The Sabarimala Aiyyappa Temple is located at Sabarimala inside a Tiger Reserve in Pattanamthitta district, Kerala, India. Sabarimala is known for its annual pilgrimage where devotees turn up in millions around Nov 15th to Jan 15th every year. Sabarimala Aiyyappa Temple is also open every month for monthly pooja. During the monthly pooja very few of them, maybe in thousands visit Sabarimala. According to belief, Aiyyappa is the son of Shiva and Mohini, Mohini is the female incarnation of Vishnu. The temple is located in a dense forest, most of the devotees during the annual pilgrimage will trek for around 40 miles from Erumeli through the forests. All devotees visiting Sabarimala during the monthly pooja will start their trek from Pampa River, this is the shorter route to reach the temple, this is around 5 miles from Pampa to reach the temple. Some devotees even during the annual pilgrimage will start their trek from Pampa.
Route The 40 mile route starts from Erumeli. After walking 4 hours we reach Aludha River. From here we have to climb up the hill for around 2 hours and then climb down the hill to reach Karivilam Thodu. We have to continue walking in plains for 4 to 5 hours and then start climbing the Karimala hill. This is a very steep climb and might take around 3 hours to climb up and another 3 hours to climb down. We have to continue walking in plains for around 2 hours to reach Pampa. From Pampa we climb up the Neeli Mala hill and reach Sannidhaanam in around 3 hours. Most of them trekking will walk bare foot. It is easy to climb up and climb down the various hills bare foot.
Fasting Most of them visiting Sabarimala will observe fasting for 6 weeks. Before starting the fasting I will take blessings from my parents and wear a Thulasi Maala. I follow these for 6 weeks from the time I commence fasting. eat only Vegetarian food and also avoid onion, take bath twice in a day and offer my prayers to Aiyyappa, during the weekends I will visit Aiyyappa Temple, observe strict celibacy, wont watch cinema even on Television, avoid listening to film music, avoid visiting friends or relatives, wont go for hair cut or shave my face, sleep on the floor, foot wear only to office. The purpose of fasting is to keep our mind clean and also maintain good health.
Sabarimala Trip After observing 6 weeks fasting, we start our Sabarimala trip by taking Irumudi in the presence of Guruswamy. Irumudi is a travel bag which contains rice, coconut with ghee, coconut, pooja items etc.., When I visit Sabarimala in January, I used to take the Erumeli route. I also used to visit Sabarimala in March and July, during this time I start my trip from Pampa. We always go in group to Sabarimala, around twenty of us in January and for the monthly trip maybe four or five. The purpose of fasting is to climb the Eighteen Steps at Sabarimala Temple. These eighteen steps symbolizes vision, hearing, smell, taste, touch, love, anger, avarice, lust, pride, unhealthy competition, jealousy, boastfulness, discernment, passion, dullness, knowledge and ignorance. After climbing the eighteen steps devotees will have the darshan of Lord Aiyyappa.
My Sabarimala Experience I first went to Sabarimala in 1990. During this time I will observe 6 weeks fasting and visit Sabarimala in January. When I start walking from Erumeli, there will be hardly any shop on the way. These were the days when there were no mobile phone. When we walk in the forest climbing up and down the hill, there will be hardly any light. The fasting I observe for six weeks will help me trek at ease. Since, it is a dense forest, very active on wild life, we used to walk with lot of fear. I will call my parents only after having darshan of Aiyyappa from a telephone booth. As the days were passing by more people started visiting Sabarimala. Once mobile phone made its way, it is like walking with our people in Sabarimala, even though they may not be physically present. There used to be more shops and the route was completely lighted. We used to hardly see any wild life because of crowd and various shops that were located on the route. There were also people who used to smoke while trekking resulting in polluting the air. Between 2001 to 2014, I used to visit Sabarimala three times in a year. I used to observe sixty days fasting for my January trip and twenty days fasting for the remaining two trips in a year. I stopped going to Sabarimala six years back, I have gone to Sabarimala seventeen years and more than thirty five times.
What I learnt I always like to observe fasting, this helps me have good control of mind and also have good health. My various visit to Sabarimala taught me what are the essentials of life, made me a better person and most importantly taught me nothing is permanent in life. It is very important to visit Sabarimala Eighteen years, I hope am blessed to visit the Eighteenth Year.