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Kerala is a heaven of temples; perhaps the best known pilgrimage destination in Kerala is Sabarimala. Sabarimala is a major pilgrim centre in Kerala in the Western Ghat mountain ranges of India. Here, in the midst of eighteen hills Lord Ayyappan's temple is exist. The area is in the Sahya hilly regions of Pathanamthitta District. The temple is situated on a hilltop, 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 an estimated 4.5 - 5 crores 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 , dedicated to the Vavar, a Muslim friend who was the associate of Ayyappan. The place is known as "Vavarunada". Sabari was a devout of Lord Rama and her devotion is widely attributed to that of an ideal devotee.Lord Ayyappa wanted his pilgrims to hon the same attributes as that of sabri and hence the hill on which the temple is situated is known as Sabari.
Before beginning the multi-day walk through the mountain jungles to get to Sabarimala, the pilgrims prepare themselves with 41 days of rigorous fasting, celibacy, meditation and prayer. Finally arriving at the shrine, the pilgrims will wait in line for hours, even days, to have one or two seconds in front of the image of Ayappa. After seeing the deity, many pilgrims will complete a vow called Shayana Pradikshanam.
In the Malayalam language of Kerala, Shayana means "body" and Pradakshinam means "revolution," so Shayana Pradakshinam means "revolution with the Body." This devotional practice is done not only in Sabarimala but also in other temples.
The Sabarimala shrine is only open a few times each year: the Mandalam festival covering 41 days from November 15 to December 26; the Makaravilakku from January 1-14; on Vishu, the day of the vernal equinox in April; and during smaller festivals in May/June and August/September.
The shrine, unlike many in southern India is open to persons of all religious callings, and there are no caste restrictions during the pilgrimage. However, women - who are not younger than six or older than sixty - are not allowed to come to Sabarimala. It is said that during the pilgrimage periods no tigers are found along the forest trails leading to Sabarimala. This is explained as resulting from Ayappa's power over tigers. Other holy places associated with Ayappa are Kulattupuzha, Aryankavu, Accankovil, and Kantamala.
Some pilgrims choose The Erumeli route to reach Sannidanam. The Erumeli route which is used by Lord Ayyappa himself during his forest expedition to kill Mahishi. The Erumeli route is the most arduous and the pilgrims cover about 61 km on foot through forest and hill track.
Daily poojas at Sabarimala
Nada Opening at 4.00 AM
Nirmalyam at 4.05 AM
Neyyabhishekam at 4.15 - 11.30 AM
Ganapathi homam at 4.20 AM
Usha pooja at 7.30 AM
Ucha pooja at 12.30 PM
Nada closing at 1.00 PM
Nada Opening at 4.00 PM
Deeparadhana at 6.30 PM
Pushpabhishekam at 7.00 PM
Athazha pooja at 10.30 PM
Harivarasanam at 10.50 PM
Nada closing at 11.00 PM.
How to get there:
Nearest Airport: The nearest airport is at Cochin, 152 km away.
Nearest Railhead: Rail link at Tiruvalla, 30 km away.
By road: Pathanamthitta is linked by motorable roads to other towns in Kerala. Sabarimala is 72 km from Pathanamthitta town, 191 km from Thiruvananthapuram, 210 km from Kochi (Cochin).
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