Sabarimala Swami Ayyappa Temple
Sabarimala Sree Swami Ayyappa Temple is one of the most ancient and prominent Sastha temples in the country. Located in the Western Ghat mountain ranges of Pathanamthitta district in Kerala,India. Sabarimala Sri Dharmasastha Temple is one of the few Hindu temples in India that is open to all faiths. The shrine of Sabarimala is one of the most remote shrines in southern India yet it still Atracts three to four million pilgrims each year. Surrounded by mountains and dense forest Sabarimala place where Swami Ayyappan meditated. Perhaps the best known pilgrimage destination in Kerala is Sabarimala. Sabarimala Sri Dharmasastha Temple is the most famous and prominent among all the Sastha Temples. It is believed that “Parasurama Maharshi” who retrieved Kerala from the sea by throwing his axe, installed the idol of Ayyappa at Sabarimala to worship Lord Ayyappa.The pilgrimage begins in the month of November and ends in January. The pilgrims came here not only from the southern states of India, but also from other parts of the country and abroad. The shrine gets clouded with devotees especially during the main pilgrim season from November to January. Mandala pooja (December12,2011) and Makaravilakku(Jan.15th,2012) are the two main events of the pilgrim season. The temple stays closed during the rest of the year except for the first five days of every Malayalam month and during Vishu (April).
Certain customs are strictly observed if one has to undertake a pilgrimage to Sabarimala. A pilgrim attending the Mandalapooja should observe austerities for 41 days. During this period, the pilgrim should sustains himself from non vegetarian food and carnal pleasures. Pilgrims set out in groups under a leader, and each carry a cloth bundle called Irumudi kettu containing traditional offerings. Unlike certain Hindu temples, Sabarimala temple has no restrictions of caste or creed. The temple is open to males of all age groups and to women who have either passed their fertility age and those before reaching the stage of puberty. The easiest route is via Chalakkayam, by which one can reach the banks of the river Pamba by vehicle. Pamba is the main halting point on the way to Sabarimala. From here one has to walk for 4 to 5 kms to reach the Sabarimala temple.
The auspicious Makaravilakku day coinciding the Makara-sankramom, falls on January 15 (on maker sankranthi) The Ayyappa idol will be adorned with the Thiruvabharanam prior to the deeparadhana on the same day afternoon.
Sighting of the celestial star, `Makara-jyoti’, on the eastern horizon of the Sannidhanam and lighting of the `Makara-vilakku’ atop a remote hill, Ponnambalamedu, facing the Ayyappa Temple will take place immediately after the deeparadhana.Tens of thousands of Ayyappa devotees watch rush into pilgrim centre to witness the Makara-jyoti and Makaravilakku, which, they consider the most auspicious event at Sabarimala.
AYYAPPAN know as AYYAN who belonged to the Vellalar Kulam, was the army chief of the Pandalam royal family. He lived with his uncle Perisseri Pillai of Erumeli, Kottayam dist, Kerala. This was about ten generations ago.Ayyan was instrumental in the defeat of Udayanan, who attacked Sabarimala and tried to demolish the ancient Sastha temple in the thick forest of present Pathanamthitta district.Meanwhile the Royal family of King Pandya had migrated from Tamilnadu about 800 years back. The King reconstructed the destroyed Sastha temple at Sabarimala with the help of Ayyan, Vavar, a Muslim youth from Kanjirappally, Kadutha, a Nair youth from Muzhukeer, Chenganoor, Alapuzha dist.During a clash, Ayyappan got killed. His uncle, Perissery Pillai, constructed the KOCHAMPALAM – an old small Sastha temple – at Erumeli, opposite the VAVAR PALLY (MOSQUE), constructed by Muslims in memory of Vavar swamy.After the demise of Ayyappan people thought that he was the avathar of Lord Sastha and began to worship him. Later Ayyappan and Sastha became synonymous.Some say that Ayyappan was the son of a Brahmin but Nalankal Krishna Pillai in his book “Mahashekthrangalkkumunpil” states that Brahmins never had the name AYYAPPAN or AYYAN.
In the age old “Elavarsevampattu” it was clearly mentioned that Ayyan belonged to “Vellalar kulam, Near Erumeli, Kottayam, Kerala.There still exists a vellala house called Puthenveedu in Erumely. In the same compound there is a 300 year old, thatched, depleted, mud house, the house of Perissery Pillai, Ayyappan’s uncle and the Vellal Chieftain of Erumeli. There even today one can see the ancient sword used by Ayyappan to kill the monstrous ERUMA- mahisham. The place where the “eruma” was killed became Erumakolly and later Erumeli.Sabarimala pilgrimers ,Ayyappans, conduct the Erumeli PETTAITHULLAL (Pettatullal is painting the face with colours and dancing with wooden weapons to make one look odd. The essence of this practice is to give up ones ego and surrender to Lord Ayyappa. )This is to commemmorate the killing of mahisham by Ayyan and is celelebrated during the month of December-January every year. “Ayyan / Ayyappan” Pillai is very common name among vellalas of Kottayam, Alapuzha, Pathanamthitta, Idukki and Ernakulam districts of Kerala. A number of Ayyappan kovils were constructed by Vellalas who migrated from Tamilnadu to Kerala e.g. Erumeli, Kanam etc.
Lakhs and lakhs of Tamilian Ayyappan devotees called the “Ayyappans” – come to Sabarimala every year to worship Tamil origin “VELLALAR KULA JHATHAN AYYAN AYYAPPAN”.