All you Want to Know About Sabarimala Temple

By Paanchajanyaa via @paanchajanyaa published on September 19, 2016

Sabarimala is a Hindu pilgrimage centre located in the Pathanamthitta district of Kerala. It has around 100 million devotees visiting every year. The temple is situated amidst 18 hills on a hilltop at an altitude of 1260 m above main sea level and is surrounded by mountains and dense forests. The dense forest, around the temple, is known as Poomkavanam. The poojas and rituals performed in the temple are in accordance with the Kerala tantra which is based on many texts like Tantrasamuchayam. Recently the temple has faced many controversies because of its tradition of not allowing women aged between 10 to 50 years to enter the temple which was criticised by certain intellectuals and journalists citing gender inequality. Let us see in a detailed manner about this practice and Sabarimala with the answers to certain questions which commonly arises in the minds of people on hearing about this practice.

What is Tantra?

Tantra specifies the way in which a temple has to function. While the Vedas specify the Hindu way of life along with the rituals/duties one has to perform in his/her life, tantras define the various poojas and the manner in which they have to be offered in the temple. Tantrasamuchayam is the commonly used text for the tantric way of worship in temples. The other Shastras or agamas which specify the functioning of temples are vaikhanasa agama, pancharathra agama, etc., While tantric way of worship is largely used in Kerala the other Agamas are employed in different temples of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, etc.

Why women aged between 10-50 years are not allowed to enter the temple?

There are two reasons for this practice. One is the Ayyapan or Dharma Sastha worshipped at Sabarimala temple is in the form of Naishtika Bramhachari, which keeps the women in their menstruating period away from the temple. This has also been conveyed at the Devaprasnam (a practice in Kerala used to gain knowledge about the wishes of the Lord worshipped in the temple) which was performed in 1985 when a similar case was running in the Kerala high court. Another reason is that a pilgrimage to Sabarimala requires one to maintain a rigorous vratha for 41 days which would be impossible for women. Hence this practice of not allowing women aged between 10-50 years is being followed in this temple.

What are the practices to be followed during the vratha maintained before the visit to Sabarimala?

1. Wear black clothes only. You can wear dark blue or orange once you complete few years of diskha and travel to Sabarimala. The reason being that Ayappa having offered that his devotees will pay due respects to him and as well as to Sani Bhagawan during the Diksha so that he would not trouble them. Wearing footwear is also avoided and washing feet before entering a house, or any place is required.

2. Start and end the day by taking bath twice with head shower with cold water. Initially, this would be difficult but being clean is next to godliness. Using fragrances is avoided and using home made products is recommended.

3. Eating self-cooked or fresh cooked food in separate utensils have to be practised. Food has to be vegetarian.

4. Sleeping on the floor is a must, and you can use bedsheet or blankets as needed.

5. Follow Brahmacharya life throughout this vratham.

6. Tell saranugosha or Ayyapa saranam vili everyday morning and evening.

7. No indulging in arguments, vulgar talks or watching movies. Keep practising devotional songs and attend Ayyapa Bhajans as much as possible maintain the varatham intact

8. Conduct Ayyapa puja at home at least once and give annadhanam to poor during this pooja.

9. First-time travellers to Sabarimala are called Kanniswamies, and they ensure that they are driven by the saranu gosha and not with the help of stick as they climb the forest hills to Sabarimala. Stop at Erumely and play pettatuli (carnival dance) before proceeding to Sabarimala. The first arrow from Erumely to be placed in Saramkuthi alayam. There is a story that the year when there is no saramkuti from the first time traveller to Sabarimala, that is when Lord Ayyappa will get married, and the waiting continues but devotees don’t stop coming to Sabarimala

10. Do not indulge in any wrong doings, accepting bribes, indulging in violence or talking foul language. Do not drink or smoke.

11. Keeping modest way of life is the way to perform this puja. Don’t indulge in showing wealth during bhajans or puja at home. In the eyes of Ayyappan, everyone is equal

12. Have all ingredients required for Irumudi and attend the irumudi function with poise. As the family puts behind rice in your bag as you start to Sabarimala, it means that you are actually leaving behind all your entanglements of life, including relationships and materialistic possessions.

13. Keeping away from attending death ceremonies, funerals and women during this time are required. In this vratham, one is far above all that is free from any kind of emotional entanglements and it is only to indicate that no one is above destiny and their own karma.

14. Visiting any local temple during the puja days once is recommended.

15. Following all puja norms for mala removing after the pilgrimage is also recommended, It is not right to remove the mala once visit is completed before the 41 days is completed. And it has to be done with the help of guru Swami only in a temple when the pilgrimage is completed.

Why do you think there’s no gender discrimination in Sabarimala?

This is because there is no total restriction for women entry. Only women aged between 10-50 years are not allowed to visit this temple. The women below ten years and above 50 years are allowed to have the darshan of Ayyappan.

Is there any temple belonging to Tantra way of worship with similar rules for men?


Yes, the Attukal Bhagavathy temple near Thiruvananthapuram allows only women to perform pongala which will be given as prasadam during its festival without the participation of men. So, there is no point of gender discrimination in this practice of Sabarimala

Blog of author:

Welcome to Haindava Keralam! Register for Free or Login as a privileged HK member to enjoy auto-approval of your comments and to receive periodic updates.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

1 × two =

Latest Articles from Dharma Smriti

Did You Know?