Sabarimala Sree Dharma Sastha Temple

Iyappan

 

History

Sabarimala is a Hindu pilgrimage centre located at the Periyar Tiger Reserve in the Western Ghat mountain ranges of Pathanamthitta District, Perunad grama panchayat in Kerala. It is one of the largest annual pilgrimages in the world with an estimated 45–50 million devotees visiting every year. Ayyappan’s temple is situated amidst 18 hills. The temple is situated on a hilltop at an altitude of 1260 m (4,133 ft) above mean sea level, and is surrounded by mountains and dense forests. The dense forest, (Periyar Tiger Reserve), around the temple is known as Poongavanam. Temples exist in each of the hills surrounding Sabarimala. While functional and intact temples exist at many places in the surrounding areas like Nilakkal, Kalaketty, and Karimala remnants of old temples survive to this day on remaining hills.

The shrine at Sabarimala is an ancient temple of Ayyappan also known as sasta and Dharmasasta. In the 12th century, Manikandan, a prince of Pandalam dynasty, meditated at Sabarimala temple and became one with the divine. Manikandan was an avatar of Ayyappan.

Sabarimala is linked to pilgrimage predominantly undertaken by Hindus. Sabarimala pilgrims can be identified easily, as they wear black or blue dress. They do not shave until the completion of the pilgrimage, and smear Vibhuti or sandal paste on their forehead.

In 1991, the Kerala High Court restricted entry of women above the age of 10 and below the age of 50 from offering worship at Sabarimala Shrine as they were of the menstruating age. Presently, the Supreme Court of India has taken a petition to review the judgment of High Court and allow entry of women. As of October 2017, the Supreme Court is referring the constitution bench to make a decision on the pertaining ban.

The temple is open for worship only during the days of Mandalapooja (approximately 15 November to 26 December), Makaravilakku or “Makara Sankranti” (14 January) and Maha Vishuva Sankranti (14 April), and the first five days of each Malayalam month.
The devotees are expected to follow a Vratham (41-day austerity period) prior to the pilgrimage. This begins with wearing of a special Mala (a chain made of Rudraksha or Tulasi beads is commonly used, though still other types of chains are available.). During the 41 days of Vratham, the devotee who has taken the vow, is required to strictly follow the rules that include follow only a lacto-vegetarian diet (In India, vegetarianism is synonymous with lacto-vegetarianism), follow celibacy, follow teetotalism, not use any profanity and have to control the anger, allow the hair and nails to grow without cutting. They must try their maximum to help others, and see everything around them as lord Ayyappa. They are expected to bath twice in a day and visit the local temples regularly and only wear plain black or blue colored traditional clothing. Saffron colored dresses are worn by Sannyasi who have renunciated material life. But, many devotees still continue to wear saffron colored clothes which becomes a part of Vedic culture which connects the whole Hindus worldwide.

Hundreds of devotees still follow the traditional mountainous forest path (approximately 61 km) from Erumely,12.8 km from Vandiperiyar and 8 km from Chalakayam, believed to be taken by Ayyappa himself. The Erumely route starts from Erumely to Aludha river, then crosses the Aludha mountain to reach Karivilam thodu. Now comes the sacred Karimala crossing, from there to Cheriyanavattom, Valliyanavattom and finally Pamba River. Then they have to climb Neelimala and enter into the Ganesha-Bettam, Shreerama-Betta Padam. Then comes the Aranmula kottaram, which is one of the stops of holy journey ‘Thiruvabharana Ghoshayatra’ (the grand procession of the divine jewelery).

These days people use vehicles to reach the Pamba River by an alternate route. From Pamba, all the pilgrims begin trekking the steep mountain path of Neeli Mala till Sabari Mala. This route is now highly developed, with emergency shops and medical aid by the sides, and supporting aid is provided to the pilgrims while climbing the steep slope, which used to be a mere trail through dense jungle. The elderly pilgrims are lifted by men on bamboo chairs till the top, on being paid.
Women in large numbers did not visit the temple, due to the hardship in reaching the temple. Women pilgrims above the age of 50 would visit the temple to conduct the first rice-feeding ceremony of their children (Chorroonu) in the temple premises. On May 13, 1940, even the Maharani of Tranvancore had visited the temple.

In 1991, Justice K Paripoornan and Justice K Balanarayana Marar of the Kerala High Court in their ruling against the Travancore Devaswom Board, banned entry of women between ages above the age of 10 and below the age of 50 from offering worship at Sabarimala Shrine during any period of the year stating that such restriction was in accordance with the usage prevalent from time immemorial. In addition, the Justices of the High court directed the Government of Kerala, to use police force to ensure the order to ban entry of women to the temple was implemented and complied with.
The worship of Sastha forms part of the very ancient history of south India. At Sabarimala, the deity is worshiped as Ayyappan and as Dharmasasta. The shrine of Sabarimala is an ancient temple. The prince of Pandalam dynasty, an avatar of Ayyappan, meditated at Sabarimala temple and became one with the divine. The place where the prince meditated is the Manimandapam.

There are many Sastha temples in South India and across the globe. As per the temple history, the Sastha temple at Sabarimala is one of the five Sastha temples founded by Lord Parasurama. The other Sastha temples in this group of five includes the Ayyappan Temples: at Kulathupuzha, where the Sastha appears as a Balaka or child; at Aryankavu where the Lord appears as a Brahmachari or young man; at Achankovil Shastha Temple, where the lord leads the Grihastha Ashrama life here and depicted along with his two wives – Purna and Pushkala; at Sabarimala, where the lord is depicted in the Vanaprastha or form of renunciation; at Poonambala Medu the Lord appears as a yogi and where the “makaravilaku’ is lit.
After the installation of the temple, it was mostly unreachable for about three centuries. In the 12th century, a prince of Pandalam Dynasty, called Manikandan, rediscovered the original path to reach Sabarimala. He had many followers with him, including the descendants of the Vavar (a Muslim warrior whom Manikandan defeated) family. This Prince is considered an Avatar of Ayyappa, and is believed to have led a pack of Tigers to his Palace with Vavar and then later disappeared to the Sabarimala temple. The temple was then renovated.
In 1821 AD, the kingdom of Pandalam was added to Travancore. 48 major temples including the Sabarimala temple were also added to Travancore. The idol was erected in 1910

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Sannidhanam, Sabarimala, Kerala
Sabarimala 689713
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Temple TimingsAll days : 4:00 AM to 1:30 PM 3:00 PM to 11:30 PM

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