranti" (14 January) and Maha Vishuva Sankranti (14 April), and the first five days of each Malayalam month.
The devotees are expected to follow a Vratham (41-day fasting) prior to the pilgrimage. This begins with wearing of a special Mala (a chain made of Rudraksha or Tulasi beads). In general from then they are to refrain from non-vegetarian food of any kind (except dairy) alcohol, and tobacco, engaging in sex, using foul language, hair-cut, shaving and even trimming the nails. They are expected to bath twice in a day and visit the local temples regularly and only wear plain black or blue colored traditional clothing. Saffron colored dresses are worn by Sanysis (monks) who have renunciated material life. But, many devotees still continue to wear saffron colored clothes which becomes a part of vedic culture which connects the whole Hindus worldwide.
Hundreds of devotees still follow the traditional mountainous forest path (approximately 61 km) from Erumely,12.8 km from Vandiperiyar and 8 km from Chalakayam, believed to be taken by Ayyappa himself. The Erumely route starts from Erumely to Aludha river, then crosses the Aludha mountain to reach Karivilam thodu. Now comes the sacred Karimala crossing, from there to Cheriyanavattom, Valliyanavattom and finally Pamba River. Then they have to climb Neelimala and enter into the ganesh bettam, shreerama betta padam. Then comes the Aranmula kottaram, which is one of the stops of holy journey 'thiruvabharana ghoshayatra'.
These days people use vehicles to reach the Pamba River by an alternate road. From Pamba, all the pilgrims begin trekking the steep mountain path of Neeli Mala till Sabari Mala. This route is now highly developed, with emergency shops and medical aid by the sides, and supporting aid is provided to the pilgrims while climbing the steep slope, which used to be a mere trail through dense jungle. The elderly pilgrims are lifted by men on bamboo chairs till the top, on being paid.
Until 1991, women of all ages were allowed entry into the temple when it opens for monthly rituals. In the olden days, there was no prohibition for women to enter the temple. In the year 1939, even the Maharani of Tranvancore had visited the temple. Women in large numbers did not visit the temple, due to the hardship in reaching the temple. Until 1991, many women pilgrims below the age group of 50 would visit the temple to conduct the first rice-feeding ceremony of their children (Chottoonu) in the temple premises. 
In 1991, Justice K Paripoornan and Justice K Balanarayana Marar of the Kerala High Court in their ruling against the the Travancore Devaswom Board, banned entry of women between ages above the age of 10 and below the age of 50 from offering worship at Sabarimala Shrine during any period of the year. In addition, the Justices of the High court directed the Government of Kerala, to use police force to ensure the order to ban entry of women to the temple was implemented and complied with.
The oldest historical account available about Sabarimala which at that time was known as Churulimala, can be found in the writings of Xuanzang. The writings of Xuanzang reveals that idol of the buddhist shrine was that of Avalokiteśvara, who is according to the believes of Buddhism, an avatar of Bodhisattva. According to the Amarakosha, the word Sastha or Dharmasasta is one of the eighteen synonyms of Gautama Buddha. The Mudra shown by the idol of Ayyappa and the yogic position also may have a connection to Vitarka mudra and Lotus position in which Buddha is depicted generously.
Until the 10th century AD, the main religions of Kerala were Buddhism and Jainism. The legend of Hariharaputra (son of Vishnu and Siva) is probably the result of the compromise between Vaishnava and Saivas streams of Hinduism.
After the installation of the temple, it was mostly unreachable for about three centuries. In the 12th century, a prince of Pandalam Dynasty called Manikandan, rediscovered the original path to reach Sabarimala. He had many followers with him, including the descendants of the Vavar family. This Prince is considered an Avatar of Ayyappa, and is believed to have led a pack of leopards to his Palace with a Muslim Sufi saint called Vavar, and then later disappeared to the Sabarimala temple. They refreshed their resources at Erumely and this marked the beginning of the famous Petta Thullal at Erumely. They laid down their arms at the place today known as Saramkuthy. Those who are on their maiden visits to Sabarimala thrust arrows at this place. The temple was then renovated. In 1821 AD, the kingdom of Pandalam was added to Travancore. 48 major temples including the Sabarimala temple were also added to Travancore. The idol was erected in 1910. In 1950, the temple was set on fire by radical Christian extremists which destroyed the entire temple and had to be reconstructed.
Administration and legal duties is managed by Travancore Devasvom Board, an affiliate authority of Government of Kerala. Thazhamon Madom is the traditional priest family who has powers over the religious matters to be decided in Sabarimala Temple. Tantri is the highest priest and is the head of the temple. It's the privilege of the family to decide on religious matters relating to Sabarimala shrine. Tantris are to be present in all ceremonial poojas and functions to be held at temple premises and functions associated with temple. The installation of idols of the temple was also done by Tantri of this family. It is with the Tantri that the religious supreme authority is vested in each temple and in Sabarimala Temple, the Tantri is the one who decides and declares the normal worship rituals to be performed. Currently Brahmasri Kantararu Maheshwararu Tantri is the supreme priest of Sabarimala. The other famous family members include Kandararu Rajeevararu, Kandararu Mohanararu and Kandararu Mahesh Mohaner.
