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Sabarimala (Malayalam: ശബരിമല, Kannada: ಶಬರಿಮಲೆ , Tamil: சபரிமலை, Telugu: శబరిమల) is a pilgrimage centre in Keralamarker located in the Western Ghat mountain ranges of Keralamarker in Pathanamthitta Districtmarker. Lord Ayyappan's temple is situated here in the midst of 18 hills. The area is in the Sahya ranges of Kerala. The temple is situated on a hilltop at an altitude of 914m/3000 ft above mean sea level, and is surrounded by mountains and dense forests. Temples exists 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 believed to be the place where Ayyappan meditated after killing the powerful demon, Mahishi.

Sabarimala is one of the most visited piligrim centres in the world with an estimated 4.5 - 5 crores devotees coming every year. The world's second largest annual pilgrimage (after Hajj in Mecca) is reported to be to Sabarimala.

The pilgrimage to Sabarimala is a singular example of one where pilgrims, without consideration of caste, creed, position or social status, go with one mind and one mantra dreaming constantly of the darshan of the presiding deity at the Holy Sannidhanam. Vehicles can go up to Pamba Rivermarker. However no girls/women between the age of 12-50 are allowed to visit this temple. This temple is very popular amongst all South Indians. The devotees are expected to follow a vratham(41-day penance), i.e. during this period they are to refrain from meat, fish, alcohol, tobacco, sex, using foul words, refrain from hair cut, shaving and should visit the local temples regularly and wear a special Mala( A garland made of Rudhraksha or Tulasi beads) and only black coloured dresses. Presently the conditions for Vratham are not as strict as it used to be earlier.

There is a place near the temple (east of Sannidhanam), dedicated to the Vavar, a Muslim who was the disciple of Ayyappan, called "Vavarunada". The temple is open for worship only during the days of Mandalapooja (November 15 to December 26), Makaravilakku (January 15) and Vishu (April 14), and the beginning of every month in the Malayalam calendar.Sabari was a devotee of Lord Rama. Her devotion is widely attributed to that of an ideal devotee. Lord Ayyappa wanted his pilgrims to honour the same attributes as that of Sabari and hence the hill on which the temple is situated is known as Sabarimala.

Vehicular traffic cannot go beyond Pampa, situated on the Pampa river valley and the last five kilometres to the shrine can be best reached by trekking. However, porter carried chairs (called as doli locally) are also available for the aged and handicapped pilgrims.

Thereafter, pilgrims have to follow a path approximately four kilometres up a steep hill. The path, now fully cemented, with shops and medical aid by the sides, used to be a mere trail through dense forest.

The pilgrimage

Crowd management of pilgrims

Throughout the year, monthly poojas are held at the temple, usually during the first week of each Malayalam month. The shrine is open only for the first five days of each month and for the pilgrimage season, between mid-November and mid-January.

Millions of Ayyappan disciples visit the famous temple of Lord Ayyappan every year from all around India. The main pilgrimage season is from November to January. Women between the age of 10 and 50 are not allowed to visit the Lord Ayyappan Shrine. A number of feminist organizations have tried to persuade the Travancore Devaswom Board to revoke this age; that the Ayyappan worshipped at Sabarimala is supposed to be a celibate hermit is cited as one of the reason to prohibit women from entering Sabarimala.

Devotees are expected to undergo a 41-day penance which includes abstinence from sex, alcohol, tobacco, foul words, meat, fish etc., they are to wear black outfit (shirt and dhoti) with beads around the neck, practicing utmost cleanliness, not uttering any curses, etc.), the arduous trek up to the shrine, The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) has insured the Sabarimala Ayyappa shrine for a value of Rs 30 crore ($7 million) and also introduced a free-of-cost accident insurance project for pilgrims visiting the holy place. The pilgrims' insurance scheme offered up to Rs 1 lakh to the devotees suffering injuries or death at a stretch of about 18 km from Nilakkal to uphill Sannidhanam where the temple is located. An estimated 5 crore (50 million) pilgrims visited the temple last year during the main season from November to January and it is estimated that Sabarimala is providing 10,000 crore rupees to the Kerala economy.


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


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 Pooja, 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 Melsanti. The composition has 352 letters, 108 words in 32 lines (8 stanzas).

Though there have been many versions of this song sung by many renowned vocalists, the temple plays the rendition by K. J. Yesudas.


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

Aham Bhramasmi 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 Tazhamon family is the Tantri (Head Priest) of Sabarimala.

Tat Tvam Asi, meaning "Thou Art That" 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 philosophy. It also means for reaching The Paramatma or Universal Soul.

Other famous temples near Sabarimala

  • Nilakkal Temple, Pathanamthitta
  • Malayalappuzha Temple, Pathanamthitta
  • Aranmula Parthasaradhy Temple
  • Mahadeva Temple, Chengannur
  • Srevallabha Temple, Thiruvalla
  • Kaviyoor Anjaneya Temple, Thiruvalla
  • Chettikulangara Devi Temple, Mavelikkara
  • Mannarasala Nagarajaswamy Temple, Harippad
  • Subramanya Temple, Harippad
  • Chakkulathukavu, Thiruvalla
  • Kandiyoor Mahashiva Temple, Mavelikkara

See also


  1. Harivarasanam History and meaning of harivarasanam.
  2. Harivarasanam by K.J Yesudas.

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