Pathanamthitta: The annual Mandalam-Makaravilakku pilgrim season in Sabarimala begins on November 17. The authorities have started preparations to welcome the devotees anticipating a further rise in their numbers from last time. Approximately 50 lakh devotees visited Sabarimala during the last pilgrimage season, according to the official estimates.
Surrounded by 18 hills in the Periyar Tiger Reserve, the Sabarimala Temple in Kerala is a world renowned Swamy Ayyappan temple. It is located in the forests of the Sabari Hills of the Western Ghats at an altitude of 914 meters. It stands as one of the largest annual pilgrimage sites in the world, drawing an estimated 10 to 15 million devotees each year. Pamba, located on the banks of river Pamba is the important base camp on the way to Sabarimala temple.
Mandala Kalam, also known as Mandala Masam spans a duration of 41 days and draws millions of devotees from around the world to this hill shrine. It is the main pilgrimage season of the renowned Sabarimala Temple. Mandala Kalam marks the beginning of pilgrimage to Sabarimala from the first day of the Vrishchikam month and ends on the eleventh day of the Dhanu month, following the traditional Malayalam calendar.
The world famous Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple remains continuously open only during the famous Makaravilakku – Mandala Puja season (November – December – January). The annual pilgrimage begins in mid November and ends in mid January with the Makaravilakku. The Temple is open on all days during the season. The Temple will close for a brief period after the Mandala Pooja which is on December 27 this year. Sabarimala will be opened for the devotees again for Makaravilakku Session on December 30.
During the Mandala Pooja period, a pilgrim visiting the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple is supposed to strictly follow certain customs for 41 days. The pilgrim should abstain from non- vegetarian habits, should remain celibate and should wear the special Rudraksha mala or Thulsi mala. Some people choose not to shave or cut their hair during this period. Some ardent devotees only wear black or saffron attire and avoid wearing footwears. Pilgrims often embark on their pilgrimage in groups, each carrying the Irumudikettu, a cloth bundle containing traditional offerings for the temple, such as coconut, ghee, malar (puffed rice), and rice.
People of all religions are allowed to visit the Sabarimala temple. There is no restriction based on caste or creed. But there are certain restrictions for women. Only those women who have either passed their fertility age or are yet to reach puberty are allowed in the shrine. To be precise, women only after the age of 50 and before the age of 10 are allowed in the shrine.