The “Sabrimala Temple Festival” is a ten day annual festival at the Lord Ayyappa Temple at Sabarimala which is considered to be one of the most ancient ‘Sastha’ temples in the country. The famous temple is located in the Western Ghats mountain ranges of Pathanamthitta district in Kerala. It is believed that Lord ayyapa meditated in the dense forest of Sabrimala and “Parasurama Maharishi installed the idol of Ayapaa at Sabrimala. Unlike other temples Sabrimala temple is not open through out the year. The Temple is open during the pilgrimage season which is from the mid November to Mid January and other wise open for a few days every month. The Famous ‘Makara Jyothi’ attracts a number of pilgrimages from all parts of the country to witness the light that appears in the mountain range called ‘Ponnambalamedu’ facing the temple. Devotees believe that witnessing the light brings good fortune.
“The Sabrimala Temple Festival” begins with the ceremonial ‘kodiyettu’ which mean flag hoisting in Malyalam. The pilgrims are expected to follow certain customs before they visit the temple during the festival. The pilgrim should observe austerities or ‘Vrath’ for 41 days. During this period the pilgrim should refrain himself from carnal pleasures, drinking, smoking, and non vegetarian food. The pilgrims only carry a cloth bundle containing traditional offerings called “Irmundi kettu” along with them during the visit to the temple. “Irmundi kettu” usually contains coconuts which are broken near the 18 steps which lead to the temple. The Sabrimala has no restrictions of caste or creed or religion. People of all the religion are welcomed to the temple. The temple also has a small ‘Darga’ dedicated to a Muslin Saint ‘Vavar’ who is believed to be a close friend of Ayyappa according to mythology. The temple follows a strict rule which allows male of all age groups to visit the temple but women devotees should have either passed their fertility or should visit the temple before reaching the stage of puberty. The pilgrims are expected to wear black dhotis and walk barefoot through the uneven road to reach the temple.
During “The Sabrimala Temple Festival” the pilgrims take a dip in the river ‘Pampa’ on their way to the temple without fail because it is believed that anyone who takes a dip in the Holy river water will be cleansed of all the sins. The “Mandala Pooja” is the most important part of “The Sabrimala Temple Festival.” The festival begins 41 days before ‘Makar Sankranti’ and continues till the ‘Makara Villaku Pooja’ The visit to the Sabrimala temple is a scenic experience. Sabrimala is surrounded by dense forests of the Western Ghats. The place is also famous for wild life sanctuaries. As this is a very pious and Holy event the number of tourists are less than the pilgrims who visit the temple. Tourists flock only till the foot hill of the temple and offer their prayers and explore the scenic and beautiful places in Kerala which is also known as ‘Gods own Country”.