The Sri Ayyappa Sabarimala Temple, dedicated to Lord Ayyappa, is the most famous and important temple of Sastha in Kerala. The temple is located on a hill at about 4,000 feet above sea level, called Sabarimala, which is unique in many ways. The singularity makes its voice heard, because the temple is open to all, whatever their caste, their beliefs or their religion. There is a place near the temple; east of Sannidhanam, dedicated to Vavar (Sufi and friend of Lord Ayyappa), called “Vavarunada”, synonymous with religious harmony The temple is open only 127 days a year. The trip to the temple will be made by difficult roads in the forest, because vehicles can only go up to Pampa.
At dawn of the month, Vrichikam occupies a special place in the calendar of the spiritual pilgrimage. Because it is on this day that millions of people begin their journey to reach the shrine of the reverberant chants of Lord Ayyappa “Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa”, which means “Lord Ayyappa, the only refuge”. Located in the deep, dense forest of the unspoilt Sabari Hill, in the village of Ranni-Perunad, in the Pathanamthitta district of southern India, Sabarimala embodies the supreme virtue of unity without religion, without caste or belief.
The Malayalam month of Vrichikam, in mid-November, marks the beginning of the longest period open to visit the sanctuary of the hill dedicated to Lord Ayyappan or Dharma Sastha. Like the faithful, a pilgrimage to Sabarimala is a symbiotic combination of mental power, determination, physical stamina and faith to reach Sanctorum Sanctuary.
Daily Poojas and Timings:
Opening of sanctum sanctorum, Nirmalyam, Abhishekam 3.00 AM
Ganapati Homam 3.30 AM
Neyyabhishekam 3.15 AM to 12.00 PM
Usha Pooja 7.30 AM
Neyyabhishekam using ghee deposited in ‘Neythoni’
Ashtabhishekham (15 nos)
Closing of sanctum sanctorum 1.00 PM
Opening of Sanctum Sanctorum 3.00 PM
Deeparadhana 6.30 PM
Pushpabhishekam 7.00 PM
Athazha Pooja 9.30 PM
Harivarasanam/ Closing of sanctum sanctorum 11.00 PM
Sabarimala Sri Ayyappa Temple Special Poojas:
Neyyabhishekam:- Neyyabhishekam is the most important offering for Lord Ayyappa. The coconut filled with ghee is used to perform this ritual. The ritual begins at 4.00 AM and continues until Ucha Pooja (1.00 PM). After performing darsan of Lord Ayyappa and upa-prathistas, the group of pilgrims of Ayyappa will perform a Viri under the direction of Guruswamy. They gather all the coconut stuffed with ghee and fix it in the viri.
After taking bath at Bhasmakulam, the team leader, usually a Guruswamy will break all ghee filled coconuts and collect the ghee in a vessel to offer it at the Srikovil.
The priest, after performing the Neyyabhishekam, will return some of the ghee to the devotee. The ghee obtained from Srikovil is recovered as a divine prasadam. For devotees who do not bring coconut filled with ghee, the Devaswom board has organized the installation to get “Adiyashistam neyyu”.
The ghee symbolizes the human soul and through the abhishekam of ghee in Lord Ayyappa, the soul merges with the supreme being. Jeevatma is the ghee and the paramatma is Lord Ayyappa.
Once the ghee is removed from the coconut, it symbolizes the jadam or the dead body. This is the reason why coconut is offered in the huge Aazhi or in the fire in front of the temple.
Padi Pooja:– Padi Pooja, pooja of the 18 holy steps ‘Pathinettampadi’ is held on select days after the floral bathing of the idol called ‘Pushpabhiskeham’. The pooja is conducted in evenings and is performed by the Tantri, in the presence of the Mel Santhi. The hour-long ritual by decorating the Holy Steps with flowers and silk cloths after lighting traditional lamps on each step, concluded with performing “aarathi” by the thantri.
Udayasthamana Pooja:- Udayasthamaya literally means from sunrise to sunset. Hence it implies worship from sunrise to sunset. Udayasthamana pooja is conducted from dawn to dusk (from Nirmalyam to Athazha pooja). In addition to the Nithya pooja, special poojas with Archanas and Abhishekams are conducted to obtain the “Anugraham” of Bhagavan which enables to fulfill the wishes of the devotees. Out of the total 18 poojas, 15 are done before noon and there are 45 kalasabhishekams.
Sahasrakalasam:- Sahasra Kalasam is an offering to Hariharaputhra (Sri Dharmashastha) as per the Thantric Veda and Agama Shastras with a view to sleek blessings for the happiness of the mankind. It is the noble effort to invoke all the holy spirits utilizing all that is sacred in the form of incense, the precious and semiprecious stone, the seven seas, and the sacred rivers into the holy kalasam (Sacred Pot) of gold, silver, copper etc.
