Sree Dharma Sastha Temple. of Ayyappa Sabarimala, Ranni -689713
Pathanamthitta, Kerala, IN

The uniqueness of this temple is that, the temple is open to all, irrespective of caste, creed or religion. No Ladies (Between 8 Years to 40 Years) are allowed in this temple. Makara Jyothi is the celestial lighting which takes place on Makara Sankranthi day (Jan 14th) can be seen on the top of the hill called Makara Vilakku. It is believed that god was seen as Light to bless the devotees. Pathinetta padi (18 divine steps) to the sanctum sanctorium is divine in all aspects.

Temple Etiquette

  • Footwear not allowed inside

    Footwear not allowed inside
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    Footwear to be left outside the temple. In summer be careful of the hot paving stones.

  • Prasad and donation

    Prasad and donation
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    Use your right hand to accept prasad and give donations. The left hand is considered unclean in India.

  • Dress conservatively

    Dress conservatively
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    Avoid shorts, skirts, tanktops and do not expose legs.

  • Restricted entry

    Restricted entry
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    Entry is normally restricted to temple priests in the sanctum sanctorum. Some temples restrict the entry of non-Hindus

  • Avoid cellphones

    Avoid cellphones
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    Use of cell phones is restricted normally. Photography is restricted in some temples.

  • Circumambulation or pradakshina

    Circumambulation or pradakshina
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    Devotees are to walk around the sanctum sanctorum in a clockwise direction

  • Special dress code

    Special dress code
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    In some temples especially in Kerala, men should wear Dhotis/Mundu (a piece of cloth like the sarong) and remove shirts/t-shirts. Women should wear Indian clothing.


About Sree Dharma Sastha Temple.

Lord Ayyappa had his human incarnation as the son of the king of Pandalam, Kerala.  At that time, the kingdom of Pandalam was under the rule of Raja Rajasekhara. During one of his hunting expeditions, the wails of a child on the banks of the river Pampa puzzled him. As he moved in the direction of the voice, he found a resplendent and helpless infant there. The beautiful baby with a radiant face had a gemstone around his neck, hence the name Manikantan ("Mani", means gemstone and "kantan" means wearer around the neck).  Manikantan was born of Hari (Lord Vishnu) and Hara (Lord Shiva), with Hari assuming the form of a female (Mohini).  Hence Ayyappan is also named as Hariharasutan (Sutan meaning son). The king had no children, though he was pious, charitable, just, and God-fearing. The king and the queen were the ardent devotees of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu respectively.  They had prayed to their respective deities for blessings in the form of a child.  So the king accepted the child as God's gracious gift to his fervent prayers,  for a heir to his throne.  Manikantan was given proper education and training and he grew into a boy well versed in academic lore and martial arts. Meanwhile the Rani (Queen) gave birth to a son; however the king regarded Manikantan as his elder son and decided to crown him as the Yuvaraja.

Since the minister of the Raja was against Manikantan becoming the Yuvaraja, for several hidden reasons, he along with his sycophants lured the queen to act against the king's decision to crown Manikantan. On the coronation day of Manikantan as Yuvaraja, the queen pretended to be suffering from unbearable stomach ache, and said that she was unable to get any relief from the treatment of any doctor. Finally came a fake practitioner and prescribed "the milk of a tigress" as the cure of the queen's illness. This drama took place at the instance of the minister. The king appealed to everyone,  to get the tigeress-milk, but no-one dared, as all feared death.  At last, Manikantan came forward and went to the forest in search of tigress milk, despite the king's attempt to stop him as he was deeply frightened, that the deemed Yuvaraja may not come back alive.

Manikantan entered the forest to fulfill his divine duty,  to rid from the world, the demoness, Mahishi. Manikantan killed her and released a beautiful woman who had been cursed to become Mahishi. The young woman asked Ayyappan for his hand in marriage, but he declined. However he promised that she would be visited by pilgrims and would be housed next to his temple, and if ever the number of new pilgrims (Kanni Ayyappan) stopped visiting him,  then he would marry her.  Hence she is now worshipped as Maalikapurathamma.

On the death of Mahishi,  Indra - the king of the gods, who was displaced and banished by Mahishi, gave several tigers for the disposal of Ayyappan.

