Sabarimala Sree Dharma Sastha Temple, dedicated to Lord Ayyappa, is the most famous and prominent among all the Sastha temples in Kerala. The temple is situated on a hilltop (about 3000 feet above sea level) named Sabarimala in Pathanamthitta district, which is unique in many respects. The uniqueness gathers its voice, as the temple is open to all, irrespective of caste, creed or religion. There is a place near the temple; east to Sannidhanam, dedicated to the Vavar (a sufi and friend of Lord Ayyappa) which is called ‘Vavarunada’, an epitome of religious harmony. Another interesting fact is that it is not open throughout the year. It is open for worship only during the days of Mandalapooja, Makaravilakku and Chitra Vishu. It is said that the pilgrims have to follow fasting for 41 days to cleanse their minds before going to Sabarimala. The journey to the temple is to be taken through difficult paths in the forest as the vehicles can go only up to Pampa.
Sabarimala is a Hindu pilgrimage center located in the Western Ghat mountain ranges of Pathanamthitta District, Perunad grama panchayat in Kerala. It is the largest annual pilgrimage in the world with an estimated 50 million devotees visiting every year. Sabarimala is believed to be the place where the Hindu GodAyyappan meditated after killing the powerful demoness, Mahishi. Ayyappan‘s temple is situated here amidst 18 hills. The temple is situated on a hilltop at an altitude of 468m (1535 ft) above mean sea level, and is surrounded by mountains and dense forests. Temples exist 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 linked to Hindu pilgrimage, predominantly for men of all ages.You can identify a Sabarimala pilgrim easily as they wear black or blue dress.They do not shave till the completion of pilgrimage and smear Vibhuti or Sandal paste on their forehead.Women between the ages of 10 and 50 are not allowed to enter the temple, since the story attributed to Ayyappa prohibits the entry of the women in the menstrual age group. This is because Ayyappan is a Bramhachari (celibate). The temple is open for worship only during the days of Mandalapooja (approximately 15 November to 26 December), Makaravilakku (14 January- “Makar Sankranti “) and Maha Vishuva Sankranti (14 April), and the first five days of each Malayalam month.