Among all of the Sastha temples, the one at Sabarimala that is devoted to Lord Ayyappa is one of the most well-known and well-known temples in the world. This temple is important not just because of the religious aspects that are associated with it, but also because of the cultural, sociological, and cultural aspects that are associated with it.
It is possible that this is the reason why this is one of the greatest yearly pilgrimages in the world; each year, it draws in excess of one hundred million people. The temple is one of a kind due to the fact that it adheres to an inclusive philosophy and welcomes worshipers of a variety of faiths and social strata.
Every pilgrim receives the rank of “Ayyappa,” which upholds the true ethos of “Tattvamasi,” which literally translates to “That is you.” This interpretation suggests that the adherents are, in fact, different manifestations of God.
The Sabarimala Temple may be found in the Western Ghats of Kerala’s Pathanamthitta District. It is perched on a summit about 4,000 feet above sea level and is surrounded by 18 other hills.
There is a shrine dedicated to Vavar, a Sufi who was a close companion of Lord Ayyappa. You may find it to the left of this temple. This location is known as “Vavarunada,” and it is regarded as the most prominent example of religious coexistence.
At the beginning of the month of Vrichikam, the devotees start their journey to the venerated temple with the greatest commitment and sincerity in order to show their devotion.
People who have been on the pilgrimage to Sabarimala can say that it is a hard trip that requires mental and physical strength, commitment, and determination. It is also a difficult trek that goes through difficult and challenging places.
The ancient history of South India includes a significant amount of time devoted to the adoration of the Hindu god Sastha. As a result, you may find a good number of Sastha temples not only in South India but also in other parts of the world. According to the annals of history, the temple that can be found at Sabarimala is one of the five Sastha temples that were established by Lord Parasurama.
The other four Sastha temples can be found in the following locations: Kulathupuzha, Aryankavu, Achankovil Shastha Temple, and Poonambala Medu. Worship of the Sastha Lord, also known as Ayyappan or Dharmasastra, takes place in Sabarimala.
It is claimed that the prince of the Pandalam dynasty, who at the time was an incarnation of Lord Ayyappan, pondered at the Sabarimala temple and eventually became one with the Divine as a result of his time spent there. The location where he would sit in meditation is known today as the Manimandapam.
Even after it had been built, the temple remained mainly inaccessible to the people who devoted their lives to religion for the next three hundred years. It wasn’t until the 12th century that the Tamil monarch, Rajasekhara Pandiyan, uncovered the old route to access the holy place. Soon after that, the temple was rebuilt, and it became a popular place for pilgrims to visit.
The main temple is a magnificent structure that is perched on a platform that is forty feet high. It is made up of a sanctum sanctorum that has a copper-plated ceiling and four golden finials, as well as two mandapams and a flag pole.
There are 18 holy steps that make up the main staircase leading up to the Sabarimala Temple. At the bottom of the stairs are shrines to Karuppu Sami and Kadutha Swami, two of Lord Ayyappan’s closest helpers.
In addition, the Pampa Ganapathi temple, the Nilakal Mahadeva temple, and the Palliyara Bhagavathi temple are all located inside the complex. In close proximity is also the temple dedicated to Malikappurath Amma, who is regarded as being on par with Lord Ayyappa in terms of her significance.
In 1950, the temple was destroyed by an undetermined fire, which is thought to have been started by fanatical Christian zealots. The cause of the fire remains unknown. After this, the temple was reconstructed, and the original image carved out of stone was changed to a panchaloha idol that stands about 1.5 feet tall and is created from an alloy of five sheets of steel.
Before embarking on their journey, the pilgrims observe a strange ritual known as Vratham for a period of 41 days. Celibacy, not cutting hair or nails, not smoking, and not following a diet that excludes meat and alcohol are all necessary components of this practice.
Other requirements include wearing a mala or rudraksha and not cutting hair or nails. They are supposed to dress in basic traditional clothing that is either blue or black in color.
A significant amount of fortitude and self-sacrifice are required to complete the journey leading up to this shrine. The steep and forested route that has been used for generations to reach the shrine is 61 kilometers in length.
People nowadays often drive their own automobiles to the Pamba river, which may be found anywhere along the route, and then start their ascent of the steep peak after reaching its base.
As opposed to the older route, which consisted of little more than a path winding through the thick woodlands, the newer way is far more developed and is kept in good condition. There are now convenience stores and medical facilities along the route. Pilgrims may get assistance to assist them in climbing the route, and elderly pilgrims can pay a little fee to have men carrying bamboo chairs hoist them up the path.
Pilgrims who are arriving by plane may first make their way to Thiruvananthapuram or Nedumbassery and then continue on to Pampa by train or route. Those who are making their way to Pampa by rail can reach Kottayam and Chengannur by rail and then continue on to Pampa by road.
There are buses running from Pampa to Coimbatore, Palani, and Thenkasi for the convenience of the pilgrims traveling to and from the Sabarimala temple. In addition, there is a bus chain service that runs between the Pampa and Nilackal base camps.