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Temples in South India >> Kerala >> Sabarimala Temple

Sabarimala is a pilgrim centre in Kerala in the Western Ghat mountain ranges of India. Lord Ayyappan's temple is situated here in the midst of 18 hills. The area is in the Sahya hilly regions of Kerala bordering Tamil Nadu. The temple is situated on a hilltop at an altitude of 1260 m/4135 ft. above mean sea level, and is surrounded by mountains and dense forests. Temples existed 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 are visible in the remaining hills. Sabarimala is believed to be the place where Ayyappan meditated after killing the powerful demon, Mahishi.Sabarimala is one of the most visited piligrim centres in the world with crores of devotees coming every year. The world's second largest annual pilgrimage, after Haj in Mecca, is reported to be to Sabarimala.

The pilgrimage to Sabarimala is a singular example of one where pilgrims, without consideration of caste, creed, position or social status, go with one mind and one `mantra' dreaming constantly of the darshan of the presiding deity at the Holy Sannidhanam. Vehicles can go up to Pampa. Thereafter, pilgrims have to follow a path approximately four kilometres up a steep hill. The path, now fully cemented, with shops and medical aid by the sides, used to be a mere trail through dense forest.

There is a place near the temple (east of Sannidhanam), dedicated to the Vavar, a Muslim who was the associate of Ayyappan, called "Vavarunada". The temple is open for worship only during the days of Mandalapooja (November 15 to December 26), Makaravilakku (January 15) and Vishu (April 14), and the beginning of every month in the Malayalam calendar.

The Travancore Devaswom Board is an autonomous body constituted under the Travancore Cochin Religious Institutions Act XV of 1950. It is entrusted with the task of administering 1208 temples. The Board comprises of the President and two Members.

The term of the President and Members is four years. It has a Secretariat and the Secretary to the Board,heads its headquarters at Nanthancode, Thiruvananthapuram. The Devaswom Commissioner is the Chief Executive and Head of the Department.

Out of the 1208 Temples under the administration of the Board, 224 temples are Major Temples. In all these temples there are more than three poojas daily and the Temples are open in the morning and evening. There are 457 minor temples, which are open in the morning and evening, and 467 Petty Temples which are being opened only once a day. There are 59 P.D (Personal Deposit) Temples also under the Board.

The important pilgrimage to Sabarimala starts from the first of Vruchika (usually on 16th or 17th of November). Mandalam means 41 days. This season of 41 days is known as the Mandala period and the Mandalapooja is on the last day of this period. The Sabarimala temple opens on the first of Vrischika.

Devotees irrespective of religion, cast, creed, nationality or social status are equals in His abode and are all addressed by His own name, namely 'Ayyappa'. In fact, the pilgrimage includes worship at Vavar temples at Erumeli and Sannidhanam, managed by Muslims. This stands as a glittering example of Hindu-Muslim unity. However, women in the age group 10-50 shall not go to Sabarimala. Other women devotees are permitted to trek the hill and are called as 'Malikappurams'.