is a well-known pilgrim center. This place is also known as “Dekshina Kassi”.
Since the saint Sabari had meditated on this hill. This place is known as
Sabarimala. Sabarimala is situated about 75 KM northeast of Pathanamthitta town.
Sabarimala Sree Dharma Sastha temple is situated here at an altitude of about
1000 meters above sea level. This holy place is isolated by other mountains and
dense forest. The presidency deity of this temple is Lord Ayyappa. There are
several shrines dedicated to him all along the Western Ghats. .
The most important festivals at Sabarimala are Mandalapooja, Makaravilakku and
Chithira Vishu. Sabarimala temple is not like other temples. Other temples are
kept open for Darsan throughout the year. But Sabarimala Temple is kept open
only for a few days. Five days for monthly poojas, 41 days for Mandalapooja, 20
days for Makaravilakku and 10 days for Chithira Vishu. The Mandalapooja festival
commences from the first day of Vrichikam(Karthika) and ends on 41st day. The
temple will be kept open continuously for 41days. After Mandalapooja the temple
will be closed. Mandalapooja generally comes on 26th December every year. Again
the temple will be opened at 5 A.M on 1st January for Makara Jyothi festival and
closed on 20th January.
Mythology describes Lord Ayyappa as the incarnation(Avathara) of Sri. Dharma
Sastha. There are various versions on Lord Ayyappa’s birth. The most common
belief is that Lord Ayyappa was born as “Harihara puthra” ie. As the son of
Hari(Vishnu) and Hara(Siva). .
The Story is that where Palazhy was churned by Devas and Asuras, Nector(Amruthu)
came out of Palazhy. Asuras being more stronger physically than Devas. At that
juncture Devas sought the help of Mahavishu. Mahavishnu took the from of a
beautiful damsel Mohini and appeared before Asuras on a pretext to stop the
in-flight among Asuras and acted as a mediator, provided that they should sit
closing their eyes and she would distribute Nector equally to all and the Asura
who opens the eye last can have her as his wife. Asuras acted accordingly but
she disappeared from the spot with the pot of Nector and returned to Devas. Lord
Siva knew all the things happened and requested Vishnu to take the form of
Mohini again to have a close look on her. Vishnu agreed and took the form,
seeing the heavenly beauty of Mohini Siva Jyothis merged with the Jyothi of
Vishnu and Mohini gave birth to a boy child. Thus Harihara puthra was born. They
were reluctant to take this newborn baby to their respective abodes. So the
child was left at “Valiyanavattom” a place very near to holy Pampa river with a
golden bell at his neck. King Rajasekhara of Pandalam was having no child, took
the new born child from the banks of Pampa river during his hunting trips at
Pampa and brought him up. He considered the child as “God given gift”. As the
child weared a gold bell in his neck, the King named him “Manikantan”..
Meanwhile the queen gave birth to a male child. Both children grew up. One day
the King decided to coronate Manikanta as Yuva Raja. Manthri came to know this
and told queen “if Manikanta is made as “Yuva Raja” her own son will have no
place in the palace. He also hatched a plot to eliminate Manikantan. The Manthri
advised the queen to pretend as of having some serious ailment.. The queen did
so. The Physicians who came to treat her prescribed herbal medicines to be given
to the queen mixed in Leopard’s milk as directed by the Manthri. On hearing this
Lord Ayyappa went to forest to procure Leopard milk. On the way to the forest
Ayyappa killed Mahishi and gave Moksha. Mahishi was cremated at Erumeli.
Devotees going to Sabarimala celebrates the victory by conducting “Petta Thullal”
in memory to the killing of Mahishi – a powerful demonee. As a gratitude to Lord
Ayyappa who Killed Mahishi, all Gods and Muneeswaras helped Ayyappa to procure
Leopard milk. They took the form of Leopards. Lord Ayyappa mounted on a Leopard
with a group of Leopard’s kids and proceeded to Pandalam palace with Leopard’s
milk. The queen and the wicked Manthri realized their mistake and prayed Lord
Ayyappa to forgive them. Lord Ayyappa sent back the Leopards and revealed the
secret of his Avathar to the King. He then requested the King Rajasekhara to
construct an Ashramam in forest area for meditation. The place where the
Asharamam is to be constructed was pointed out by Lord himself by sending an
arrow which fell at Sabarimala where the King constructed a temple. Later Lord
Ayyappa merged with Dharma Sastha..
Lord Ayyappa lived at Pandalam palace only for a short period of 18 years.
During this time he mastered all marshal arts from various Kalaries. The Kalari
where he spend more years was at Chirappan Chira near Sherthalai. It is believed
that one young girl of Chirappan Chira family fell in love with the Lord and
requested to accept her as wife. But Lord Ayyappa turned down her request and to
be a “Brahmachari”. She was offered a seat at Sabarimala known as “Malikappurathamma”.
Lord Ayyappa promised her if thereis no “Kanni” Ayyappans to come to Sabarimala
then he would marry her. It is a custom that every Kanni Ayyappan should deposit
“Saram” (arrow of soft wood) at Saramkuthy as a mark of their arrival..
