Mandala Puja at Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple in Kerala is observed on 11th or 12th day of the Malayalam month Dhanu.
Mandala Puja is the concluding day of the 41 days long austerity observed by devotees of Lord Ayyappa. The fasting begins on the first day of the Malayalam month Vrishchikam, which is 41 days before Mandala Puja.
Mandala Puja and Makar Vilakku are the two most significant festival events at Sabarimala Ayyappa temple, when the temple remains open for the devotees for most of the days.
Rituals during Mandala Puja:
# Vratam or fasting is an integral part of Mandala Pooja which is observed with the full dedication and rigor of the traditional and orthodox people of southern India.
# Living in austerity is also compulsory for people who visit the pilgrimage to the sanctuary of Sabarimala. During the Mandala Pooja period, the devotees lead a pious and simple life. The devotees use Rudraksha or Tulsi mala with the locket of Lord Ayyappa until they make a visit to the temple Sabarimala Ayyappa and soon they remove Mala. The devotees during this time are called “Swami” or “Ayyappan”.
# During the Mandala Puja period, devotees must keep their bodies as clean as possible and avoid worldly pleasures.
# Abandoning alcohol and smoke is mandatory for all the devotees who visit the sanctuary of Sabarimala during the Mandala Pooja. It is important to pray twice a day. During this period, you must avoid sex and try not to hurt the feelings of others.
# The austerities of Mandala Puja end with ‘Kalabhaattam’. In this ritual, a mixture of camphor, rose water, saffron and sandalwood is mixed with the divinity. It is done once a year and is the right of Zamorin Rajas.