Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple


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About and History of Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple

Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple is dedicated to Lord Ayyappa, which is the most famous and prominent among all the Sastha temples in Kerala.

The temple is situated on a hilltop (about 3000 feet above sea level) named Sabarimala in Pathanamthitta district, which is unique. The temple is open to people belonging to all religions. There is a place near the temple; east of Sannidhanam (the abode of Lord Ayyappa), dedicated to Vavar (a close friend of Lord Ayyappa) which is called Vavaru Nada, an epitome of religious harmony. Another unique aspect of this temple is that it is not open throughout the year. It is open for worship only during the days of Mandala Pooja, Makaravilakku, Vishu and also during the first day of every Malayalam month.

It is said that the pilgrims have to observe celibacy for 41 days before going to Sabarimala. Pilgrims take the traditional forest routes as well as the one from Pamba which is less physically challenging to reach the temple.

Lord Ayyappa- Birth and History: The members of Pandya dynasty ousted by Thirumala Naicker the ruler of the erstwhile Pandya Empire spanning Madurai, Tirunelveli and Ramanathapuram lived in places like Valliyur, Tenkasi, Shengottah, Achankovil and Sivagiri. They had also established their supremacy in parts of Travancore, and some of them belonging to Chempazhanattu Kovil in Sivagiri were given the right to rule the country of Pandalam by the King of Travancore, some eight hundred years ago. King Rajashekara, the foster-father of Lord Ayyappa belonged to this dynasty.

A just and precocious sovereign King Rajashekara was held by his subjects in high esteem. Under him, the region was witnessing a golden age. But the king had one sorrow – he was childless and thus had no heir to inherit his throne. Both the hapless king and his queen prayed ceaselessly to Lord Shiva for a child.

Around the same time, a demon by the name of Mahishasura undertook severe penance (tapas) and consequently Lord Brahma was forced to grant his wish that nobody on earth could annihilate him. Emboldened by Brahma’s boon, Mahishasura commenced systematic destruction of people and pulverized tribes and communities. Terrorized and fearing his wrath, people fled to distant lands. Realizing that only a superhuman power could exterminate the wayward Mahishasura, the devas appealed to Goddess Durga, who killed him in a bloody battle.

Determined to avenge her slain brother, Mahishi, the sister of Mahishasura secured a boon from Lord Brahma that no being except the offspring of Vishnu (Hari) & Shiva (Haran) could slay her. In due course of time, Mahishi went to Devaloka and began harassing the Devas who in turn implored Lord Vishnu to intervene. As the boon was that nobody except the son of Lord Shiva & Vishnu could kill Mahishi, Lord Vishnu assumed the female persona of Mohini who helped the devas prize Amrit away from the asuras; it was decided that the male child born out of the union of Mohini and Lord Shiva would be placed under the care of Lord Shiva’s childless devotee, King Rajashekhara of Pandalam.

On one of his hunting trips to the forests near River Pampa, as King Rajashekara reclined on the banks of river mulling over the natural beauty of the surroundings and waterfalls, he heard an infant’s wails from the forest. Astounded, he followed the sounds and came upon a beautiful child furiously kicking its feet and arms. The king stood there, perplexed – he longed to take the child home to his palace.

Whilst King Rajashekhara beheld the divine child, a sadhu appeared from nowhere and instructed him to take the infant to his palace. Also the mendicant assured him that the child would mitigate his dynasty’s sufferings and that when the boy turned twelve, Rajashekhara would be aware of his divinity. As the child was wearing a gold chain, the sadhu directed the King to name him ‘Manikandan’ – one with a golden neck.

Ecstatic, Rajashekhara took Manikandan home and narrated the happenings to his queen. They both felt that they had been blessed by Lord Shiva himself. All except the Diwan who had entertained hopes of becoming king after Rajashekhara, dejected in the royal couple’s happiness.

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As a child, Manikandan was very intelligent and precocious. He excelled in martial arts and shastras and surprised his guru with his brilliance and superhuman talents. Peace and prosperity reigned in Pandalam. Eventually, Ayyappan’s guru concluded that the boy was no ordinary mortal but a divine being. Upon completing his studies, Manikandan went up to his teacher to offer guru dakshina and seek his blessings in turn.

As he approached his spiritual master for ashirvadam (blessing), the guru explained to Manikandan what he had already surmised about him, that he was a divine power destined for superhuman glory. The guru then beseeched him to bestow vision and speech upon his son who was blind and dumb. Manikandan placed his hands on the guru’s son and the boy immediately gained eyesight and speech. Requesting that this miracle be revealed to none, Manikandan returned to the royal quarters.

Meanwhile the Queen had given birth to a male child who was named Raja Rajan. Sensing that these miraculous turn of events were somehow inextricably linked to Manikandan, Rajasekara, decided to crown him King; he obviously considered Lord Ayyappan his eldest son. Everybody with the exception of the King’s Diwan got dejected. This wily minister, who secretly nursed kingly ambitions, hated Manikandan and devised manifold plots, including poisoning of food to exterminate the divine avatar. Manikandan had a few narrow escapes, yet his body bore an injury that none could cure. Finally, Lord Shiva himself in the garb of a healer cured the young boy.

