Thursday, November 10, 2011

Dharsanam punya dharsanam!

Famous Abodes of Ayyappan

Though the Almighty is all pervading in the creatures and dwelling in the hearts of all human beings, and also invoked in the shrines constructed for worshipping Him, yet His grace is abundant and draws special significance in some important temples attributed to Him. His five Abodes at Sorimuthian Temple, Kulathupuzha, Aryankavu, Achankoil and Sabari Mala are to be discussed at length, while some more important shrines at Pandalam, Erumeli, Thagazhi, Sasthankottah, Noorani, Thiruvallakavu in Kerala, Kallidaikurichi, Chithoor, Rajakkalmangalam, Aashramam, Anathandavapuram, Thenpadhi at Sirkali, Perungalur, Tirupattur etc., in Tamil Nadu also add credence for the age-old worship on Sastha from time immemorial.

The first five Abodes have significance in that they are situated on a straight-line, as the crow flies, at an equi-distance of 18 Kms between one-another. Added with Kantha Mala or Ponnambalamedu, they represent the Shadatharas (six centres) in our spinal card. Sorimuthian Temple (Mooladharam), Kulathupuzha (Swadhishtanam) Aryankavu (Manipoorakam), Achankoil (Visudhi) Sabari Mala (Agnya) and Kantha Mala (Brahmaranthiram). Though Pandalam and Erumeli are visited by devotees enroute to Sabari Mala, Pandalam gets importance because it is the place where Ayyappan was brought up as a child, and Erumeli being the gate-way to Sabari Mala long-route, and where Vavar, the Muslim-friend of Ayyappan is being worshipped. Before going into the geographical and mythological importance of the five Abodes, the discussion will not be complete, without a reference to a poet, by birth, Veeramani (Later famously known as Manidasar) who had visited all the five Abodes of the Lord and sung in praise of Him in chaste Tirunelveli-Tamil.
It is Saptha Kshetras dedicated to Dharma Sastha and not five as commonly believed. It has a Yogic reference as follows:-
(1)          Mooladhara – A/M Sorimuthu Iyyanar
(2)          Swadhisthana – Achan Kovil
(3)          Manipuragam – Ariyankavu
(4)          Anakatham – Kuzhathupuzhai
(5)          Vishuddha – Pandalam
(6)          Ajna – Sabari
(7)          Sahasrara – Kanthamalai
Other temples in Tamil Nadu are attributed with mythological folk stories to compel one's belief on the worship of Ayyanar Sastha. We can assert that no village in Tamil Nadu is without a temple for Ayyanar at its outskirts, offering protection to the villagers. Traditional stories coming by hear-say cannot be dismissed, as they withstand the test of times. As Sage of Kanchee Paramacharyal had put it, a scan through various stories will reveal a strong link with one another or similar to one another in nature and they cannot be just ignored. Particularly so, Ayyanar is worshipped as the village-guard even in remotest part of Tamil Nadu and Kerala and we shall feel happy that Sastha worship had its deep roots in every nook and corner, even in remote hamlets, irrespective of region, religion and language. We must be proud that Lord Sastha, like other Gods, do bestow His grace on true devotees, above caste considerations.

