Sabarimala

Sabarimala is a Hindu pilgrimage center located in the Western Ghat mountain ranges of Pathanamthitta District in Kerala. Sabarimala is believed to be the place where Ayyappan meditated after killing the powerful demoness, Mahishi. Lord Ayyappan's temple is situated here amidst 18 hills. The temple is situated on a hilltop at an altitude of 914 m above mean sea level, and is surrounded by mountains and dense forests. 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 the one of Hindu's holy duty; they must go at least once in their lifetime and it is the largest annual pilgrimage in the world with an estimated 45–50 million devotees visiting every year. Women between the ages of 10 and 50 are not allowed to enter the temple, since the story attributed to Lord Ayyappa prohibits the entry of the women in the menstrual age group. This is because Ayyappan is a Bramachari (Celibate). 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 five days of each Malayalam month.

The pilgrimage

The devotees are expected to follow a vratham (41-day penance) prior to the pilgrimage. This begins with wearing of a special Mala (a garland made of Rudraksha or Tulasi beads). In general from then they are to refrain from meat, fish, alcohol, tobacco, sex, using foul words, hair-cuts and shaving. They are expected to visit the local temples regularly and only wear plain black, blue or saffron colored traditional clothing.

Hundreds of devotees still follow the traditional mountainous forest path (approximately 45 km) from Erumely, believed to be taken by Lord Ayyappa himself. The part starts from Erumely to Azhutha river, then crosses the Azhutha mountain to reach Kariyilam thodu. Now comes the sacred Karimala crossing, from there to Cheriyanavattom, Valiyanavattom and finally Pamba River. Aranmula kottaram is one of the halt place of holy journey 'thiruvabharana khosayatra'. But many people use vehicular traffic which can go till the Holy Pamba River by an alternate road. Thereafter, all the pilgrims have to follow a mountainous forest trekking path approximately four kilometers up a steep hill(Neeli Mala) to Sabarimala. This path, now developed, with shops and medical aid by the sides, used to be a mere trail through dense forest.

Prasadams

The prasadam at Sabarimala temple is Aravana payasam and Appam. These are prepared by using rice, ghee, sugar etc. The rice needed to prepare prasadam at Sabarimala is supplied by Chettikulangara Devi Temple, the second largest temple under Travancore devaswom board situated at Mavelikkara.

Harivarasanam

Harivarasanam  is recited before closing the temple door at night. Harivarasanam song, which is sung today at Sabarimala as the Lullaby at night (Urakkupattu) was composed by Sri Kambakkudi Kulathur Srinivasa Iyer. It is said that Srinivasa Iyer used to recite the composition, after the Athazha Puja, standing in front of Lord Ayyappa at the main temple. With the efforts of Swami Vimochanananda, it came to be accepted as the lullaby by the Thantri and melshanthi. The composition has 352 letters, 108 words in 32 lines (8 stanzas).[2]

Though there have been many versions of this song sung by many renowned vocalists, the temple plays the rendition by K. J. Yesudas, which is in the 'Madhyamavati' raga of Indian Karnatic music.

 Neyyabhishekam

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 bear the offerings for Sabarimala Temple by the devotees and carried on their heads)on the idol of Lord Ayyappa. It symbolically means the merging of Jeevatma with the Paramatma.While a Saffron coloured Irumudi is used by a pilgrim on his first journey(Kanni Ayyappan) to Sabarimala, others use black or Navy Blue coloured Irumudi.

 Aham Brahmasmi and Tattvamasi

The important message given at the temple is the ultimate knowledge that you are God, Tat Tvam Asi in Sanskrit meaning "That is you". Due to this pilgrims call each other Swami. Kantararu Maheshwararu of Thazhamon family is the Thantri (Head Priest) of Sabarimala.

Tat Tvam Asi, meaning "That Thou Art" is the message that is given out by the Lord. It means, in short, you are part of the Universal Soul (in Sanskrit "Paramatma") which is the quintessence of Advaita (Mayavada) philosophy. It also means for reaching The Paramatma or Universal Soul.

 Illumination an Power

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. Kaeb installs and maintains around 15000 electric lamps of various types here. Power is brouht here through Kochu Pmpa and Thriveni Substations. Through uninterrupted supply and well maintained lights KSEB could maintain good reputation in th recent years.

Other famous temples near Sabarimala

* Lord Murugan Temple, Erumpoonnikara, Erumely, Kottayam
* Nilakkal Temple, Pathanamthitta
* Malayalappuzha Temple, Pathanamthitta
* Aranmula Parthasarathy Temple
* Rektha Kanda Swamy Temple, Omallur, Pathanamthitta
* Mahadeva Temple, Chengannur
* Srevallabha Temple, Thiruvalla
* Kaviyoor Anjaneya Temple, Thiruvalla
* Chettikulangara Devi Temple, Mavelikkara
* Mannarasala Temple, Harippad
* Subramanya Temple, Harippad
* Chakkulathukavu Temple, Thiruvalla
* Kandiyoor Mahashiva Temple, Mavelikkara
* Chunakkara Mahadeva Temple, Mavelikkara
* Padanilam Parabrahma Temple, Padanilam
* Thrikuratti Maha Deva Temple, Mannar
* Perumpetty Sree Mahadevar Temple, Perumpetty

See also

* Ayyappan
* Makara Jyothi
* Maalikapurathamma
* Pandalam
* Pathanamthitta District
* Temples of Kerala
* Aranmula kottaram