His plans failed, the Diwan told the Queen that it was highly improper for Manikandan to succeed Rajasekara, as her own son was alive. Since Arthasastra justifies any misdeed with a noble end, he instigated her to feign illness; he assured the Queen that he would make his physician proclaim that she could be cured only by the application of tigress’ milk. Manikandan would be impelled to go to the forest where he would fall prey to wild animals, or even if he returned home without accomplishing the task, Rajasekara’s love for him would be the same as before. Blinded by her devotion to her own son, the Queen vowed to help the Diwan and pretended as though she were suffering from a terrible headache. The King grew alarmed and summoned his physicians who were unable to revive the seemingly ailing Queen. Eventually the Diwan’s accomplice declared that she would be cured of the malady only if the milk of a lactating tigress were made available. Rajasekara proclaimed that he would hand over half his kingdom to anybody who could cure the hapless Queen.

The team of soldiers sent by Rajasekara with the sole purpose of getting the milk returned empty-handed. Manikandan offered to help, but the King would not heed his pleas to go to the forest, citing the boy’s tender age and impending coronation as reasons. Unperturbed, Manikandan requested his father to do him a favor. Rajasekara, ever the indulgent parent, relented immediately; the boy seizing the opportunity pressed him to let him collect the milk. Manikandan stalled Rajasekara’s efforts to organize a band of brave men to accompany him into the forest; he argued that the tigress would leave silently upon seeing the crowd of soldiers. Reluctantly Rajasekara bid farewell to his favorite son and made him take food stocks and three-eyed coconuts, in honor of Lord Shiva.

The Panchabuthas of Lord Shiva closely followed Manikandan as he entered the forest. But on the way, he chanced to witness the atrocities of the demoness Mahishi in Devaloka. His sense of justice outraged, Manikandan hurled Mahishi onto the earth below; she fell on the banks of the Azhutha River. A bloody battle soon ensued and at the end, Manikandan mounted Mahishi’s chest and commenced a violent dance that reverberated within the earth and the Devaloka. Even the Devas were frightened. Mahishi realized that the divine being on her was the son of Hari and Haran, chastened, she prostrated before the young boy and died.

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This dance was witnessed by Lord Shiva and Mahavishnu from a place called Kalakatti (It is said that Leela, daughter of Kavalan, a Karamban, with a face of Mahishi and freed herself from the curse and obtained Moksha by the grace of Shri Dharma Sastha, which is described in Sabarimala Temple as Malikapurathu Amma, by which name she has a temple there)

Following his confrontation with Mahishi, Manikandan entered the forest for tigress’ milk. He had a darshan of Lord Shiva who informed him that even though he had fulfilled the divine plan, he still had one major task to accomplish. Manikandan was reminded about his grief-stricken father and ailing mother; also he was assured of Lord Indran’s assistance in obtaining the much prized tigress’ milk. Manikandan made his way to the Royal palace on Lord Devendran, disguised as a tiger; they were accompanied by female devas in the guise of tigresses and male devas as tigers.

The people of Pandalam panicked upon seeing the boy and the tigers and hurriedly sought shelter. Soon after, the Sanyasi, who had first materialized before Rajasekara in the forest, when he heard a child’s wails appeared again and revealed Manikandan’s true identity to the wonder-struck Sovereign. The King grew silent and pensive, as Manikandan approached the palace gates with the tigers. The boy descended from the tiger’s back and informed the solemn King that he could get the milk from the tigresses and cure the Queen of the mysterious ailment. Unable to contain himself any longer, Rajasekara fell at the lad’s feet and begged for forgiveness,he had finally seen through his Queen’s pretense; her malady had ceased the moment Manikandan had left for the forest. On the day he returned from the forest, Manikandan turned twelve years old.

King Rajasekara decided to punish his Diwan as the latter was responsible for his son’s exile into the forest. Manikandan, however, advised restraint; he held that all had unfolded in accordance with the divine order, through the will of God. Also he reminded his father that as he had accomplished the task for which he had created himself, he would return to Devaloka without fail. Before his departure, the lad told the King that he, as he was pleased by the latter’s unflinching faith and devotion, would grant him whatever boon Rajasekara requested for. Immediately, the King Rajasekara told him that they wanted to construct a temple in his memory and beseech him to suggest a suitable place for the temple. Manikandan aimed an arrow which fell at a place called sabari, where in Sri Rama’s era a Sanyasini called sabari observed Dhavam. Lord Manikandan told the King to build the temple in that place and then he disappeared.

