Temples of Kerala - Sabarimala Temple

by V.A.Ponmelil (All rights reserved by the author)

About Sabarimala Sree Swamy Ayyappa Temple

Sri Sabarimala Sree Swamy Ayyappa temple situated in the Western Ghats Mountains at an elevation of 4135 feet above sea level is the most famous and prominent among all the Shastha temples.
According to the legend, Maharshi Parashuram who retrieved Kerala from the sea by throwing his axe installed the idol of Ayyappa at Sabarimala.

Story of Sabarimala:

King Rajasekara, the descendant of Pandya dynasty ruled the region of Pandalam. He was an able ruler and the people were living happily in his regime. But the king had no children and was unhappy. He and his wife prayed lord Shiva. Dharmasastha born to Lord Shiva and Lord Mahavishnu in disguise of Mohini was ordered to take the form of a baby by Lord Shiva.

King Rajasekara while returning from hunting traces the divine baby on the banks of River Pampa. When the king was in a dilemma, a sage appears and tells him to take care of the child. He also told the king that as the baby has the gold bell around its neck, its name to be called Manikandan and when it completes 12 years, the king will now the divine history of the baby.

The king was very happy and takes the child to palace where even the queen and the people of the kingdom felt very happy. But the Diwan who was planning to become the next heir after the king was worried. Manikandan grows and learns all martial arts and sastras in great brilliance, agility and extraordinary talents. He blesses his guru’s dumb son with the power of speech as Guru Dakshina. In the meanwhile, the queen gave birth to another child who was named RajaRajan.

King Rajasekara, treating Manikandan as his eldest son decides to crown him and orders the Diwan to make arrangements for the same. He devises plan to kill Manikandan but fails. Then he approaches the queen and poisons her mind by telling that her son is the only heir to the thrown. He persuades the queen to pretend to be suffering from severe headache and stomach pain so that he would make the physician tell that only a tigress’ milk would cure the queen. On this context, Manikandan would be sent to the forest to fetch the tigress’ milk and would be killed in the forest by wild animals.

Then the queen pretends to be suffering from severe headache and stomach pain and the king sends for physician. The physician brought by the Diwan examines and conveys that the queen is suffering from dangerous disease which can be cured only applying the tigress’s milk.

Manikandan asks the king to let him go to the forest to bring the milk. When the king refuses, Manikandan binds the king through his words and goes to the forest. King Rajasekara sends Manikandan along with necessary foodstuffs and coconuts with three-eyes, in remembrance of Lord Shiva. The Panchabuthas, sent by Lord Shiva also accompanied Manikandan to Forest.

On his way Manikandan came to know about the atrocities of Mahishi in the Devaloka, he went there and fought a battle with Mahishi and kills her. Later, he went to the forest to get tigress milk. Lord Shiva himself turns into tiger and many devas turn into tigers and tigresses and accompanies Manikandan.

In the palace, Manikandan’s divine identity was revealed and King Rajasekara fell at his feet and asked him to forgive for what has happened. Manikandan through his kindness forgives everyone. King wishes to build a temple for Manikandan and asks for a suitable place.

Manikandan aimed an arrow which fell at the Sabari hill where the sanyasini Sabari of Rama’s era had her home. Manikandan told the king to build the temple in that place and disappeared. As per Saint Agasthya's advise, King Rajasekara laid the foundation stone for the building the Sabarimala Shrine.

The pilgrimage of Sabarimala begins in the month of November and ends in January attracting pilgrims not only from the southern states of India, but also from other parts of the country and abroad. The Mandalapooja and the Makaravilakku are the two main events of the pilgrim season.

The Jewel Casket of Ayyappan is carried on the head from the ancestral residence of the royal family of Panthalam to the Shrine on that day. A Garuda, the Brahaman kite which follows this procession, hovering about in the sky will circle the temple three times and disappears once the ornaments are worn on the Lord. "Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa" is the chant heard during this pilgrimage.

On Makara sankranthi day, a Star never seen before in the sky appears before the sight of the Jyoti which can be seen for a little time on the hilltop. It is believed that through this Lord Ayyappan shows his presence gracing his devotees. The temple stays closed during the rest of the year except for the first five days of every Malayalam month and during Vishu.

Facts about Sabrimala:

Only males, menopaused females beyond 50 years of age and little girls below 10 years of age irrespective of religion or nationality are allowed to visit the temple. As Ayyappan is a Yogi, these restrictions are followed in the temple.

The male pilgrims are called 'Ayyappan' and the female pilgrims are called 'Malikappuram'.

The pilgrims are supposed to undergo 41 days of fast to cleanse the mind. They wear black or blue cloths and a garland of Rudraksha. Total abstinence from all vices like alcohol, tobacco, non-vegetarian food and sex is stipulated.

The devotees carry a bundle called Irumudi which is divided into two parts. The front portion contains the stocking of pooja articles such as coconuts filled with cow ghee, camphor, unboiled rice, plantain (kadali), aval (flattened rice), pori, sandal paste incense sticks, vibhuti (sacred ash), kumkum (vermilion), turmeric powder, jaggery, kalkkandom (candied sugar) etc.

The rear pouch of the Irumudi Kettu contains consumable edible items which are used by the pilgrim for his personal sustenance during the journey to Sabarimala and back.

The Advaita philosphy says that "you are part of the Universal Soul and thus you are God!" (Aham Bhramasmi) and due to this pilgrims call each other swami.

When to go:

Monthly poojas are held at Sabarimala temple throughout the year. See the Sabarimala Calendar below.