Sorimuthu Ayyanar

Sorimuthian Temple is located on the banks of River Tamaravaruni in Ambasamudram Taluk in Nellai District. It is situated between Papanasam and Karaiyar Dam, in a serene and secluded atmosphere, it is served by Mundanthurai wild life sanctuary.
Many families worship Sorimuthu Ayyanar as their family deity. Those seeking child boon and relief from spells and evil effects come here. Those facing litigations and court problems place their prayers to Sorimuthu AAyyanar. Those committing a visit to Sabarimala come here and wear the Mala (chain) in this temple. Their number alone counts high. People also pray to Sorimuthu Ayyanar to get more milk from their cows. People offer bronze bells to Boothathar in the temple. As the temple happens to be the first Aiyappan temple, people committing to Sabarimala begin their undertaking by wearing the Mala from here. A beautiful temple in the Pothigai hill surroundings.
The place also serves as a healthThe running water is very pure and though only knee-deep, gushes with electrifying current and swirling motion. A dip is a pain-reliever to our body after an arduous journey through wild forest area. resort as it is in pleasant environment.
The presiding deity is Mahalinga Swamy but Muthianar with His two consoits Poorna and Pushkala is the main guard of worship, along with His lieutenants like Sangili Bhootham, Thoosi Madan, Thulasi Madan, Pechi, Isakki, Pattavarayan and innumerous bhootha-kanas. Many folk-stories are attributed to this temple.
The term 'Pon Soriyum Muthian' means the Lord who down pours golden-rain in the plateau. An instance of this rare phenomenon has found a place in Govemment Revenue Records maintained by the British Rulers. The temple is divided into two, with the passage of a branch from the main river. On the oneside, a temple is erected for Pattavarayan and his two wives, belonging to chappal-shoe-making community, whereas Pattavarayan is said to hail from Brahmin society. An inter-caste marriage even at the olden times — like Lord Muruga! Pattavarayan was a warrior who lost his life while fighting a battle with an army of another region, who wanted to take away cattles from the temple-area.With a view to do away with the evils of caste systems, Ayyapan came to this place in the form of a human and married the two daughters of Muthupattan belonging to backward community.
Prayer commitment:
People offer chappals to one deity here named Valai Pagadai, a strange custom followed here. Other usual rituals as abishek and archanas also are feeding visitors (Annadhanam).
Festivals: Five days during Ashada Amavasya period are celebrated with high festivity. Eighteen warfare items (weaponry) are displayed during that period. The temple is under the administration of Singampatti Zameen who takes adequate care in maintaining the temple with all piety and divinity. An estimated 2 lakh devotees come to Karayar on Thai and Adi Amavasya (new moon) days. Also all Amavasya days are very devotionally observed in the temple. People make tents to stay in the temple a month in advance. They bring with them all provisions for cooking to fulfill their prayer commitments. 
Karayar is 60 kms from Tirunelveli, 215 from Thoothukudi. Accomodation facilities are available in Vikramasingapuram at the foot of the hills. But those coming with family may choose accommodation either in Ambasamudram or Tirunelveli. The charges range from Rs. 100 to 150. Adequate bus facilities are available from Tirunelveli. People have to take the bus for Karayar Anai. However hiring cab or van would be more comfortable. Nearest railway station Ambasamudram. Airport Madurai.
 Achankoil Sastha Temple
The Deity at Achan Kovil is much different from the legend of Ayyappa. Here Lord Ayyappa is seen with two wives, Poorna and Pushkala in Grihasta Ashram. As Lord Ayyappa is seen in matrimony with royal dignity, He is called Arashan and Andavan. AchanKovil Temple is a very important centre for worshiping Lord Ayyappa for Ladies also unlike the Sabarimalai. He is called Manikanda Shastha in the shrine of AchanKovil and serves as its king , doctor and saviour in the Ayyappa poongavanam [ the forest of Ayyappa ] marked by the boundary temples in Ranni, Erumeli and Vandiperiyar.

Achankoil Shastha Temple, or the Dharmasastha Temple, is one among the five important temples dedicated to Lord Ayyappa inKerala. Lord Ayyappa leads the Grihastha Ashrama life here – he is depicted as a family man or leads married life here. He is depicted along with his two wives – Purna and Pushkala. It is believed that the idol here was installed by Lord Parashurama.
There is a narrow road with steep curves and hairpin bends leading to the Temple, from Shencottah. The road was laid, thanks to the streneous efforts taken by late Subrahmania Iyer, affectionately remembered as 'Punaloor Thatha' when he was working as a Tollgate officer there.
Two major functions are held in the temple - one is, two days prior to Mandalabhishegam day, when Car festival is held. A sword brought down from Kantha Mala by an ardent devotee of Achankoil Sastha speaks miracles on itself and is regarded as 'Achankoil Pon Vaal' placed for public exhibition on the day of Car Festival. The other is in honour of Swami Krishnaji, who had done yeoman service in bostering this temple, on Revathi star-day in the month of Thai, by offering Pushpanjali to the Lord. Many folk-stories are attached to this temple.
Before coming to Sabari Mala, the other temples have their own specialities of attraction. Thagazhi is famous for the medicated oil prepared just in front of the sanctum-sanctorum of the Lord, with herbs brought by men but selected by the Lord Himself rejecting a portion brought by men from the nearby forests Noorani near palghat is famous for its Sastha Preethi and the local belief is that the Lord departs to Sabari Mala alter attending their feast (Sastha Preethi).
The Achankovil Sastha Temple is famous for curing poisonous snake bites. The left hand of the idol of Ayyappa at Achankoil Shastha Temple always holds ‘Chandan’ (sandalwood paste) and Thirtha (holy water). The Chandan and Thirtha are considered to have medicinal properties to cure snake bites.
The temple complex also contains other deities associated with the Ayyappa legend. The festivals and rituals held here have strong Tamil roots. The most important festival here is celebrated from the first to tenth day of Malayalam month Dhanu (December – January).

