More than 30 million pilgrims visit the temple in Sabarimala annually, making it the largest in India and second largest in the world, after Hajj Pilgrimage of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Located inside the Periyar Tiger Reserve, in the Pathanamthitta district of Kerala, Sabarimala is a temple town on the bank of the River Pampa.
Named after the mythological character, Sabarimala shelters the famous Ayyapa temple. The temple is also known as Dharma Sashta and is believed to be the son of Shiva and Mohini, the feminine incarnation of Lord Vishnu. People believe that Vishnu’s incarnate, Parasurama, placed the Ayyappa Idol at the top of the mountain.
One can notice that the traditions of Sabarimala are a blend of Shaivism, Shaktism, Vaishnavism and other Sramana traditions. Women of age 12-50 years, during an active menstrual cycle, weren’t allowed inside the temple until the supreme court overturned the restriction on 28th September 2018.
The temple is situated amidst eighteen hills and dense forest surrounding the temple, which is known as Poongavanam. People trek up the mountains from Plapalli, proceeding to Aangaamuzhi, and then to Muzhiyaar and finally to Sabarigiri road. The temple is open on the first five days of each Malayalam month with it being most crowded during Mandalapooja, Makaravilakku or Makar Sankranti.