Sabarimala is one of the holiest Hindu pilgrimages in India. It is a shrine devoted to the Lord Ayyappa. The unique feature of this pilgrim spot is anyone can visit it irrespective of their religion, caste and creed. Men of all ages and faith and women who have either not reached puberty or passed the age of fertility come here from all over the country as well as abroad to undertake the difficult trek through forested paths to worship at the site. Today, this temple has become a symbol of communal harmony.
Location : State/District
Sabarimala is located on a hill at an altitude of 3000 feet in the district of Pathanamthitta in Kerala in southern India.The latitude of Sabarimala is 9°26'00"N and its longitude is 77°04'049.8"E.
The shrine at Sabarimala is a pilgrim spot of international repute. Since it has no restriction of religion, caste or creed, it is visited by diverse people from all walks of life.
Popular Hindu Pilgrim Center
Women who have not reached puberty or beyond the age of fertility only are allowed to visit this spot. So, the typical visitors to Sabarimala consist of groups of male pilgrims from all over India and abroad travelling under a leader called Guru Swamy. A person who has undertaken the maximum number of journeys to this pilgrim spot is regarded as the seniormost member and is given the role of the leader.
This pilgrim spot enjoys a moderate climate. Summer season lasts from March to May. It is warm and dry. The monsoon season lasts from June to September and heavy rainfall is noted at this time. the entire hill becomes covered with lush greenery. Winters are cool and pleasant and last from December to February. The best time to visit Sabarimala is from September to April when the high temperature and heavy rains give way to a cool and pleasant climate. However, the temple is open only during the days of Chitra Vishu, Mandalapuja which occurs in November – December and Makaravilakku that occurs in December – January.
All foreign visitors coming to Sabarimala must carry a valid passport with an Indian visa. Indian nationals do not require any special documents to visit this pilgrim spot. However, there is a system by which you can book your slot online in the queue to visit the temple. You will require a photo identity proof to book this slot. A coupon will be issued to you. A printout of this coupon and the original of the photo ID must be carried when you go to visit the temple.
Places to Visit
The most important place to visit is the Sabarimala temple devoted to Lord Ayyappa. It is located on the hill and lush greenery envelopes the area around it. Eighteen steep golden steps lead to the temple. Devotees must observe a rigorous routine for 41 days before visiting the temple. Coconuts are burnt at a huge fire pit beside the golden steps signifying the burning of sin. During the festival of Makaravilakku, the idol of the Lord is decorated with rich jewels. This festival attracts thousands of devotees.
The shrine of the Muslim Saint Vavaru Swamy is another important place to visit.
According to legends, Vavar was a pirate who was defeated by Lord Ayyappa and later became his devoted follower. This shrine located near the temple has become a symbol of communal harmony for the whole of Kerala.
The Nilakkel Mahadeva temple, the Sri Ganapathy temple, the Mallikkappuram Devi temple are some of the most important temples on the way to the main shrine.
The most important activity which is performed by every devotee is the trek up to the temple of Ayyappa. Motorized transport stops at Pamba. This has to be followed by a six kilometers long trek through the forested roads of the hill to reach the Sannidhanam or the inner sanctum of Lord Ayyappa. People chant the glory of the Lord as they trek through this road which has lush and beautiful vegetation.
Offering pooja at the shrine of Lord Ayyappa is another very important activity here. Devotees have to observe a strict routine for 41 days before visiting the shrine. During this time they are not supposed to consume liquor and non vegetarian food, refrain from sexual activities and cutting of hair. Traditional costume in blue or black must be worn to visit the temple. Devotees must burn coconuts at the giant fire pit to signify obliteration of their sins.
There are several spots that lie within short distance from Sabarimala. Pathanamthitta, located 65 kms from Sabarimala is a prominent center of religion, art and culture. It is famous for its boat races and the ten day longritualistic dance called Padyani that is performed in the Kadamanitta Devi temple. In addition, there are a number of temples and churches in the surrounding area.
A number of ancient temples are also located at Adoor which lies at a distance of 81 kms from Sabarimala. These temples as well several churches attract thousands of devotees to this town.
There Kollam is one such spot located about 125 kms is the backwaters of Kollam. The spot has a beautiful vista of backwaters and beaches amidst plenty of greenery. A boat ride is the best way to enjoy the natural beauties of Kollam. In addition, there are a number of important temples and mosques in the area which should be visited.
The city of Kumarakom located at a distance of 72 kms from Sabarimala is another beautiful spot which no nature lover can afford to miss. Set on the banks of Lake Vembanand, this city offers ample opportunities for bird watching and photography as thousands of migratory birds visit the lake in winter.
Another interesting spot is Aleppy, located at a distance of 79 kms from Sabarimala. It is known for the numerous backwater streams that criss cross the area. The beautiful natural surrounding as well as bird and wildlife are the chief attraction of this spot.
Food & Accommodation
Liquor and non vegetarian foods are strictly no allowed in the area around Sabarimala hill. There are a number of small stalls and eateries along the way as you trek up to the temple. They serve basic traditional food to meet the requirements of the pilgrims. Street food eateries are common in the region. The official maintenance board also runs a restaurant where food prices have been kept extremely reasonable.
A number of guest houses are maintained at Sabarimala. They include Palazhi, Sopanam, Manikantan etc where the rates are around Rs 325. On the other hand, guest houses like Tejaswini, Shiva Shakthi etc charge around Rs. 500. Accommodations are also available at the IB maintained by forest department. Another commonly used option is to stay at the budget or luxury hotels at some distance from Pamba and undertake the pilgrimage as a day tour.
Safety and Security
Since thousands of pilgrims visit the shrine, special care is taken to ensure the safety and security of Sabarimala. CCTV cameras are used and special security personnel are deployed for the purpose. Hence, it is quite safe to visit Sabarimala.