Sabarimala (Malayalam: ശബരിമല, Tamil: சபரிமலை) is a Hindu pilgrimage centre located in the Western Ghat mountain ranges of Pathanamthitta District in Kerala. Sabarimala is believed to be the place where Ayyappan meditated after killing the powerful demoness, Mahishi. Lord Ayyappan's temple is situated here amidst 18 hills. The temple is situated on a hilltop at an altitude of 914 m 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 the largest annual pilgrimage in the world with an estimated 45–50 million devotees coming every year. Females between the ages of 10 and 50 are not allowed to enter the temple, since the story attributed to Lord Ayyappa prohibits the entry of the women in the menstrual age group. This is because Ayyappan is a Bramachari (Celibate). The temple is open for worship only during the days of Mandalapooja (approximately November 15 to December 26), Makaravilakku (January 14- "Makara Sankranti") and Vishu (April 14), and the first five days of each Malayalam month.
Sabarimala (Mount Sabari ~3000 feet above sea level) in Kerala, is home to a temple dedicated to Lord Ayyappan - a symbol of religious unity and communal harmony. The temple drives one of the largest annual gathering of devotees in the world, between mid-November to December end ("Mandalam"), and a pilgrimage here symbolises the journey to heaven.
Devotees who choose to make the pilgrimage undergo 41 days of fasting to cleanse their minds wearing only simple set of black clothes, while wearing rudraksha or tulsi beads strings around their necks during this period. The journey to Sabarimala is difficult and involves a long trek in the forest and up a hill to reach the temple.
Sabarimala, literally means the mountain of Sabari (a known mythological character), is the most famous religious destination in Kerala. Nestled among the thick forests and mercifully flowing streams, the temple town of Sabarimala stands as a symbol of human love, equality, and religious devotion. It is situated in the banks of holy river Pampa in the district of Pathanamthitta in Kerala. This pilgrim destination is located high up in the Sahyadri Mountains in Western Ghats.
Sabarimala hosts the famous Ayyappa temple in a mount, which is very challenging to reach. Undulated hilly terrains, lusting green thick forests, freely moving wild animals and creatures, eye feasting perennial streams, twittering of bird fauna and amazing varieties of flora make the Sabarimala a marvelous destination for nature loving tourists. Trekking and natural walks extending tens of kilometers are really challenging for those looking for adventurous travels. One can reach Sabarimala Township through Pampa Township which is at the foothills of Sabarimala. About 3 km trekking (two hours) is required to reach the top.
Sabarimala town ship is uninhabited by people, but always busy with pilgrims, shops and hotels. It is believed that Saint Parasurama, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, installed Ayyappa Idol at the top of the mountain temple. The Sabarimala pilgrimage season begins by the mid of November and ends by the fourth week of January. Mandalapooja extending for 41 days starting from November 17 and Makaravilakku on January 14 are the important festival period in Sabarimala.
It is estimated that millions of pilgrims, irrespective of caste, creed and religion throng to this temple to get the blessings of Lord Ayyappa. There is a shrine dedicated to Vavaru Swamy, a Muslim saint, in Sabarimala making it an ideal place of religious harmony. Women of age above 14 years and below 50 years (women with active menopause cycle) are not allowed in the Sabarimala temple. To pay a visit to this temple certain customs need to be followed. The pilgrims will take 41 days austerities before starting pilgrimage to Sabarimala. He has to abstain from non-vegetarian foods and cardinal pleasures.
Visiting Sabarimala is a real wonderful experience for lifetime. The aesthetic value added to the pilgrim’s life is invaluable and remarkable. There are thousands of pilgrims who never fail to reach Sabarimala at least once in a year with full of devotion and fervor.
Air: The nearest airports are at Kochi and Trivandrum. Trivandrum International Airport is located at a distance of 175 km from Sabarimala. Nedumbassery International Airport at Kochi is at a distance of about 190 km from Sabarimala. Pre-paid taxi services are available from both airports to Pampa, 4 km away from Sabarimala Temple. Taxi charges about Rs 2500 for one way. The airports are well connected to all major airports in India and also are connected to many foreign cities.
Rail: Nearest railhead is at Chengannur, which is located at a distance of about 93 km from Pamba. Chengannur is located in the main rail route between Trivandrum and Kottayam and is connected by rail to all other railway stations in India. Taxi and other SUV services are available from Chengannur to Pamba. One-way taxi charge is about Rs 1300 to Pamaba.
Road: One can get KSRTC buses frequently to Pamba. 4 km trekking from Pamba is required to reach Sabarimala. Pmaba is well connected by KSRTC buses to all cities in Kerala. Frequent services are available from Trivandum (175 km), Kochi (180 km), Kottayam (109 km), Chengannur (93 km)and Chnganacherry (98 km).