Sabarimala Temple is one of the most revered and most popular shrines of Kerala. Located at village of Sabarimala, Sri Ayyappa Temple falls in the eastern part of Kerala bordered by Tamil Nadu. One can easily reach Sabarimala Temple by taking regular buses or by hiring taxis from the major towns and cities of Kerala. The nearest airports are located at Thiruvanathapuram and Kochi at a distance of 115 kms and 106 kms from Sabarimala. The nearest railway stations to Sabarimala are found at Kottayam and Chengannur. The temple lies on a hill; Pampi is the last destination, where transport can be reached after that one has to travel a distance of 5 kms on foot.
The village of Sabarimala got its name from 'Shabari', a devotee who did rigorous penance with the intention of meeting Lord Rama. Sabarimala Temple is dedicated to Lord Ayyappa, who is regarded as the unification of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. As per the local folklore, Lord Parasurama placed the deity at the base of Sabari Hills. Even the great Hindu epic of 'the Ramayana' confirms this fact. The two branches of Hinduism i.e. Shaivism and Vaishnavism come together in the form of Lord Ayyappa. Also famous as Dharma Shasta, Lord Ayyappa is also regarded as Lord Buddha, though there is no data to verify this fact.
The dome of Sabarimala Temple is covered with gold. In the vicinity of the temple, there is shrine dedicated to Vavar (Muslim by religion), who was an ardent devotee of Lord Ayyappa. Suggesting the religious tolerance, the tour to Sabarimala is said to be incomplete without the worship of Lord Vavar. From Sabarimala Temple, People can also see Makara Vilakku, which is a holy light on the close by hill. This light is regarded as a sign of the divine presence.
Sabarimala is a well-known pilgrim center of Kerala. The temple observes an annual festival where hundreds of devotees come after observing complete abstinence from the worldly affairs. Sabarimala festival is celebrated from the month of November to mid January. During this time, Mandal Puja and Makar Sankranti Puja are the two main occasions when temple is visited by thousands of people. Makar Sankranti (14 Jan') is considered as the most propitious day of the pilgrimage.
An amazing fact about Sabarimala Temple is that this shrine is open to people from all religions, castes, creed or color. The preponderance of pilgrims is made by men, who are required to observe fast for forty days. During this period, one needs to observe celibacy and undergoes daily prayer rituals. Young Girls, who have not yet attained the age of puberty and Women, who have reached the phase of menopause can attend the pilgrimage to Sabarimala.
Before starting the journey, devotes take a ritual bath in the sacred river 'Pamba', which is assumed to wash away one's sins. Devotees carry packs enclosing contain conventional offerings like coconut filled with ghee, camphor and rice on their heads. When they arrive at the temple steps, they break the coconut here and continue forward to get the glimpse of the Lord.
Location : Western Ghats, Kerala
Dedicated to : Lord Ayyappa
Significance : Holy pilgrimage of the Hindus