Sabarimala Temple Thekkady- Kerala
About the Sabarimala Temple
The Temple at Sabarimala is one of most visited in
entire India. This is despite the fact that the temple is open for
public during specific season only (November 15 - January 19). It is
located at a height of 950 m on the Sahayadri range amidst forest
areas. The temple is surrounded by 18 hills, each with a temple.
Today, remnants of these temples are visible from the Sabarimala
temple. The uniqueness of this temple lies in the fact that people of
almost all religion and faith can pay a visit to it without any
discrimination, however, women are not allowed in. The reason given
for this is that Lord Ayyappa, to whom the temple is dedicated, was a
confirmed bachelor and hence women (who have attained puberty) should
not visit him.
There are a number of legends that associate themselves with the Sabarimala Temple in Kerala including the one where Ayyappa is claimed to be a Buddhist. However, the most famous of all legends and perhaps the most believed one revolves around the legend of Manikandan.
The legend of Sabarimala states that King Rajshekhara,
a direct descendant of the Pandya dynasty, ruled over Pandalam. He was
childless and was forever worried as to who will succeed him after his
death. Once, while returning from a hunting expedition, he heard the
cries of a child in the forest, near the Pamba river. He followed the
sound of cry and finally saw a child with golden chain and bell around
his neck. The king fell into a dilemma whether he should carry the
child back with him to the palace or not. At this point of time, a
sage intervened and asked him to take the child home and name him
Manikandan. He also informed the king that when the child attains
twelve years of age, the king will know his divine history.
The king was overjoyed and returned with the child. The queen was very happy seeing the child, however, one person who could not take the arrival with joy was the deewan of Pandalam. He had his own plans of succeeding Rajshekhara and now his ambitions were in serious danger as the child was exceedingly brilliant and capable. By this time the queen had given birth to a son of her own. The deewan contrived with the queen, who in order to see her own son king, feigned illness. The physician, as per the deewan's instruction, advised the king that only a tigress milk could cure the queen of her ailment. Hearing this Manikandan, who was just twelve years at that point of time, insisted that he be allowed to go and fetch the milk for his mother. The king allowed, though reluctantly. Enroute, Manikandan also killed Mahishi who was committing atrocities on Devlok. Thereafter, Lord Shiva appeared before Manikandan and offered to accompany him along with other devas as tiger and tigress. Manikanadan agreed and returned with a bunch of tigress. King Rajshekhara realized the divine power of Manikandan and became aware that he was incarnation of Dhramasastha
Before leaving for devlok, Manikandan selected a place
for his temple by aiming an arrow. King Rajshekhara himself laid the
foundation of the temple at the place, Sabari. Manikandan also made it
clear that only those devotees who could carry on Vritha for 41 days
will be blessed by him. During this period the devotees had to devoid
themselves of all the carnal pleasure and eat vegetarian food. Also,
the devotees needed to carry holy irumudi (a cloth bag containing puja
and personal material) on their head in a similar manner as he himself
carried it while going to forest. Moreover, the devotees will require
to bathe in river Pampa shouting slogans of Saranam and ascend the 18
As per the instructions of God, Rajshekhera completed the temple and called Parsuraman to carve a figure of Lord Ayyappa, the Dharmasastha. The image was installed on the pious day of Makar Sankranthi.
The Temple at Sabarimala
The temple is built in accordance with the instructions
of Lord Ayyappa himself. Images of his faithful lieutenant Vavur and
Kadutha guard the holy 18 steps, the ladder to heaven. The image of
Lord Ayyapa is built of an alloy of five metals called the Panchaloha
and is around one and a half feet tall. Infront of the shrine,
earlier, there was a homakund where, the devotees could burn the
coconut after pouring the ghee on the deity. With increase in the
number of devotees, however, the homakund was shifted to a place below
the temple. A shrine of Ganapati occupies the portion south west of
the main temple.
A small hillock houses Malikappurathamma temple dedicated to Devi and Kadhutswamy. Worshippers visit this temple to pay their respect to a trident and a lamp. On its left side, the temple has shrines of snake Gods and Goddess, Nagaraja and Nagayakshi. A little distance away from the temple is the Bhasma Kund, a temple tank. A number of devotees take a holy dip here in remembrance of Sabari who gave up her life by entering fire. It is after her that the peak has been named Sabarimala.
The pilgrimage begins in the month of November and
concludes in January. All those desirous of paying a visit to the
sacred temple of Lord Ayyappa can initiate the process by wearing a
rudraksha mala and giving oneself completely to the devotion of god.
It is considered extremely auspicious to take the initiation process
by a Guruswami ( someone who has been to the temple previously atleast
seven consecutive year). Thereafter the pilgrims maintain a 41 day
rigorous austerities. Those successful can head towards the Temple in
batches under the leadership of a capable person. All individual need
to carry the Irumudi Kettu which has two sections. The first one
contains a coconut filled with ghee while the second one holds the
necessary items required for the journey. The significance of these
items are more than apparent as they manifest human desire that needs
to be renounced to merge with the god and divinity.
There are three routes to the temple, the easiest one being the one through Chalakyam which is very close to the Pampa river. From here Sannidhanam is just 8 km away. The most tough route, the Erumeli route, entails the pilgrims to undertake a 61 km walk on foot through forests and hill track. There is also the Vandiperiyar route which commences from 94.4 km stone on the Kottayam - Kumli road. Crossing the 18 divine steps is the next step in the pilgrimage. The steps have their own relevance and those who climb it are believed to attain 'Punyadarshan'. Here the coconut is broken and the ghee is poured over Lord Ayyappa's idol. The union with god is considered complete
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