The Sabarimala Pilgrimage
Lord Ayyappa resides on Sabarimala in Kerala. Millions of pilgrims flock to his temple every year making it one of the most popular pilgrimages in the world. This article reveals more information about
the Sabarimala pilgrimage.
Legend of Lord Ayyappa
Ayyappa is believed to be Lord Shiva’s third son and brother of Murugan and Ganesha. There are many legends attributed to Lord Ayyappa. According to one such legend, Lord Ayyappa is the offspring of Lord Shiva and Vishnu, who took the form of the charming Mohini. Vishnu appeared as Mohini to entice the asuras.
All pilgrims to Sabarimala vow to observe abstinence from sex for 41 days, after adorning a sacred garland made of rudraksha beads, or tulsi (holy basil). All pilgrims should maintain strict control over body, mind and speech. They should visit temples to pray and attend religious discourses. The pilgrims should wear clothes of black or blue colors. They should lead a simple, ascetic life and eat only sattvic food. All pilgrims should abstain from drugs, alcohol and meat.
Three Routes to Sabarimala
There are three main routes to Sabarimala. These are the Chalakayam, Vandiperiyar and Erumeli routes. The shortest one is Chalakayam, where pilgrims have to trek only for eight kilometres. The Vandiperiyar route is a bit longer and involves a 12.8 km trek through dense forests. The most difficult route is the Erumeli route, which involves a trek of more than 60 km across three hills.
Pilgrims chant slogans confirming their refuge in Lord Ayyappa as they climb the hill. There are 18 golden steps leading to the deity. By practising intense austerities before the trip, and by scaling these 18 steps at the end, one can attain self-realization.
The Ayyappa Idol
Lord Ayyappa’s beautiful idol is made of an alloy of five metals. Ayyappa is portrayed sitting in meditation. His devotees believe he can protect them from evil and grant them refuge.
Ending the Austerities
After finishing the Sabarimala trip, devotees return to their homes. Before entering the premises, they should break a coconut and pay obeisance to the family deity. Then, they can remove the garland and break the austerities. This holy pilgrimage symbolizes the soul’s journey towards God.