When King Rajasekhara constructed Dharma Sastha temple at Sabarimala, he gave
due respect to the 18 temples located at 18 hills and 18 steps were constructed
representing each step for each temple. Pilgrims with “Thirumudikkettu” on their
head are alone permitted to track the Holy steps.
Two days before Mandalapooja, the “Thiruvabharanam” is taken out from Aranmula
temple strong room and is brought up to Pampa in a decorated van and from Pampa
to Sannidanam by head load. It is donated by Late His Highness The Maharaja of
Travancore Sri. Padmanabhadasa Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma..
The Thanka Anki to be adorned on Makara Sankranthi day is donated to Lord by
Pandalam Raja. It is kept safely in the strong room of Pandalam Royal family
palace. Three days before the Makara Jyothi day it will be taken out by the
eldest member of Pandalam Royal family from the strong room for “Thiruvabharana
Procession” It will reach Sanctum Sanctorum before Deeparadhana on Makara
Sankranthi day evening . All the “Thiruvabharanam” will be adorned to Lord
Ayyappa before “Deeparadhana”..
Lord Ayyappa has given a place to Vavar at Sabarimala sannidhanam. There is a
small Shrine for Vavar and pilgrims offer Pepper, Salt and Campher at Vavar
thara and get Vibhoothi prasadam from the Muslim priest who conducts pooja at
Vavar thara. This is a typical example of communal harmony that prevailed in
Kerala from time immemorial..
The vehicles go only up to Pampa and the temple which is situated 5 KM away from
Pampa can be reached only by trekking. During festival period there are frequent
buses to this place from various places..
There are three routes to reach Sabarimala Sannidhanam…
Chalakkayam – Pampa – Sannidhanam 8 miles.
Vandiperiyar – Uppupara – Sannidhanam 12 miles.
Erumeli – Pampa – Sannidhanam by foot 38 miles.
Thiruvabharanam - Holy Ornaments
Makaravilakku marks the grand finale of the two-month period of the Sabarimala
pilgrimage. This follows the arrival of 'Thiruvabharanam' from Pandalam to
Sannidhanam. Three days prior to this , the procession carrying the holy caskets
containing the sacred ornaments , as also other relics and paraphernalia needed
for special poojas at Sabarimala , starts on its long trek from Pandalam. A
scion of the Pandalam royal family , chosen and blessed by the Valiya Thampuran
(Senior Raja) accompanies the procession in a palanquin (pallakku).
28th Dhanu (around 12th January), the day the procession is to start, at 4 in
the morning , the holy boxes are taken from Srampickal palace and moved to the
temple for viewing and worship. 'Darshan' of the Ornaments and rendering of
offerings to them on this occasion are believed to be highly auspicious and
beneficial. Thousands queue by the sacred pieces now. At around 1 o'clock in the
afternoon , a brahminy kite (popularly known as 'krishnapparunthu') is sighted
circling majestically far above the temple. Devotees believe that this is Lord
Vishnu upon 'Garuda' accompanying the Thiruvabharanam from Pandalam through
Sabarimala where again the kite is found hovering above the temple synchronizing
with the arrival of the procession there. The chanting of the Lord's name rises
to a thunderous crescendo at the sight of the kite and deafening explosions of
crackers rend the air. The Boxes are closed and taken out of the temple by
specially deputed bearers.
The ValiyaThampuran has already arrived in royal style from his Palace to the
temple and is by now inside the temple to offer 'vibhuthy' to the members of the
procession as also to his nephew whom he has chosen to escort the
Thiruvabharanam. The delegation of authority and responsibility by the Senior
Raja to his representative is symbolized by the former handing over a sword to
the latter Welcome group Khimsar Fort : Constructed in the 16th century, the
Khims The frenzied movements of the bearers of the boxes, the rising tempo of
the devotees chanting 'Swamiye-Ayyappo', the exploding fireworks, The Pandalam
Raja accompanying the Thiruvabharanam in his palanquin, the infectious
excitement of the surging crowds and the seemingly unperturbed hovering of the 'krishnapparunthu'
far above-all make up an indescribably magnificent moment when the journey
starts for the distant hill shrine, marking the fulfillment of a vow, the
consummation of a dream, the vindication of a faith.
The procession takes the age-old route through village roads, across rivers and
up and down hills. The Raja (Thampuran) and other members are accorded reception
at various places by various devotee-groups, including tribals. All through the
procession , people in large numbers pay their respects to the Raja and receive
'vibhuthy' from him. After scheduled halts at Ayroor-Puthiyukavu and Laha, the
procession reaches Valiyanavattom(Pampa) on the 3rd day(1st Makaram). From there
the Thiruvabharanam proceeds through the traditional forest route to Saramkuthi
while the Thampuran (Raja) and his aides go to the Rajamandapam near the Pampa
Ganapathy temple and stay there.
Erumely Petta Thullal
Pilgrims bound for Sabari Mala shrine taking part in the traditional 'Petta
Thullal' - or frenzied dancing. It is said that smearing of colours and taking
part in this sort of a dance is a symbolic step towards
one's ego which is an essential pre-requisite before undertaking the pilgrimage.