Achankoil Karuppan, lieutenant of the Lord is worshipped with all gaiety here. The present day devotees, who want to enjoy an easy comfortable trip and time-oriented schedule to Sabari Mala, used to skip Achan Kovil, because of difficulties in access through narrow road, and Sorimuthian Temple, a little-away from their motorable journey.
Achankovil is not easily accessible from all major towns of Kerala. However it can be reached through some forest routes.
             from Thiruvananthapuram - Take MC road from Thiruvananthapuram to Ayoor. Then take right route to Anchal. Then take deviation to Punalur. Now follow Alimukku-karavoor-Mullumala- Achenkovil forest road. Total distance is 117 km.
             from Tenkasi- 30 km via chenkottah
             from Sabarimala - 109 km via Vadaserikara, Konni, Kalleli
             from kollam- 87 km via Kottarakkara, Pathanapuram/Punalur


The shrine at Aryankavu is known as Aryankavu Shastha Temple and Lord Ayyappa is depicted as a teenager (young boy) here. Ayyappa is known as Tiruaryan here and therefore the place got the name Aryankavu. From Kulathupuzha, we can come over to Aryankavu, on the highway between Shencottah and Punalur on the ghat section.
The Lord is with His consort Prabha, some people call her as Pushkala, according to their own traditional belief Witnessing Mandalabhishegam on the 4lst day of taking celibacy, ie., Margazhi llth, is the auspicious occasion in this temple.
The rituals and pujas followed at Aryankavu Sastha Temple is that of Tamil tradition. The sanctum sanctorum of the temple has idols of Devi, Shiva and Sastha. A young Ayyappa sits in the middle with Devi on the left side and Shiva on the right side.
Archakar's Dream:
At the same time the temple's archakar had a dream in which Lord Ayyappan appeared and said ' wake up my devotee, a sourashtra business man, is waiting at the entrance of the temple. According to his wish I have united his daughter Pushkaladevi with me. The girl who was in your custody is now my wife and she is in a statue form on the left side of me in the temple. I will appear along with Pushkaladevi from today. Every year I want the businessman and his community to come here and celebrate this day as our marriage festival. After that the Archakar woke up from his dream and went to the temple along with people. There he saw the businessman. As he opened the temple door he saw all the lights of the temple lit and a small statue of Pushkaladevi was seen near the Lord, both in a married posture. The silk cloth given by the businessman to the hunter was found around the neck of Ayyappan. On seeing that the businessman knew that it was the god who had saved his life in the forest now his daughter was married to the god.
King'sDream Comes true :
 On the same day the king of Trivandram had a dream in which lord told all the happenings and wanted him to treat the Sourashtra businessman and his community as his 'Sambanthis' and asked him to be the relative for Lord during his marriage. The king rushed to Aryankavu and felt happy that his dream was true. He treated the businessman royally. He also wanted the businessman to come with his people every year and celebrate this festival. The king ordered that there should be a 'Eleven day grand festival' every year and the customs of the Sourashtra has to be followed for the marriage. So from then onwards and till date, every year the Government of Kerala's representatives come here as Lord's relatives and the Sourashtra people as the sambanthi to the lord, to celebrate. Every year, on this occasion a well decorated Portrait of the last king of Trivancore, Balarama Varma is kept. Before this photo the engagement ceremony takes place. And in the temple, there is a 11 day festival, with each day in different posture of the lord.
Thirukalyana Uthsavam (marriage ceremony) is conducted here on the night of 10th of Margazhi month every year. There is a sound belief that the Lord has taken the hand of a girl born in Sowrashtra community at Madurai, and the function to celebrate the event was earlier performed by Travancore King and later by Travancore Devaswom Board, with the help of Sowrashtra Mahajana Sabha, having its Headquarters at Madurai.
Almost the entire communities converge at Aryankavu for this festival for atleast five days (earlier it was ten days festival) to witness the Ceremony. They are given temple honours by Travancore Devaswom Board. People, who long for a child, offer a minimum of five coco-palms for Abhishegam to the Lord.


