Sabarimala is a famous Hindu pilgrimage site located in the Western Ghat mountain ranges of Kerala, India. It is dedicated to Lord Ayyappa, a deity who is believed to be the offspring of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu in the form of Mohini, a female avatar. The pilgrimage season at Sabarimala typically occurs from November to January, during the Malayalam month of “Vrishchikam.”
Here are some key aspects of Sabarimala:
Pilgrimage Tradition: Sabarimala is known for its unique pilgrimage tradition. Devotees, known as “Ayyappans,” undertake a strict 41-day fasting period and adhere to certain austere practices before embarking on the journey. The pilgrimage culminates with a visit to the Sabarimala temple.
Mandalapooja and Makaravilakku: The main festivals at Sabarimala include the Mandalapooja and Makaravilakku. Mandalapooja marks the beginning of the main pilgrimage season, and Makaravilakku, celebrated on the Makara Sankranti day, is a significant event when a divine light is believed to appear on the hill.
Pathinettam Padi: The “Pathinettam Padi” or “18 Holy Steps” is an important feature of the Sabarimala temple. Devotees climb these 18 steps to reach the sanctum sanctorum. Each step is associated with a specific deity or concept from Hindu mythology.
Entry Restrictions: Sabarimala has been a subject of controversy due to entry restrictions imposed on women of certain age groups. Traditionally, women of menstruating age (10-50 years) were not allowed to enter the temple. This practice faced legal challenges and debates, leading to various court rulings and public discussions.
Preservation of Traditions: The debate over the entry of women sparked discussions about the balance between religious traditions and gender equality. The issue raised questions about the autonomy of religious institutions and the rights of individuals.
Natural Beauty: Sabarimala is situated amidst lush green forests and is known for its picturesque surroundings. The temple complex is nestled within the Periyar Tiger Reserve, contributing to its natural beauty and serene ambiance.
The Sabarimala pilgrimage is a significant cultural and spiritual event for millions of devotees who visit the temple each year. The complex interplay of religious beliefs, traditions, and contemporary debates has made Sabarimala a topic of wide interest and discussion in India.