Later, acting upon the advice of Saint Agastya, King Rajasekara laid the foundation stone of the temple at Sabarimala. Lord Manikandan, had stated emphatically that he would grace only those devotees who offer Darshan after observing forty-one days’ penance or vrtha that involves strict abstinence from family desires and tastes; the devotees are expected to adhere to a way of life akin to that of a brahmachari, constantly reflecting on the goodness of life. Whilst they make their way up the steep slopes of Sabarimala, they adorn themselves with three-eyed coconut and foodstuff/Aantha Garland in their heads, as the Bhagwan did when he went to the forest to fetch tigress milk, and bathed in River Pampa raising slogans of Saranam and climb the eighteen stairs.

King Rajasekara, in due course of time completed the construction of the shrine and the sacred eighteen stairs leading to the temple complex. As the King mulled over the seemingly perplexing task of placing Dharmasastha’s idol in the temple for darshan, he was reminded of the words of the Lord himself – the River Pampa is a holy river as River Ganga, Sabarimala is as holy as Kasi – Dharmasastha sent Parasuraman, who resurrected the land of Kerala from the bottom of the ocean, to Sabarimala; it was he who carved the figure of Lord Ayyappa and installed it on the day of Makar Sankranti.

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Nagarajavu:  The deity of Nagarajavu is placed adjacent to the sreekovil (sanctum sanctorum) of Lord Ayyappa. Pilgrims after the Darshan of Lord Ayyappa and Kannimoola Ganapathi, make their darshan and give offerings to Nagarajav.

Vavarunada: 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 significance that the mosque at Erumeli has during the Sabarimala pilgrim season 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: Malikapurathamma is the most important upadevatha in Sabarimala. There are two beliefs on Malikapurathamma, that he 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 became a Sanyasini and desired to remain with Sri Ayyappa. As per Tantric view, pilgrims have to worship Malikappuram as ‘Adiparasakthi’.

Karuppu Swami & Karuppai Amma: The temple of Karuppu Swamy 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 the forest who helped Lord Ayyappa in his divine mission and are believed to have divine power.

Valiya Kadutha Swami: 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: Mel Ganapathi prathishta is adjacent to the sreekovil (sanctum sanctorum) of the Sannidhanam. Devotees offer part of the broken ghee coconut (ney thenga) to Sri Ganapathi in the fireplace (azhi). Ganapathi homam is the main offering

sabarimala temple ayyappan

Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple

Timings to visit 

4:30 AM – 12:00 PM | 02:00 PM – 10:00 PM

Sevas/Pujas Performed

Time (IST)Pooja/Seva
3:00 AM

Opening of sanctum sanctorum, Nirmalyam,


3:30 AMGanapati Homam
3:30 to 7:00 AMNeyyabhishekam
7:30 AMUsha Pooja
8:30 – 11:00 AMNeyyabhishekam
11:10 AMNeyyabhishekam/Using Ghee deposited in ‘Ney thoni’
11:00 to 11:30 AMAshtabhishekham (15 nos)
12:30 PMUcha Pooja
1:00 PMClosing of sanctum sanctorum
3:00 PMOpening of sanctum sanctorum
6:30 PMDeeparadhana
7:00 to 9:30 PMPushpabhishekam
9:30 PMAthazha Pooja
11:00 PM


Closing of sanctum sanctorum


Special Puja’s:

  • Neyyabhishekam
  • Padi Pooja
  • Udayasthamana Pooja
  • Kalasams:
  1. Sahasrakalasam
  2. Ulsavabali
  3. Pushpabhishekam
  4. Ashtabhishekam:
  1. Vibhuti
  2. Milk
  3. Honey
  4. Panchamrutham
  5. Tender coconut water
  6. Sandalwood or Chandanam
  7. Rosewater or Panineer
  8. Water

Special Poojas/Sevas Booking Link:

To book tickets online Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple

Pilgrim Facilities available 

  • Health Care Centers
  • Cardiac Centers
  • Government Department Services
  • Water Kiosks
  • Edathavalangal
  • Annadhana Mandapam
  • Toilet Facility
  • Veg Food Counters
  • Prasadam Counters
  • Accommodation
  • Vehicle Booking
  • Vehicle Parking

Pilgrim Facilities Booking Link:

Best Time to Visit 

Throughout the year and on Hindu Festivals, October – January

Festivals celebrated

Makaravilakku is an annual festival of great importance, held every year during Makar Sankranti in Kerala, India at the Sabarimala Temple.

All Hindu Festivals.

How to Reach 

By Air: Cochin International Airport – 137 Kms,Thiruvananthapuram – 170 km,  Nedumbassery – 160 km

By Train: Chengannur Railway Station – 75 Kms, Kottayam Railway Station – 85 Kms, Kochi Railway Station – 172 km,

By Road: Thrissur – 210 km, Pathanamthitta – 63 km, Chengannur – 75 km, Kottayam – 92 km, Kochi – 146 km, Trivandrum – 178 km,


Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple, Swamy Ayyappan Rd, Sannidhanam, Sabarimala, Kerala 689662

Also Read About Official Website Of Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple 

Also Read About Places to visit in Kerala

Hotels Near By

Temple Map



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