Situated on a forest range on the Thiruvananthapuram - Shenkottai road, Kulathupuzha is known for the Sastha temple. The Vishu Mahotsavam in April/May is the most important festival. The Sastha Temple at Kulathupuzha is very ancient.
Kulathupuzha, formed as an island,surrounded by a Thodu on all sides. Kulathupuzha is located south of Thenmalai, in Kerala. As per Sthala Purana, Meda Vishu (lst of Chitrai month) and the four days thereafter are considered as most auspicious period to worship the Lord. The Lord has no image but seven pieces of stones engulfed by a metal cover is considered as the Swayambu Sastha. The credit in identifying and bringing out the existence of Sastha in a small piece of stone goes to one 'Thalaiyadichan Kurup', to whom first offerings are made during Special Pooja occasions.
An orphan girl who lost her ring in the river water, on making a reverential plea to the Lord, could recover the lost-ring from the hands of a fisherman, who wanted to surrender the ring taken out of a fish caught by him and so, feeding to the fishes in the nearby river is an important 'vazhipadu' in the Temple.
There is an interesting legend regarding the origin of the Ayyappa Temple at Kulathupuzha. Once and elderly Brahmin returning from his Rameshwaram pilgrimage camped on the Kallada Riverbank. His servants started the preparation for the evening meal and they looked out for stones to create the makeshift oven.
They found a fixed stone nearby and brought two stones to create the oven. But the fixed stone was bigger than the two stones. The servants placed two stones on top of other to adjust the height. Suddenly, the first stone grew a bit taller. The poor servants raised the level of the two stones again but the fixed stone again grew a bit taller. This exercise of adjusting the height continued for awhile.
Finally frustrated with the fixed stone, one of the servants hit the fixed stone with another stone. Suddenly blood gushed out of the fixed stone and the scared servants ran and reported the matter to the Brahmin. The Brahmin sprinkled some tirtha (sacred water) brought from Rameshwaram on the bleeding fixed stone. Soon, Lord Ayyappa appeared in the form of child before the Brahmin and his servants.
The idol at Kulathupuzha is called 'Manikandan'. It is believed that the Temple was constructed by the Raja of Pandalam. But the idol was discovered by a Brahmin from Kottarakkara after several years and he started pooja there. The King of Kottarakkara heard about this and constructed the present temple.
Those with prayers for begetting child conduct a 'Noomm Paalum' (offering to the Nagarajas installed near the temple, on the fourth day of Meda Month.
There are frequent buses from Kollam to Kulathupuzha. The Thenmala railway station is just 10 km from here. Kulathupuzha town is situated on the Thiruvananthapuram - Shenkottai road. Kulathupuzha is 60 km north-east of Thiruvananthapuram and 64 km east of Kollam. Nearest railway station is at Kollam.
It must be noted that the meter gauge railway line from Kollam to Shenkottai is non-functional due to the upgrading work taking place. Another nearby Ayyappa Temple is the Aryankavu Sastha Temple which is around 25 km north of Kulathupuzha. Further north is another famous Ayyappa Temple - Achankovil Dharmasastha Temple.


