Sabarimala Temple

The Sabarimala Temple (Sabarimala Sree Dharma Sastha Temple), which is dedicated to Lord Ayyappa, is considered the most prominent and important of all the Sastha temples in Kerala.

Sabarimala Temple History

The reverence for Sastha, a Hindu deity, is deeply rooted in South India’s ancient history, leading to the presence of many Sastha temples worldwide. Sabarimala is one of the five Sastha temples established by Lord Parasurama, along with Kulathupuzha, Aryankavu, Achankovil Shastha Temple, and Poonambala Medu. At Sabarimala, Sastha is worshipped as Ayyappan or Dharmasasta. Legend tells of a prince from the Pandalam dynasty, believed to be an incarnation of Lord Ayyappan, who meditated deeply at Sabarimala and attained union with the Divine. The temple, initially inaccessible, was rediscovered in the 12th century by King Rajasekhara Pandiyan, transforming it into a renowned pilgrimage site.

Sabarimala Temple Structure

The majestic Sabarimala main temple, on a 40-foot-high plateau, features a sanctum with a copper-plated roof, four golden finials, two mandapams, and a flag staff. Access is through an 18-step staircase guarded by shrines of Karuppu Sami and Kadutha Swami, followers of Lord Ayyappan. Within the complex are shrines like Pampa Ganapathi, Nilakal Mahadeva, and Palliyara Bhagavathi. Nearby is Malikappurath Amma’s temple, equally revered. The temple was destroyed in 1950 by a fire, allegedly caused by radical Christian extremists, and rebuilt with a 1.5-foot panchaloha idol.

Sabarimala Temple Pilgrimage

Before embarking on the pilgrimage, devotees observe a 41-day ritual known as Vratham. This period involves strict practices like dietary restrictions, wearing mala beads, practicing celibacy, and more. Pilgrims dress in simple attire, usually in blue or black. The traditional 61-kilometer forest path to the temple now starts at the Pamba River, with improved facilities along the way. Modern conveniences like emergency shops and medical stations are available, and assistance, like bamboo chairs for elderly pilgrims, can be arranged for a fee. Historically, women avoided the temple due to hardships. A ban enforced in 1991 prohibits women aged 10 to 50 from entering the temple, strictly enforced by law enforcement.

Sabarimala Temple Opening Dates

The Sabarimala temple stands out from others as it is not open throughout the year, but only on specific occasions. Worship is permitted during Mandalapooja (around November 15 to December 26), Makara Sankranti (January 14), and Maha Vishuva Sankranti (April 14). Moreover, the temple welcomes visitors during the initial five days of every Malayalam month.

Sabarimala Temple Timings

During days open to the public, the temple operates from 4:00 AM to 11:00 PM. Yet, during peak seasons, the timings are adjusted to handle the high influx of pilgrims.

For the complete temple schedule, visit

Tips For Visiting Sabarimala Temple

  • Children and elderly individuals should wear ID cards showing their name, address, and phone number to help locate them if they get lost in a crowd.
  • It is recommended not to use mobile phones within the temple premises.
  • Carrying plastic bags beyond Nilakkal is not allowed.
  • Avoid careless disposal of burnt wood or camphor to prevent forest fires.

Location Of Sabarimala Temple

The shrine of Lord Ayyappa is perched on a hill at an altitude of 3,000 meters above sea level in Sabarimala, situated in the Pathanamthitta district of Kerala. To access the temple, visitors need to trek up from Pamba, located at the base of the hill. The administration of the temple is overseen by the Travancore Devaswom Board, an independent authority under the Kerala state government that manages several Hindu shrines in Kerala. The primary priestly family responsible for the temple is the Thazhamon Madom.

Importance of the Sabarimala Pilgrimage

In contrast to other Hindu temples in Kerala, the Sabarimala Sree Dharma Sastha temple does not remain open throughout the year. It only receives devotees during the initial five days of every month in the Malayalam calendar, as well as during the ‘Mandalam’ and ‘Makaravilakku’ festivals held from mid-November to mid-January annually.

One of the largest pilgrimages globally, the Sabarimala Sree Dharma Sastha temple lures millions of devotees, mainly from the five southern states of India. The peak times for pilgrimages are the vibrant ‘Mandalam’ and ‘Makaravilakku’ festivals, following a strict 41-day vratham, or vow of abstinence. During this period, pilgrims must wear black or deep blue clothing, refer to one another as ‘Swami’, conduct daily pujas, avoid non-vegetarian food, alcohol, and intimacy, and go barefoot. Nevertheless, observing the vratham is not obligatory for all visitors who seek to pray at the temple.le.

The Secular Identity of the Sabarimala Temple

The temple at Sabarimala is open to individuals of all faiths. Interestingly, many worshipers who visit the temple also make a special effort to walk around a mosque in Erumely, which is devoted to Vavar. Numerous stories emphasize the strong bond between Lord Ayyappa and Vavar, described as a warrior. Furthermore, there is a separate shrine dedicated to Vavar located near the primary temple area at Sabarimala.

There is a Christian association with the Sabarimala temple. Pilgrims often stop by the Arthunkal Church in Alappuzha, dedicated to St. Andrew and St. Sebastian, on their journey to Sabarimala. At the church, many devotees remove the sacred beads worn around their necks during the 41-day fast. In anticipation of the yearly pilgrimage, the church’s ponds are cleaned several weeks beforehand.

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