Sabarimala Calendar for '2008

30 December 2007 to 20 January 2008: Makaravilakku Festival

12 February to 17 February: Monthly (Kumbham) Pooja

11 March to 21 March: Monthly (Meenam) Pooja, Utsavam
12 March: Utsavam Kodiyettu
21 March: Utsavam Arattu
21 March: Painkuni Uthram

10 April to 18 April: Vishu Darsan

14 May to 19 May: Monthly (Edavam) Pooja

11 June to 12 June Idol Installation Day Pooja
14 June to 19 June: Monthly (Midhunum) Pooja

15 July to 20 July: Monthly (Chingam) Pooja

16 August to 21 August: Monthly (Chingam) Pooja

10 September to 14 September: Onam Pooja
16 September to 21 September: Monthly (Kanni) Pooja

16 October to 21 October: Monthly (Thulam) Pooja
21 October to 28 October: Sree Chithira Attathirunal

15 November to 26 December: Mandala Pooja Festival
26 December: Mandala Pooja
30 December: Makaravilakku Festival

Sabarimala Offerings Rate Chart: (in Rupees)
Padi Pooja: 30001
Udayasthamana Pooja: 20001
Ganapathi Homam: 61
Usha Pooja: 501
Nitya Pooja: 2501
Pushapabhishekam: 2001
Ucha Pooja: 2001
Utsav Bali: 5001
Muzhukappu: 301
Laksharchana: 1001
Sahasranamarchana: 15
Thulabharam: 51
Neyyabhishekam: 5
Aravana: 50
Appam: 20
Vibhoothi Prasadam: 5
Vellanivedhiyam: 5
Sarkkara Payasam: 7
Panchamartham: 5
Ayyappachakram: 50
Sahsra Kalasam: 10001
Neeranjanam: 61
Thankaangi Charthu: 6001
Astabhishekam: 751

Useful Telephone Numbers:
Sabarimala STD Code: 04735

Police Station: 202014
Police Control room: 202016

Railway Station:
Chengannur: 0479-2452340
Thiruvalla: 0469-2634264
Kottayam: 0481-2569966
Ernakulam (Junction): 0484-2371131
Ernakulam (Town): 0484-2390920

General Hospital, Pathanamthitta: 0468-2223675
District Hospital, Kozhencherry: 0468-2212255
Muthoot Hospital, Kozhencherry: 0468-2214000
Muthoot Hospital, Pathanamthitta: 0468-2324000
Pushpagiri Medical College Hospital, Thiruvalla: 0469-2700755
Medical College Hospital, Kottayam: 0481-2597310

KSRTC Bus Service:

Daily Service:
Pamba to Thiruvananthapuram (via Kottarakkara): 6.40 AM
Pamba to Kottayam (via Erumely): 9.15 AM
Pamba to Ernakulam (via Pathanamthitta): 11.45 AM
Pamba to Thiruvananthapuram (Via Kottarakkara): 12.30 AM
Pamba to Thiruvananthapuram (Via Punallur): 2.15 AM
Pamba to Pathanamthitta: 5.45 AM
Pamba to Erumely: 6.00 PM

Food, Accomodation:

Anantha Bhavan, Near Anurag Theatre, Phone-0468-2321159
Arya Bhavan, Near KSRTC Bus Stand, Phone-0468-3294707, 2224707
Mannil Regency, Phone-0468-2320364
Aryas, Near KSRTC Bus Stand, Phone-0468-3250939

Cresent Tower, Petta Junction, Tel-04828-211564
Hotel Maharaja, Town, Tel-04828-210415
Sabari Homes, Kanjirappilly Road, Tel-04828-211448

Sabrimala Distance Chart:

Distance to Pampa from Thiruvanathapuram - 173 km (via Adoor, Kottarakkara)
Distance to Pampa from Pathanamthitta - 65 km
Distance to Pampa from Punalur - 102 km
Distance to Pampa from Pandalam - 80 km
Distance to Pampa from Erumeli - 53 km (via Plappally, Mukkoottuthara)
Distance to Pampa from Kottayam - 109 km (via Erumeli)
Distance to Pampa from Ernakulam - 182 km
Distance to Pampa from Kollam - 128 km
Distance to Pampa from Alappuzha - 130 km

How to reach Sabarimala:

By Air: Sabarimala is located at 175 km from the Thiruvananthapuram international airport and 200 km from the Kochi international airport

By Rail: Nearest railway stations to Sabarimala are Kottayam and Chengannur

The important routes to Sabarimala are

(1) Kottayam to Pampa (via Erumeli). Pamba to Sabarimala by foot. About 136 kmKottayam to Pampa (via Manimala). Pamba to Sabarimala by foot. About 116 km

(2) Erumeli to Sabarimala (via Kalaketty, Azhutha, Inchippara, Karimala, Pampa) - 45 km. From Pampa to Sabarimala by foot.

(3) Vandiperiyar Route route extends through Kottayam - Kumili road. Vandiperiyar to Mount Estate by vehicle. Then by walking to Sabarimala.

Note: Motor Vehicles cannot go beyond Pampa. The last five kilometres to the shrine can be reached by trekking or porter carried chairs. Fill the tanks of vehicle with fuel as there is limited Petrol stations. Also keep important spare parts, tyre and tool kit with you.

What is Harivarasanam?

Harivarasanam is recited before closing the temple door at night. The composition has 352 letters, 108 words in 32 lines.

Harivarasanam song was composed by Sri Kambakkudi Kulathur Srinivasa Iyer who used to recite the composition in front of Lord Ayyappa at the main temple after the Athazha Pooja.

What is Neyyabhishekam?

It symbolically means the merging of Jeevatma with the Paramatma. This significant ritual involves pouring sacred ghee brought by pilgrims in their Pallikattu (Irumudi) on the idol of Lord Ayyappa.


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