Most of the original buildings and many Palace records are now no more due to the periodic havoc played upon them by flood and fires (mostly coinciding with similar mishaps at Sabarimala!) . Yet a few still remain which could have witnessed the divine presence of Lord Ayyappa Himself.
Pandalam has two palace complexes now: one around the Valiya koikkal Temple and other around the Kaipuzha Temple. The Valiya koikkal temple is on the left bank of the river Achenkoil and the Kaipuzha temple, about 200 meters down the river on the right bank( by road the distance between the two is around 1 k.m.). Devotees during Sabarimala pilgrimage come to Pandalam to worship at various places within the Palace complex , the important among them being are given below
Manikantan Aalthara
The small shrine built around a holy banyan tree, by the main central road, marks the entrance to the palace precincts. The ceremonial processions that emanate from the Valiya koikkal temple in the palace complex on the Mandalam day(11th Dhanu) and on Ayyapan's birthday ('Uthram' in the month of Kumbham) reach here and perform the 'nayattuvili' (call to go for hunting) and 'aazhi' (fire walking) before they return to the temple.Nalukettu (quadrangular house) On the left of the road from Manikantan Aalthara to the Valiya koikkal temple is the Nalukettu(quadrangular house) and straight ahead, at the far north is the Vadakkekottaram(northern palace). Both date back to the dim corridors of a distant past, a fact which accounts for their present dilapidated look. The prayer rooms ('Thevarapuras') of both these places are still intact. Idols of 28 gods and goddesses, apart from 'Sreechakram' and 'Salagramam' are worshipped in these rooms. The presence of the idol of Madurai Meenaskshi here signifies the royal family's Madurai origins. Srampickal Palace
This palace stands to the north of the Valiya koikkal temple. This is where the 'Thiruvabharanam' (Sacred ornaments) are kept now. Devotees have the opportunity to worship the ornaments and view the royal palanquin here during the Mandalam-Makaravilakku festival season. On the 28th Dhanu at 4 am in the morning, the ornaments are taken out of the strong room and moved to the temple for the devotees to view. Valiya koikkal Temple
The story goes that after the departure of Lord Ayyappa to Sabarimala the king Rajasekhara was overcome by grief. On his return from Sabarimala where he had constructed a shrine for the just vanished Lord, the king as, advised by Ayyappa built a small temple modeled on the Sabarimala shrine close to his palace for daily worship. The Lord will be adorned with the Sacred ornaments 'Thiruvabharanam' on two occasions every year: the Vishu and Ayyappa's birthday ('Uthram' in the month of Kumbham). Legends has it that this ritual is done so that the women members of the Royal family can see the Lord in his divine splendor with the jewels adorned since they cannot visit Sabarimala.
Having functioned as a private place for worship for the members of the Royal family for long, the temple differs from other temples in many aspects. The temple is now being administered by the Travancore Devaswom Board. . Kaipuzha Temple.
There are two shrines in this complex: one dedicated to Lord Shiva and the other dedicated to Lord Krishna in the 'Santhanagopalabhava'. The former is managed by the Palace administration and the latter by the Travancore Devaswom Board. The figures of the nine holy planets (Navagrahangal) is sculpted in the ceilings above the Holy Altar of the Krishna Shrine.
This is the oldest building now existing, since the Thekkekkettu palace was gutted in 1987 (coinciding with a fire accident at Sabarimala). Beneath the northern wing of the structure is an ingeniously built pond acclaimed by many as an engineering marvel. It was once meant exclusively for the use of the ladies of the palace. On his way to Sabarimala with the sacred ornaments , the Raja briefly halts at this palace to receive ' vibhuthy' and blessings from the Valiya Thampuratty ( Senior most female member of the family).
Mannadi Bhagavathy
What has been reconstructed of the Thekkekettu Palace which was gutted in 1987 fire (almost coinciding with a fire accident at Sabarimala) is a small shrine dedicated to Manndi Bhagavathy, who is the family goddess of the Royalty. The Raja on his way to Sabarimala worships in this temple.
The Pathinettampadi (18 Steps) at Pandalam is the eastern exit of the Palace on the Kaipuzha side . The Raja on his way to Sabarimala with the Thiruvabharanam leaves the palace complex by stepping down these Pathinettampadi