The prasadam at Sabarimala temple is Aravana payasam and Appam. These are prepared by using rice, ghee, sugar, jaggery etc. The rice needed to prepare the prasadam at Sabarimala temple is supplied by Chettikulangara Devi Temple, the second largest temple under the Travancore Devaswom Board situated at Mavelikkara. The Chief Commissioner, Travancore Devaswom Board said that the board has appointed Central Food Technological Research Institute, Mysore as a consultant for providing technical guidance to ensure the quality of Aravana, Appam, and other prasadam preparations at Sabarimala temple.
Harivarasanam is recited before closing the temple door every night. The Harivarasanam song, which is sung at Sabarimala is a lullaby (Urakkupattu) is 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. With the efforts of Swami Vimochanananda, it came to be accepted as the lullaby by the Tantri and Melshanthi. The composition has 352 letters, 108 words in 32 lines (8 stanzas).
Though there have been many versions of this song sung by many renowned vocalists, the temple plays the rendition by K. J. Yesudas, composed by the renowned music director G. Devarajan, which is in the 'Madhyamavathi' raga of Indian Carnatic music. Harivarasanam is written in sanskrit.
This significant ritual involves pouring sacred ghee brought by pilgrims in their Pallikettu or Irumudi (A two compartment bag made of handwoven cotton cloth used to carry the offerings for Sabarimala Temple carried on their heads) on the idol of Lord Ayyappa. It symbolically means the merging of Jeevatma with the Paramatma.While a Red coloured Irumudi is used by a pilgrim on his first journey (Kanni Ayyappan) to Sabarimala, others use Navy Blue till third year and thereafter saffron coloured Irumudi.
Lord Rama and his brother Lakshmana met Sabari, a tribal devotee, at Sabarimala. Sabari offered the Lord fruits after tasting them. But the Lord accepted them gladly and whole-heartedly. The Lord then saw a divine person doing tapasya. He asked Sabari who it was. Sabari said it was Shasta. Rama walked towards him. Shasta stood up and welcomed the Prince of Ayodhya. The anniversary of this incident is celebrated on Makara Vilakku day. It is believed that on Makara Vilakku day, Lord Dharmashasta stops his tapasya to bless his devotees. The day is also called Makara Shankranthi.
The important message given at the temple is the ultimate knowledge that each individual is a God unto himself/herself, Tat Tvam Asi in sanskrit meaning "That Thou Art". Due to this pilgrims call each other Swami.
It means, in short, you are part of the Universal Soul (in Sanskrit "Paramatma") which is the quintessence of Advaita philosophy.
In this remote hill shrine the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) is shouldering the task of providing sufficient illumination in base camps, trekking paths and the Sannidhanam, the shrine spot. KSEB installs and maintains around 15000 electric lamps of various types here. Power is brought here through Kochu Pampa and Thriveni Substations. Through uninterrupted supply and well maintained lights KSEB has been able to maintain good reputation in the recent years.
The customs of the pilgrims to Sabarimala are based on five worshipping methods; those of Shaivites, Shaktists and Vaishnavites. At first, there were three sections of devotees – the devotees of Shakti who used meat to worship their deity, the devotees of Vishnu who followed strict penance and continence, and the devotees of Shiva who partly followed these two methods. Another name of Ayyappa is Sastha. All these can be seen merged into the beliefs of pilgrims to Sabarimala. The chain the pilgrims wear comes from the Rudraksha chain of the Shaivites. The strict fasting, penance and continence is taken out of the beliefs of the Vaishnavites. The offering of tobacco to Kaduthaswamy can be considered to be taken from the Shaktists..
The waste disposed by the visitors to Sabarimala is threatening the wildlife of the region and the evergreen forests. Efforts are on to make Sabarimala free from pollution and waste. High Court of Kerala has directed that 'Irumudikkettu' should not contain plastic materials. Projects like "Punyam Poonkavanam" has been initiated under the aegis of governmental departments. Religious/ spiritual organisations such as 'Art of Living' and 'Mata Amritanandamayi Madhom' has been regularly contributing to keep Sabarimala and its precincts clean. While cleaning River Pamba, and keeping Sabarimala Sanndidhaanam clean is a primary objective of such projects, the broader vision is to spread the message of greenness and cleanliness beyond Sabarimala.
Some of the salient aspects of "Punyam Poonkavanam" project includes: 1. Not using soap and oil while bathing in the holy Pamba River. Not to throw any material, including clothes in this holy river. 2. To prepare Irumudikkettu without using any plastic and using only bio-degradable materials. 3. To devote at least one hour in cleanliness activities at Sabarimala Sannidhaanam, River Pamba and surroundings as part of the pilgrimage.
Sabarimala Heliport (helipad) is situated in Perunad (40 km) from pampa. Which is known as Sabarimala helipad. Chipsan Aviation Pvt Ltd, having service from various location. Most of the Sabarimala pilgrimages are using this heliport.
Chengannur Railway Station(82 km)(Declared as Gateway of Sabarimala), Tiruvalla Railway Station(92 km), Kottayam Railway Station (120 km) and Kollam Junction railway station (129 km) are the nearest railway stations. Direct Bus services to Pathanamthitta, Erumeli and Pamba are operated from Chengannur Railway Station.
The main trunk road to Sabarimala is Pathanamthitta - Pamba, which passes through, Mannarakulanji, Vadasserikara, Perunad, Laha, Nilackal > Pampa. The distance from Pathanamthitta District center to Sabarimala is about 70 km.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sabarimala.|
|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Sabarimala.|