Ulsavabali:- The rituals of Ulsava Bali begins with the sounding of Paani .Ulsava Bali is dedicated to the Bhoothaganams (associates of the presiding deity) and Paani is meant to invite the Bhoothaganams. Then begins the sprinkling of cooked raw rice (Ulsava Bali Thooval) to cover the balikallu of the Bhoothaganams around the Naalambalam and Balikkalpura by the temple Thanthri. When the sprinkling of the cooked rice over the Saptha Maathrukkal is completed, the Thidambu of the presiding deity is taken out of the sanctum sanctorum to enable the devotees to offer prayers. Ulsava Bali is held as part of the annual festival at the Lord Ayyappa Temple.
Puspabhishekam:- Puspabhishekam is the showering of flowers on Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala. The flowers and leaves that are used in Pushpabhishekam ritual are Tamara (lotus), Jamanthi, Arali, Tulsi (Basel), Mulla (Jasmine) and Kuvalam (bilva leaves). A devotee who wishes to perform Pushpabhishekam at Sabarimala has to book in advance. The cost of performing the Pushpabhishekam is Rs.10,000/-
Ashtabhishekam:- Ashtabhishekam is one of the important offering to Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala. The eight items used for Ashtabhishekam at Sabarimala are:
5) Tender coconut water
6) Sandalwood or Chandanam
7) Rosewater or Panineer
(Please note that Ashtabhishekam offered in Hindu Religion varies from temple to temple)
Kalabhabhishekam:- Kalabhabhishekam is a very important special pooja usually performed for the strengthening of the chaithanya of the Deity. As part of kalabhabhishekam, Thantri performes the Kalabhakalasa pooja at the Nalambalam in the presence of Melsanthi .
Kalabhakalasabhishekam, marking the conclusion of the ritual by pouring the sandalwood paste on the idol of Lord Ayyappa, is performed during the Ucha pooja by the Thantri after the procession carrying the golden urn having sandal paste for the Kalabhabhishekam around the Sreekovil.
Laksharchana:- ARCHANA means “chanting and glorifying the Divine name”. LAK means 100,000. Therefore, LAKSHARCHANA is the name and practice of repeating in a group, the name of the Lord in the form of a Mantra.
Later, the Thantri, assisted by Melsanthi and some other priests performs Laksharchana at the Sannidhanam. The `Brahmakalasam’ of the laksharchana is taken in procession to the sanctum sanctorum for `abhishekam’, prior to the `uchapuja’.
Sabarimala Sri Ayyappa Temple Upa Prathishta:
The deity of Nagarajav is placed adjacent to the sreekovil. Pilgrims after the Darsan of Lord Ayyappa and Kannimoola Ganapathi,make their darsan and give offerings to Nagarajav.
Vavar (pronounced Vaa-var), also known as Vavaruswami was a Muslim saint who became a devotee of Lord Ayyappa. There is a shrine dedicated to Vavaruswami at Sabarimala, as well as Vavaruswami’s mosque at Erumeli next to Erumeli Sastha temple. The devotion of Vavaruswami to Ayyappan and the key role that the Islamic Masjid has in the Ayyappa Pilgrimage, highlights the communal harmony in Kerala. The devotion of Vavaruswami also highlights the relevance of Ayyappa devotion for members of all faiths, and the equality shown to all, whether they are Muslims, Hindus or Christians.
Malikapurathamma is the most important upaprathista in Sabarimala. There are two beliefs on Malikapurathamma, that it is the demon that fought with Sri Ayyappan as Mahishi. Once the demon was defeated, a beautiful lady emerged from the body and wished to remain with Sri Ayyappa. Another belief is that the daughter of Sri Ayyappa’s guru become a Sanyasini and want to remain with Sri Ayyappa, As per thantric view, pilgrims has to worship Malikappuram as “Adiparasakthi”.
Main offerings to Malikappurathamma are, Turmeric powder, (Manjal podi), Saffron powder, (Kumkumam podi), Jhagri (Sharkara), Honey (then), Plantain (Kadali Pazham), and red silk.
Karuppu Swami & Karuppai Amma:
The temple of Karuppu Swami is located on the right side of the Pathinettam Padi or the eighteen holy steps.The temple of Karuppu Swami also includes the murti of Karuppai Amma. They both were people from forest who helped Lord Ayyappa in his divine mission and are believed to have divine power.
Valiya Kadutha Swamy:
The small shrine of Valiya Kadutha is located on the left side of holy steps.Valiya Kadutha is also an attendant of Lord Ayyappa.
Mel Ganapathi prathishta is adjacent to The Sreekovil of the Sannidhanam. Devotees offer part of the broken coconut (Neythenga) to Sri Ganapathi in the fireplace (Azhi). Ganapathi homam is the main offering.