Sabarimala, is a famous pilgrimage place in South Indian state Kerala.The deity in this temple surrounded by thick forest is “Lord Ayyappa”.This shrine is among the top five rich temples in India. But considering the number of days open for devotees, about 100, one can say it’s the richest.
Sabarimala Temple is one of the Internationally acclaimed religious centre situated in Pathanamthitta district of Kerala. It is located on the top of Sahyadri mountain ranges and is surrounded by tropical forests and 18 hills, “Karimala” hill being the most famous among them. The presiding deity at Sabarimala is Lord Ayyappa (who is other wise known by names Ayyanar, Dharma Shastha, Harihara putran, Manikantan). The Hindu philosopy “Tat Tvam Asi” (that thou are) has been carved on the front side of the temple. The philosopy depicts “Oneness / equality” of all the beings in the world. As such, Sabarimala temple is open to all irrespective of caste, creed etc. Towards the east of Sabarimala temple, there is a mosque of Lord Vavar (Vavar nada). Lord Vavar is the Muslim associate of Ayyappa who has divine power. It is believed that any one who wants to visit Ayyappa, must first visit Vavar and then head to Sabarimala. Such a caste friendless could rarely be seen in any other part of the world. .As Lord Ayyappa was a Brahmachari, only small girls and old women are allowed inside the temple.
Legend has it that, Sabarimala temple was built by Saint Parasurama (the warrior – sage who reclaimed Kerala by throwing his axe to the Arabian sea.) The saint has created five Shastha temples (Pancha Shastha temples) and Sabarimala is one among them. The others are
1) Kulathuppuzha ( where Ayyappa is depicted as an infant boy)
2) Aryankavu ( his adolescent age)
3) Achankovil (Grihasthashrami as husband of Poorna and Pushkala)
In Sabarimala, Ayyappa is depicted as a Brahmachari ( bachelor) in Samadhi state holding “Chinmudra”.
Story of Lord Ayyappa
There is a story in Hindu mythology that Lord Vishnu Killed the deadly Brahmasura through a most beautiful woman form called ‘Mohini’. Lord Shiva wanted to see the Mohini once again and the union of both birthed a human boy called Kaiyyappa (Kai in Malayalam means hand and appan means father) because the boy born through the hand of Mohini. This name was transformed to Ayyappa in years. As Gods cannot have human sons, they decided to leave the child in a forest in Panthalam (a place in Kerala). They also tied a bell on the neck of this baby.
The king of Panthalam, who passed on that way,also he is in a deep sorrow because of no children. He took this boy and brought back to his palace. They called the child as Manikantan (baby with mani on his neck). All their life went smooth untill the queen was blessed with another baby. The thought and fear of the crown going to Ayyappa created jealous in her mind also some close people told her to do something to avoiv ayyappa. Thus the Queen decided to act as if she is been affected by severe head ache and with the help of her doctor, they made a story that the headache will go only if apply the milk from a tigress on her forehead. The queen asked Ayyappa to go to the forest and bring the medicine for her. Panthalam king was against this as Ayyappa was only a kid, but the child decided to go to the forest for rescue his mother.
The forest was ruled by a devil called Mahishi and she killed many innocent people. As per the boons obtained by Mahishi from Lord Brahma, she could be killed only by the son of Lord Shiva and Vishnu. As this is not possible, she sowed the seeds of destruction in the whole area. She became the night mare of the sages and saints in those forests.
Based on the requests from these sages, Lord Ayyappa killed Mahishi during his forest visit on the way to get the milk of tigress. Mahishi got Salvation (Moksha). She wanted to marry Ayyappa. Ayyappa defended her proposal as he was a Brahmachari (celibate). With her repeated requests, Ayyappa declared that in any year after his death, if there is not even a single Kanni Ayyappa (First time visitor to Sabarimala), that year he will be marrying her. All the first visitors to Sabarimala is required to post an arrow in “Saram kuthi”,a place in Sabarimala. Not even a single year has been passed by with out an arrow hitherto and she is still waiting for the moment.
After the killing of Mahishi, Ayyappa requested a tigress to give milk to him. The whole tiger family decided to follow him for his help. The whole residents were astonished and feared by seeing the procession of tigers and Ayyappa sitting on the top of a tiger. The queen also feared by the very sight of tiger family. She apologized with Ayyappa for her rude act and she wanted him to be the next king of Panthalam. Ayyappa courteously rejected her proposal and informed her of his interest of being a Brahmachari. He shot an arrow from his bow and said that he will be residing in the place where that arrow reaches. The arrow struck on the top of a mountain which is the current Sabarimala.
Features of Sabarimala are as follows:
1)The temple is administered by Thiruvithamcore Devaswam Board (TDB), which is a Kerala government owned body.
2)The important day in Sabarimala is “Makara Vilakku” which occurs on the January month of every year. Millions of people from all over the world flows here on this day just to see especially the sacred Makar Jyothi ( star appears thrice through the jungle on a far mountain) and sanctify themselves.
3)The most famous philosophical words are given at the temple as its message : ” Aham Bhrahmasmi” (meaning I am the God) and “Tat Tvam Asi” ( that is You).
4)Those who visit the temple for the first time are called “Kanni Ayyappa”. He is required to take 45 days rigorous fasting and Vratha before the visit. He is supposed to take bath in river at 4 in the morning, no non-veg foods, serene thoughts etc. He himself will be a part of Ayyappa once he accept the Chain from Guru swamy( Mentor).
5)The prasadam( is a material substance of food that is a religious offering in both Hinduism and Sikhism ) available here are Ghee, Aravana Payasam (Kheer) and Appam.