Sabarimala is a pilgrimage centre in Kerala, India located in the Western Ghat mountain ranges of Kerala in Pathanamthitta District. Lord Ayyappan's temple is situated here in the midst of 18 hills. The area is in the Sahyadri ranges of Kerala. The temple is situated on a hilltop at an altitude of 914m/3000 ft above mean sea level, and is surrounded by mountains and dense forests. Temples exists in each of the hills surrounding Sabarimala. While functional and intact temples exist at many places in the surrounding areas like Nilackal, Kalaketi, and Karimala, remnants of old temples survive to this day on remaining hills. Sabarimala is believed to be the place where Ayyappan meditated after killing the powerful demoness, Mahishi.
Sabarimala is one of the most visited piligrim centres in the world with an estimated 45 - 50 million devotees
coming every year. The world's second largest annual pilgrimage (after Hajj in Mecca) is reported to be to Sabarimala.
Mandalakalam (Mandlam Season)
“The Mandalam Season starts on the 1st of the Malayalam month Vrichikam (Middle of November) . Ayyappa Devotees initiate the Vratham by wearing a Thulasi mala or Rudraksha mala . The mala is to be accepted from a temple priest after it is duly sanctified in the temple. The mandala Vratham is 41 days and if the pilgrimage is for the ‘Makaravilakku’ it will be in January of the year. Even after visiting the Sabarimala temple, some devotees complete the 41-day period of Vratham. The male pilgrim is addressed as ‘Swami’ and the female pilgrim is addressed as “Malikappuram”. The Mandala Vratham is also observed by many devotees who don’t intent to go to Sabarimala Temple.”
“Makarasamkramam is the time when the sun moves from the dhanu rasi to the makaram rasi. The special pooja performed for Ayyappan at this moment is known as makarasamkrama pooja. Following the utcha pooja pilgrims will be allowed to climb the holy 18 steps only after deepaaradhana and jyothidarshan.”
Thiruvabharanam is the sacred ornaments of Ayyappan, the presiding deity of Sabarimala temple. The ornaments are made of gold. It is believed that these ornaments are made at the orders of the Pandalam King, who adopted Ayyappan as his child. Thiruvabharanam is kept at Srambickal Palace, which is close to the Valiyakoikkal Temple, inside the Pandalam Palace premises. At the end of the pilgrim season every year, the ornaments are taken to Sabarimala as a procession and poojas are performed on the idol adorned with the ornaments.