Days later Manikantan entered the palace precincts,  riding a fierce tigress and followed by a pack of her cubs. The schemers were frightened and confessed their plot. They were convinced of his divine origins, and prayed to him to be with them for their own salvation and for the safety of the kingdom.  Immediately Manikantan disappeared. The king took a decision that he would not eat anything till Manikantan came back. Then Manikantan gave a darshan to the king.

Filled with emotions of happiness, grief, fear, wonder, 'Bhakti' (devotion to God) and self-surrender, the king stood praying for the mercy and blessings of Manikantan. He repented that he could not fully visualize the truth of the divine powers of the Lord and repeatedly requested him to forgive him,  for behaving as if he were his son only. The Lord lovingly embraced the king,  who prayed to bless him, freeing him  from ego and the worldly life of birth and rebirth and granted Moksha (salvation).  He told the king that he was destined to return. The king requested Lord Manikantan to allow him to build a temple and dedicate it to him and the Lord assented.

Manikantan then enlightened the king on the path of attainment of Moksha. The Lord shot an arrow that fell at the top of Sabrimala and told the king that he could construct a temple at Sabarimala, north of the holy river Pampa and install his deity there.  Ayyappan also explained how the Sabarimala pilgrimage shall be undertaken, emphasizing the importance of penance vratham and what the devotees can attain by his 'darshan'.

The king secured a promise from the Lord that on Thai Pongal on January 14, every year (celebrated as "Makara Jyothi" all his personal jewellery (usually kept at the palace) will be adorned on his image at Sabarimala.  Hence on the 12th of January every year, the jewellery will be taken on foot from the palace by a special emissary of the kingdom, after the puja with all pomp, devotion and reverence. Immeditely when the Arti is over, royal Garuda (Eagle) flies over the palace. The Royal Garuda flies ahead, and appears as though guiding the pilgrims throughout their journey.  Since there were no modern means of communication like Telephone or Mobile, to the hundreds of thousands of Devotees desirous of worshipping Lord Manikantan's jewels enroute to his Abode, this Garuda was the sole and absolute signal of advance information even to the temple authorities at Sabarimala to get ready for the adorning of jewels. This journey on the 12th and 13th of January finally reaches Sabarimala on January 14th.  Immediately after the jewellery is adorned on the deity, there is an Aarti (offering by burning Camphor). The miracle is that just after the Arti, without loss of  a second, the Jyothy appears on the east side of the temple up above the hills. But then the Lord further consoled the king saying that the devotees who held him and his descendants in 'Bhakti' shall happen to be devoted to Him as well. Manikantan then blessed the king and all others who had assembled there, and vanished. The king duly constructed the temple at Sabarimala, dedicated to him. The deity for installation was prepared by Parasurama, believed to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, and was installed by him.

It is believed that the deity of the temple was consecrated by Lord Parasurama at the foot of Sabari hills for which reference has been made even in Ramayana.

Sabarimala is believed to be the place where Lord Ayyapa meditated soon after killing the powerful demon, Mahishi. Another mythology says that it is 'Parasurama Maharshi' who uplifted Kerala from the sea by throwing his axe and installed the idol of Ayyappa at Sabarimala.

To enter the Sabarimala temple, the pilgrim has to pass Pathinettampadi (holy eighteen steps). The holly eighteen steps that lead to the shrine have been figuratively called Ponnu Pathinettampadi, 'Ponnu' being an epithet to denote the holy touch of lord's feet. But now 'Ponnu' has become literally true because the steps have been covered with Panchaloka.  Each of these eighteen holy steps represents a desire one must conquer in life, it is believed. Only those who observe 41 days of austerity as ritual,  can  carry irumudi and can climb these steps.
The layout of the Ayyappa temple is believed to have originated from the specific instructions of the Lord himself, who wanted Malikappurathamma, on his left a few yards from Sannidhanam, and his trusted lieutenants Vavur and Kadutha to be positioned as his guards at the foot of the holy 18 steps. The divine qualities like equality, fraternity, tolerance, humanity etc.. are seen in the pilgrims.

Ayyappa cult gives much importance for the secularism and communal harmony and has turned out to be a model for the whole world.  Another significant aspect of the pilgrimage is that all the pilgrims whether rich or poor, literate or illiterate,  master or servant are all equal before LORD AYYAPPA and all address each other as AYYAPPA.

 

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