Importance of Sabarimala Shrine
Ayyappa Temple at Sabarimala in Pathanamthitta district of
Kerala is the most sacred pilgrimage centre for the people
of Kerala. Presiding deity of Sabarimala shrine is Lord
Ayyappa known as Dharma Sastha, a symbol of unity between
Vaishnavites and Saivites. This is so because, Ayappan is
said to be born of union between Lord Vishnu and Shiva when
the former took the avatar of Mohini, the seductress. Shiva
succumbed to the charms of Mohini and Ayappa was born out of
this union. Hence Ayappa is also called 'Hari Hara Putra'
where 'Hari' is Vishnu, 'Hara' is Shiva and 'Putra' means
son. No wonder, Sabarimala attracts lakhs of devotees from
across the country particularly, southern states of India
What makes the shrine so much more interesting is the rugged
terrain on which it is located. The spirit of the thousands
of devotees must be saluted who walk this terrain on foot as
no other means of transport function in the rough stretches
of Western Ghats where Sabarimala is located. Pilgrims have
to make their way through the dense forests housing wild
animals. For the lovers of adventure, there is a mandatory,
5 km stretch from Pamba to the shrine which can be passed
only by trekking. Pilgrimage to Sabarimala requires a lot of
prior preparations and is not advisable on all times. It is
open only from November to January.
Ceremonies and Celebrations during Makar Villaku
One very important ceremony of Makara Villaku is the
bringing of deity's jewellery, Thirivabharanam from the
Pandalam Palace, three days prior to Makara Sankranthi. The
sacred jewelry is kept in a box and is brought in a royal
procession. Thousands of devotees line up on either side of
the route for a glimpse of the box, which is carried by a
priest, or oracle on his head. The oracle moves hysterically
oblivious of the presence of thousands of people. He dances,
but the box remains on his head as if it gets glued on his
head. Procession halts at a few temples en route and reaches
Sabaripettam in the evening of Makara Sankranthi. It then
moves towards Sannidhanam amidst music, dazzling lights and
lot of revelry. A strange phenomenon occurs at this time. A
kite appears all of a sudden and starts hovering around the
box. The incidence is well received by the devotees who get
filled with joy.
The jewelery consists of a diamond crown, gold bracelets and
necklaces studded with precious gems, Lord's swords, silver
arrows and gold images of elephant, horse and leopard.
Thousands gather for that dazzling glimpse of a fully
The other spectacular event is the appearance of 'Makarajyothi'
in the north-east horizon on Ponnambala Medu. Chants of 'Swamiye
Saranam Ayyappa' reverberate as the devotees turn ecstatic
on the strange occurrence.
Makara Vilakku poojas and ceremonies are performed on the 'Manimandapa'
(sacred platform) near the Devi shrine where a picture of
Sastha riding on a leopard's back is depicted. After the
pooja, Malikappurath Amma is mounted on an elephant's back
and carried in a procession comprising of torchbearers,
drummers, buglers etc. to Pathinettampadi. The procession
halts for sometime and shouts a call for Vettavili (hunting)
and returns after circumabulating the main temple.
Festivities continue for seven days and culminate with 'Guruthi'.
In this offerings are made to the Lord. The temple is
vacated after Guruthi. Nobody remains inside as a tradition.
On the last day of the Makara Vilakku celebrations, which is
Makaram 5th morning, a 'Ganapati Homam' is conducted at the
temple. Later the Thiruvabharanams are removed. After
performing some more rituals the procession makes its return
journey along with the Thiruvabharanam.