Name of the Temple: Sri Sabarimala Ayyappan Temple
Presiding deity: Lord Ayyappan
Location: Sabarimala, kerala State, India
Sri Sabarimala Ayyappan Temple, also known as Sabarimala Sri Dharma Sastha temple, is located in the hills of Sahya forests in Kerala. Eighteen divine steps or the pathinettu padikal here show the way to the Lord himself and signify the eighteen symbolic steps of Hinduism.
Archeological and Historical facts:
The history of the Sri Sabarimala Ayyappan Temple has many facets to it. Two mainstream versions of the history of this temple are in existence. One tends towards empiricism and the other is of mythological nature. As per the mythological version, Lord Ayyappa is regarded as Kaliyuga varathan, the emancipator from devastation and distress. It is believed that the temple was built under the direct supervision of Lord Parsurama by god’s own architect, Vishwakarma. It was also regarded as a centre of pilgrimage over 4000 years back.
As per the empirical version the foundation of the temple was laid by King Rajashekara some 850 years ago. Some mention of renovations is found in scriptural references belonging to 1821, 1910, and 1951 AD.
As per Lord Vishnu’s advice, all the Devas decided to get access to Paalazhi Madanam and get the divine drink called Amritam. This Amritam was supposed to give the Devas the requisite strength and courage to defeat the Asuras. After sometime, the Devas sought the help of Asuras in retrieving some of the goods from the Paalazhi Madanam. But when a pot of nectar emerged, the Asuras snatched it away from the Devas. To tackle this situation, Lord Vishnu appeared in the form of a beautiful maiden called Mohini. Mohini was able to seduce the Asuras and put them in a state of trance and was able to distribute the nectar amongst the Devas. After hearing about Mohini, Lord Shiva expressed his intention to meet her and when they both met they were seduced by the arrow of Lord Manmatha. This union gave birth to Lord Ayyappa. He was thereafter regarded as Dharmasatha and resided in Kailash. The River Pampa, flowing near the Sabarimala Temple is regarded to be as holy as the Ganges.
The most attractive feature of the Sri Sabarimala Ayyappan Temple is its secular characteristics. Vavar, Ayappa’s lieutenant, was a Muslim and is worshiped by thousands of devotees. This secular character of the temple makes it one of the most visited pilgrimage sites in India. The popularity of the temple is such that it holds a number of records for the most visited pilgrimage site. Enthused devotees throng in thousands and chant together ‘Swamiye saranam Ayyappa’.
Constructed upon a plateau, Sri Sabarimala Ayyappan Temple has undergone numerous modifications especially since 1940. The fundamental part of the temple is the sanctum sanctorum complemented by golden finials and copper plated roof. Two mandapams along with Belikkapura flag–staff also adorn the temple premises. Lord Ayyappa is made up of Panchaloha or five metal alloys. The southwestern part of the temple consists of the Kannimula Ganapathy, the shrine of Lord Ganesh. The other major shrines of the temple are Malikapurathamma, Nagaraja, Nagaraniani, Kaduthaswamy and Karuppaswamy.
The holy steps – Eighteen auspicious steps lead towards Sri Sabarimala Ayyappan Temple. These steps are also known as Pathinettam padi. The first five steps signify the five indriyas –
– tongue, and
The next eight steps signify the following vices
– matsraya, and
The next three steps stand for the gunas –
– rajas, and
The seventeenth and the eighteenth steps stand for –
– knowledge and
18 steps are also the 18 puranas. As per tradition, only those devotees carrying Irumudi (a coconut stuffed with ghee, spices and prayers to Lord) are allowed to climb the eighteen holy steps.
A trek to the pilgrimage site is considered extremely auspicious and one has to observe a forty-one day austerity to undertake the pilgrimage. The austerity regime includes prayer, celibacy, meditation and rigorous fasting. It is also important to wear a garland of beads. Barefooted travel through treacherous paths is essentially devotion towards the Lord himself. After reaching the shrine, the eighteen steps lead towards the temple.
The most important festivals celebrated here are as follows –
– Makara Vilakku Puja à A seven-day festival beginning on the day of Makara Sankranthi and commemorates the day on which the idol of Lord Ayyappa was enshrined.
– Makara Jyothi à Celebrated annually on January 14th, on this evening Ayyappa Mantra is chanted by the devotees and the Ayyappa idol is embellished with valuable ornaments.
The other important festivals celebrated in the temple are Vishu Vilakku, Onam and Mandalapuja.