Pathanamthitta, Dec 2: The annual two-month-long pilgrimage to the erst-while Sabarimala Ayyappa temple began on November 16. Hundreds of devotees have began trekking up the holy hillock located in the sleepy district of Pathanamthitta in Kerala.
Here is everything you need to know about the temple and various beliefs associated with it:
• The beliefs surrounding Sabarimala is linked to Hindu religion and the mythical history of Lord Ayyappa
• Ayyappa was the adopted son of the king of Pandalam dynasty, which ruled over the region. He is said to have got the infant from the banks of the holy river Pampa
•. The mythology says that the king was told by an oracle that the baby will show the intent of his birth at age of 12. He was named Manikandan as he had a bell tied around his neck
• When Mani Kandan turned 12, he revealed himself to his foster parents and rest of the kingdom by riding on a leopard.
• Mani Kandan told his father that he was leaving the palace and they could visit him every year at Sabarimala, a hillock covered with thick forest, which would be his abode henceforth.
Rituals, customs and the pilgrimage
• Girls/women of 10-50 years are not allowed to visit the temple. If a female of the aforesaid age-group happens to visit the temple premises, the temple authorities conduct purification rituals
• The devotees stick to a disciplined life of abstinence for 41 days ahead of the temple visit
• No non-vegetarial diet, alcohol or smoking is allowed during the period
• Devotees usually wear black clothes through out the 41-days period.
• To the holy hillock, pilgrims carry a clothbundle which is called 'irumudikkettu', containing various pooja items
• Although there is a new, much shorter trekking route, hundreds of devotees still follow the traditional mountainous forest path, which is around 61 km, believed to be taken by Lord Ayyappa himself
Temple and the holy shrine
• History says that the idol was erected in 1910. The temple was built in 1971 and renovated many times after that.
• Right in front of the main temple, there is a message board which reads "Tattvamasi", a sanskrit word which means "God is within you"
• The main prasadam or the religious offering at Sabarimala temple are Aravana payasam and Appam. These are prepared by using rice, ghee, sugar, jaggery etc.
• The temple is governed by a temple management body called Travancore Devaswom Board. TDB is assisted by various government departments and voluntary agencies like ‘Akhila Bharata Ayyappa Seva Sangham'.