Sabarimalai is a hill on the Western Ghats, four thousand feet above sea level. Of the famous eighteen important Sastha shrines on the Western Ghats, the most famous is the one at Sabarimalai. The distance from Erumeli to Sabarimalai is said to be forty-one miles, though actually it is only thirty-eight miles now, as there are several-cuts enroute.
Four miles to the Southeast to Sabarimalai is the confluence of the rivers “Kallar” and “Pampa”. This place is called “Triveni” as Kallar is regarded as the “Jumna” and “Pampa” as the “Ganges” and “Saraswathi” is believed to join the flow from underneath even as at “Prayag” in Allahabad. Four miles east of “Triveni” is a place on the bank of the pampa called “Chalakkayam”. A good tarcreted road, fit for all vehicular traffic joins Chalakkayam and Triveni. Many people go to Sabarimalai via Chalakkayam. Now the vehicular traffic terminates at the Bank of Pampa.
Nominally twelve, but really fourteen miles north-west of Sabarimalai is the Mount Estate. Crossing the estate by bus or other vehicle or by track, you come to Vandiperiyar a bus terminus, on the Kottayam-Kumuli road. Many pilgrims go to Sabarimalai by this route also.
Besides the three routes mentioned above, there are other routes to Sabarimalai. The “Thalapparai” route and “Pathanamthitta” route are rarely used by pilgrims. The “PonnambalaMedu” route and the “Dam Site” route are very seldom used by pilgrims. The forest track from “Achencoil” to Sabarimalai is not used at all by pilgrims.
The three routes most used by pilgrims to Sabarimalai are the thirty-eight mile long route from Erumeli, the Chalakayam route and the Vandiperiyar route. Of these three, the first is the traditional route. That was the route by which the Lord, as per the story, went for leopard’s milk for the cure of His jealous foster-mother, the queen’s affected ailment. That was the route, which, when he followed, He was met by Lord Siva’s Boothaganams which turned into tiger for Him to ride on, back to Pandalam. King Rajasekhara went to the spot pointed out to him by the Lord’s arrow for construction of the Shrine by that route.
Few decades back, the route was a narrow track through jungles and forests overgrown by grass and prickly herbs in some places, full of ruts and sloughs in some places, overhung by creepers and climbers in some places and so narrow that people could walk only in single file in some place. Not much distance could be covered by people by marching in columns two or three deep. The pilgrims then could be counted in hundreds.
In November 1937, His Highness the Maharaja of Travancore issued the famous temple entry proclamation throwing open to all Government temples and all temples under Government control to all Hindus for worship, irrespective of Caste. Following this there was a steady increase in the number of Sabarimalai pilgrims year after year. Then they had to be counted in thousands.
In1947, when our Constitution vouchsafed freedom of speech to us, that freedom was misused in many places for anti-religious and anti God propaganda. The Lord of the Sabari Hills then fulfilled Himself by creating circumstances in several States outside Kerala to attract pilgrims. The pilgrims thronging to Sabarimalai have to be counted in Lakhs (and hour in millions).
As the Annual number of Sabarimalai pilgrims increased, the “Mara math” section of the Travancore Devaswom Department arranged with the Maramath Engineer to fill up the ruts and sloughs on the long track, to widen it to some extent, to clear the track and its both sides by cutting away the growing vegetation, by easing the curves and by making the ascends and descends less steep. In this, the department was very much assisted by the Ayyappa Seva Sangham. The annual maintenance of the route, I am told, is now mainly done by the Akhila Bharatha Ayyappa Seva Sangham and partially by the Devaswom Department.
There are three festive occasions at Sabarimalai every year – Mandala Vilakku, Makara Vilakku and Vishu. From about the middle of November until about the end of the December there will be many pilgrims going and returning from Sabarimalai. The same will be the case from the beginning of the first week until the end of the third week in January. This phenomenon will repeat again between the tenth and fifteenth April.
While the vast majority of pilgrims going to Sabarimalai for Makara Vilakku choose the long track, the vast majority that go for Vishu, choose the Chalayakayam route though most of them touch Erumeli also. Regarding the pilgrims that go for Mandala Vilakku, their route may almost be the same by the long route, the Chalakkayam route and Vandiperiyar route.
The pilgrims trekking the long route have to cross seven streams and climb eighteen hills in the course of covering the thirty-eight miles.


