Sabarimala Sree Dharma Sastha Temple is the most famous and prominent among all the Sastha temples. This is one of the most ancient temples in Kerala. It is believed that Lord Parasurama consecrated the deity of the temple at the foot of Sabari hills to which reference has been made in Ramayana. The temple attracts pilgrims not only from the southern states of Kerala, Tamilnadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh but also from the other part of the country and abroad. The unique feature of the temple is that it is open for people of all faiths and many Non-Hindus conduct pilgrimage to this temple. The secular aspect of the temple is best exemplified by the existence of the "Vavar nada" in honour of a Muslim Saint at the close proximity to the main temple (Ayyappa Swami temple) at Sabarimala by the side of Holy Pathinettampadi (Holy Eighteen steps). The pilgrims worship in this place also. The pilgrims on their sojourn to Sabarimala worship at Erumeli Sree Dharma Sastha temple and conduct "Petta Thullal". They also worship in the mosque at Erumeli as a part of their pilgrimage. Ayyappa cult gives much importance for the secularism and communal harmony and has turn out to be a model for the whole world. Another significant aspect of the pilgrimage is that all the pilgrims whether rich or poor, learned or illiterate holding position or not master or servant, are all equal before LORD AYYAPPA and all address each other as AYYAPPA.
The divine qualities like equality fraternity, tolerance, humanity etc. are shining well in the pilgrims.
PONNU PATHINETTAM PADI
SABARIMALA TEMPLE COMPLEX
Sabarimala temple complex mainly comprises of the Holy Eighteen Steps (PONNU PATHINETTAM PADI) in the front side for ascending to the upper thirumuttom, the main temple of SREE DHARMA SASTHA, shrines of KANNIMEL GANAPTHY and NAGARAA. In the upper thirumuttom, VAVAR SWAMY (a Muslim saint) and KARUPPA SWAMY in the lower thirumuttom by the side of Pathinettampadi and temple of SREE MALIKAPURAM DEVI, NAVA GRAHA DEVAS, KADUTHA SWAMY, MALANADAYIL BHAGAVATHY NAGA DEVAS and MANI MANDAPAM about 50 meters away on the north western side assemble through fly-over from the uppers thirumuttom of the Sastha temple. Bhasma kulam is the lower ground on the western side of the temple. The pilgrims with IRU MUDI KETTU alone are permitted to ascend the Holy Eighteen Steps Entry to the temple for all other is through the steps on the northern side.
The pilgrims with Irumudi kettu have to come in queue through the barcodes in the Nadapandal area for ascending the holy eighteen steps. Breaking of coconuts is to be done only in the space provided for it in the lower side of Pathinettampady (holy 18 steps) and it should not be done on any of the steps of pathinettam pady. After ascending to the upper thirumuttom the pilgrims have to proceed through the flyover around the temple on the left side and can have the DARSAN of the LORD AYYAPPA SWAMY in front of the Sree Kovil in queue and have the Kannimel Ganapathy and Nagaraja and from there through the flyover to the Malikappuram temple for Darsan and return to lower Thirumuttom on the northern side.
For Ghee Abhishekom tickets have to be taken for each ‘Ghee filled Coconut (Each Mudra)’ for Abhishekom. The Abhishekom ghee collected in a vessel should be taken to the Sapanam in queue through the barricades provided for the purpose on the northern side, with the tickets relating to the number of ‘Mudras’ empties in the vessel. Details of ticket counters etc, are given separately. Facilities are also available for handing over the Mudra (coconut containing the Ghee Abhishekom) at this counter and getting prasadom ghee (AADIYA SISHTAM GHEE) from that counter if the devotee so desires.
ACCOMMODATION AND OTHER FACILITIES
The multistoried pilgrim complex is located adjacent to the Nadapandal. There are a few pilgrim sheds on the northern side in Pandy thavalam and beyond Pandi thavalam. Beyond this area a series of public latrines are provided. There is a Government hospital and Ayurvedic Hospital functioning during festival season on the southeastern side near the Nadapandal. Near Malikappuram temple complex there is a dispensary run by N.S.S. (Near the Donors Complex). The accommodation Office is functioning on the northern side of the lower thirumuttam near the Maramath Complex and Donor Building. All enquires for accommodations are to be made there. There is a Telephone Exchange and Public Call Office with STD/ISD facilities. Police force is stationed in all-important areas of the Sabarimala Pilgrimage.
Sree Dharmasastha Temple at Sabarimala is situated within the Reserve Forest area in Perinad village at Ranni Taluk in Pathanamthitta District in Kerala. The temple is located in a valley surrounded by dense Forest Hills on all sides. The distance to Sabarimala from Pamapa – Triveni Sarasthadom is about 6 kms. Road transport facilities are available only up to Pampa (Triveni) on the southern bank of Pampa river. There are two bridges across the river at Triveni, one is pucca concrete footbridge and the other is a motorable bridge. Traffic through the latter bridge is not permitted during festival seasons. On the upper side of the north bank of the river shrines of Sree Mahaganapathy. Sree Rama, Sree Anjaneya and Sree Parvathy are situated. There is a big Nadapandal adjacent to the shrines where the pilgrim used to take rest after worship in these shrines. From Pampa temple premises, foot of the Neelimala hills is at a distance of about 200 meters to the western direction of the temple. Neelimala is a very steep hill. There are two roots from here to climb Neelimala. One is the old conventional route of climbing the hills through the straight and very steep path via Appachi medu, Sabaripeedom and the other is a pathway through the slopes of Neelimala with lesser gradient but about one more kilometer in length known as Swamy Ayyappan Road constructed by Sri Subramaniam Trust. Both these Roads meet at Mara Koottam (beyond Sabaripeedom in the first route). There after the road again bifurcates one through SARAMKUTHY and the other through the lower slopes of Saramkuthy hills and meets again near the NADA PANDAL at SABARIMALA. During peak season the pilgrims are allowed to proceed to Sabarimala temple through Saramkuthy road and return through the lower road. A subway has been constructed recently to facilitate crossing of the queue of the temple side proceeding pilgrims for avoiding stampede.
The information Center is on the northeastern side from where enquiries can be made.
The executive office is on the southern side of the upper Thirumuttam, adjacent to these are the melsanthy’s rooms and Thanthry’s rooms – Sabarimala temple Manager’s Office is in the cell rooms beneath the Executive Office and Melsanthy’s room.
At Pampa also there are a few pilgrim sheds. There is three Hospitals (one Allopathy, one Ayurveda and one Homeopathy) functioning during the festival period. At Appachi Medu also one First Aid Centre used to function during the peak days of festival period. One information Center is working at Pampa Anjanayar Auditorium.
NILAKKAL MAHADEVAR TEMPLE
This is an important temple enroute to Sabarimala in between Plappally and Pampa. This is an intermediate halting area (with parking facilities – There is a Devi Temple also close by).
Thiruvabharanam for adorning Lord Ayyappa on the Mandala Pooja day is brought ceremoniously in procession from Aranmula on Dhanu 9th.
Thiruvabharan for adorning the Lord Ayyappa and Malikappuram Devi on the Makara vilakku Pooja is on 1st of Makram-(January 14th), is brought from Pandhalam Palace in grand procession. It is received at the Sannidhanam with reverence. The entire Sannidhanam area at that time will be glowing with Karapoora Deepam. After wearing the ornaments on Lord Ayyappa Idol the MAKARA VILAKKU POOJA is conducted. MAKARA JYOTHI can be seen at that time at ponnambala Medu on the eastern side.