Sabarimala Sri Ayyappan Temple, Kerala
Sabarimala Sri Ayyappa Temple, dedicated to Lord Ayyappa, is the most famous and prominent among all the Sastha temples in Kerala. The temple is situated on a hilltop about 4000 feet above sea level named Sabarimala, which is unique in many respects. The uniqueness gathers its voice, as the temple is open to all, irrespective of caste, creed or religion. There is a place near the temple; east to Sannidhanam, dedicated to the Vavar (a Sufi and friend of Lord Ayyappa) which is called 'Vavarunada', an epitome of religious harmony. The temple remains open only for 127 days a year. The journey to the temple is to be taken through difficult paths in the forest as the vehicles can go only up to Pampa. The dawn of the Vrichikam month occupies a special place in the spiritual pilgrimage calendar. For it is on this day that millions start their trek to reach the shrine of Lord Ayyappa reverberating chants ‘Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa’, meaning ‘Lord Ayyappa – the only refuge’. Located in the deep, dense forest on the virgin hill of Sabari, in the Ranni-Perunad village of Pathanamthitta district of Kerala, in South India, Sabarimala epitomizes the supreme virtue of unity sans religion, caste, or creed. The Malayalam month of Vrichikam – mid-November – ushers the longest open period to visit the hill shrine dedicated to Lord Ayyappan or Dharma Sastha. As devotees would aver, a pilgrimage to Sabarimala is a symbiotic combination of mind power, determination, physical stamina, and faith to reach the sanctum sanctorum!