Sabarimala temple: Best pilgrimage spot in Kerala



Pride of the Sahyadri ranges nestled in the Gods’ own country Kerala, the Sabarimala Sri Dharmasastha Temple is the most thronged pilgrimage site perched at a great elevation. It is one of the most vital Indian shrines. Simply called the Sabarimala (Mount Sabari) temple, the shrine is dedicated to Lord Ayyappa who is the third son of Lord Shiva and had meditated at the site after slaying Mahishi, a demon. According to one more legend, the creator of Kerala, Parashuram, enshrined the idol of the Lord here for revering him. Today, the temple has become so famous that besides the countless devotees, tourists from all around the world come here during the peak times from November to January.

Unique aspects

Sabarimala temple is unique in many terms. First, although it is open to anybody of any caste or religion, women in the age group of 10 to 50 are not permitted here because of the state of the lord who resides here as a ‘Brahmachari’ meaning a celibate. Next, if you want to visit the temple, you need to follow strict discipline such as living a celibate life and avoiding alcohol as well as smoking by accepting a garland of holy Basil or Rudraksha beads. In short, for 41 days, one has to live a life of an ascetic before entering into the Sabarimala temple. This is done to purify the mind and body in the honor of the Lord. Lastly, the shrine is not open for worship throughout the year. In fact, it is only open at the time of Mandalapooja (mostly from 15th November to 26th December), Makaravilakku (14th January), and Chitra Vishu (14th April) along with each Malayalam month’s first five days.

By allowing the people of all religions, the temple has set a perfect example of harmony in today’s world where terror has spread on the name of religion. Sabarimala believes that each human is a devotee of the ultimate Lord who is the soul within, rather than of the Hinduism, Islam, or Christianity. Therefore, it gives the message to all that each soul is God and so the aim of human life is to know and achieve the ‘soul’ within.

Trekking

The pilgrimage to Sabarimala is really ardent that takes place via the lush jungles amidst 18 hills. It begins with the Kettunira ceremony featuring packing the sacred bundle that is cloth bag of two compartments. One of them holds offerings to the Lord, while the other contains the requirements needed while on the holy trek. Of the offerings, the main one is a ghee-filled coconut. The bag called Irumudi is held on the head once the trekking starts.

To reach atop, three routes exist namely, the Erumeli, the Chalakayam, and the Vandiperiyar route. Of these, the first one is traditional as well as the most difficult. Here, you will have trek for 60 km over three awesome hills. The last route is comparatively shorter passing via dense forests for 12 km. Chalakayam route is shortest of all that is of 8 km.

Once you reach the top, you will have to climb the 18 steps in gold taking you to the sanctum sanctorum. These steps represent the various features of a human nature such as first five for five senses; next eight for eight ragas; next three for three qualities such as truth, anger, and indulgence; and final ones for knowledge and ignorance. Anyone who manages to pass through these 18 steps will surely go on the path of self-realization.

The beautiful idol of the Lord is composed of a five metal alloy residing in a meditative pose with the forefinger reaching to the thumb representing “Thou art that”. Lord Ayappa is the savior of his devotees. Before reaching the shrine, all worships the shrine of the Muslim saint called Vavar, an associate of the Lord. Finally, the devotee breaks a coconut and lies flat before the deity for taking down the garland marking the end of his continence.

In January, the main attraction here is the ‘Makaravilaku’, the celestial flame seen on a day of the Makara star. After sunset, a flame is seen at a distance exactly in between the two hills facing the temple. The pilgrimage focuses on one’s stately transformation from ‘Jivatma’ (human body) to ‘Paramatma’ (ultimate knowledge of soul).

Reaching Sabarimala

The nearest airports are at Trivandrum (170 km) and Cochin (200 km) after which you can travel by road very easily.

Tips

Kindly note this pilgrimage should not be taken by sick people. If at all you face lack of oxygen or difficulty in breathing, stop the trek and approach to a nearby oxygen centre besides the trek route.

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