| Sabarimala, lying high up is the best known pilgrimage destination in Kerala.
The Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala lies 80 kms away from the district head quarters i.e., Pathanamthitta. It is believed that "Parasurama Maharshi" who retrieved Kerala from the sea by throwing his axe, installed the idol of Ayyappa at Sabarimala to worship Lord Ayyappa. It is a National Pilgrim Centre.|
This prominent shrine of Lord Ayyappa is encircled by hills like the Karimala and Neelimala. Devotees carry ‘irumudikettu’ (bundle of offerings for Ayyappa) on their head, trek the hazardous mountain ranges and pas through the dense forest bare-footed, simultaneously chanting ‘Saranam Ayyappa’ meaning, we seek refuge in Ayyappa. . Most devotees carry ghee in coconut shells as offering to the lord. Devotees usually undergo 41 days of ‘Vritha’ (self-imposed devotional penance.) prior to their visit to the Sabarimala temple. The temple credits to be the only famous temple in Kerala, which is secular enough to allow devotees from other religious faiths inside the temple.
Women over the age of 50, men and girls below the age of 10 are restricted from going on Sabarimala pilgrimage tours. Young girls are also restricted, as legends believe that the Lord sits in meditation on Mount Sabari.
Sitting majestically high up the Sahyadri Mountains(western ghats), a visit to the temple includes climbing a flight of 18 steps enveloped in gold. These 18 steps signify different aspects of human nature like intelligence, anger, the five senses, etc. One who successfully traverses these 18 steps is believed to have attained "Punyadarshanam".
Every year, during the month of January, a large number of devotees assemble at Sabarimala to view the "Makaravilaku" (divine flame that is visible during one particular day of the Makara star). When dusk falls, a small flame arises in a distance, between two hills just opposite the temple. The temple comes alive with the hymns of praise for the Lord echoing all around.