Sabarimala ayyappan temple
Swamiyae Saranam Ayyappa…
Hindu shrines are usually situated near river banks, sea shores or on mountain tops to help pilgrims meditate and to provide them a sense of peace. The shrines found on hill tops are especially enthralling, not only because of their religious appeal, but also due to their approachability (or lack thereof).
The hill shrine of Sabarimala and its deity Lord Ayyappan is matchless in Hindu religion and special to the State of Kerala in South India. This forest abode of Lord Ayyappan is situated in the Western Ghats of India. Lord Ayyappan is a symbol of religious unity and communal harmony. Being born out of Mohini (the female incarnation of Lord Vishnu) and Lord Shiva, he is also known as Bhuthanatha, Dharmashastha, Hariharan, Ayyanar and Manikanta.
There are several temples dedicated to Lord Ayyappan all over India. Among these, the important temples along the Western Ghats are: Kulathupuzha – where Lord Ayyappan is a child, Aryankavu – where he is a bachelor, Achankovil – where he takes the form of Dharmasastha with Poorna and Pushkala (his wives), and the most popular of them all Sabarimala – where he is a yogi, meditating for the benefit of all.
To reach sabarimala sannidhanam, the devotees go through 2 ways… Neelimalai route and kaludhai paadhai route. The neelimala route is a straight steep hill with 7 Kms and it will take around 1 hour for a person who walks very fast and normally 1.5 hrs who walk on a average speed. The kaludhai pathai route is a normal route for the donkeys which goes with pooja item luggages to the temple. It goes to the temple with the hairpin bends and easy to walk but will take some more time to reach the temple. Sabarimala (Mount Sabari – about 3000 feet above mean sea level) is the most favorite and significant temple in Kerala. Pilgrimage to this temple symbolizes the journey to heaven and is a soul cleansing experience. Under the guidance of a leader (Guruswami), pilgrims observe austerities with devotion, wearing rudraksha or tulsi beads strings in the neck, adorn black or saffron or blue clothes, fast for 41 days (vrata) to condition the body, mind, and soul, and embark on their spiritual journey through “gods own country” and mountains to reach the temple. The pilgrims, after observing the vrata, carry on their head, the holy ghee for the Lord’s Abisheka filled in coconut in an “Irumudi” (two compartment cloth bag).
The feeling of delight and spiritual elevation that devotees get when they have the darshan of the deity is so remarkable and significant that it brings tears of joy in the eyes of the devotee. The magnetic charm is so high, it makes any devotee, who undertakes the yatra (pilgrimage) once, to revisit the shrine every year in quest of spiritual solace. Sabarimala temple is open to all men and women who are either below the age of ten or above the age of 50 (because the Lord is a chaste yogi in Sabarimala), irrespective of caste, creed, religion, social status or nationality. The male pilgrims are called ‘Ayyappan’ and the female pilgrims are called ‘Malikappuram’. The shrine is open only during specific period in a year. It is open from Mid-November to Mid-January and for first five days of every Malayalam month.