Erumeli is a pilgrim centre and is about 65 km from Kottayam. There are shrines for Lord Dharmasastha and Vavar Swamy (the Muslim lieutenant of Lord Ayyappa).The majority of pilgrims going to Sabarimalai touch Erumeli before proceeding to their destination; “Kottappadi” (Gateway) to the forest is there. At Kottappadi, there is a Mahaganapathy installation. On the western side of the stream coursing through Erumeli, Dharma Sastha is installed as a Kiratha (Hunter).
There is a school of thought that says that Petta Thullal was a sort of physical conditioning for Ayyappa's troops before they set course on their difficult journey through rough terrain to engage the brigand Udayanan who was a law unto himself.An overpowering atmosphere of religious ceremonies prevail at Erumeli during the pilgrimage season.
Dhanu 27th (around Jan 11th), certain time blocks are reserved for groups from `Ambalapuzha' and `Aalangat' to perform their `Petta Thullal'. It is said that these localities had sent large contingent of troops to augment Ayyappan's forces and accordingly this special `lien' accrue to them to honour their warriors. Other pilgrims are generally not permitted to join these groups as they would have rehearsed and co-ordinated their efforts for a better performance. This event will gets more and more colourful as the two groups compete with each other in a friendly spirit.
Most of the pilgrims going to Sabarimalai go to Erumeli where they obtain permission from Mahaganapathy at Kottappadi to trek their track, pay their respects to Vavar and make offerings at his Mosque, surrender themselves at the feet of Kiratha Sastha and join his battalion there.
While returning from Kottappadi, the pilgrims return in the guise of hunters, bringing home bagged game to be surrendered at the Lord’s feet-the game bagged, being the “Ashtaragas” in them. Pettatullal is painting the face with colours and dancing with wooden weapons to make one look odd. The essence of this practice is to give up ones ego and surrender to Lord Ayyappa. They go round the Ayyappan Temple and Varar Shrine and later bathe in the river. Then the temple is visited again to seek authorization from Lord Ayyappa to tread the sacred hill Sabari. Later the pilgrims leave Erumeli under the guidance of their Guru for Sannidhanam.
Between the sound of conch shells and Saranams emanating from the Kochambalam, Sastha Kshetram and surroundings at Erumeli, one can distinctly hear the the muezzin's call from the minaret of the mosque that is located between the two temples. This is ample proof of the brotherhood and religious harmony prevailing in the area.

Azhutha River

 Perur Thodu is a river about 4 km from Erumeli. Lord Ayyappa rested here during his expedition. It is from here the rise begins. Giving alms here is important. By giving alms, one is disposing of all dharma and seeking asylum in Ayyappa. The forest beyond Perur Thodu is poongavanam (Ayyappan's garden). On the western side of the streams, there is an old elephant cage in dilapidated condition, in which elephants caught from forest by pitfall, were shut up and tamed. This is called “Anakotil”. Many pilgrims stay one night at “Anakotil” before proceeding further.
The first hill the pilgrims have to climb is the Perur Kunnu. Going up eight hundred feet, they climb down five hundred feet on the other side to reach the foot of the hill, thus finding themselves at a height of three hundred feet. In the case of all the eighteen hills the ascends are more than the descends on the opposite sides. Thus, each hill represents a step. These eighteen hills correspond to the eighteen steps on the eastern side of the Sabarimalai temple leading upto its precincts. Each hilltop is called a “Fort”. Each fort is guarded by an “Amnaya Devatha” of the Lord and is fit for the pilgrims’ camping during night halts enroute.
About 10 km from Perur Thodu is Kalaketti. The legend says that Lord Shiva, Ayyappa's father, came on his ox and tied it here and witnessed Lord Ayyappa killing Mahishi. There is a shrine where the pilgrims light camphor and break coconuts. Two miles from it, is the “Alasa” river, now called “Azhutha”. As the story has it, the Lord went to Devaloka in the month of, “Panguny (Meenam) when the “Uthram” star was in ascendancy, caught the demonness “Mahishi” by the horns and threw her down on the earth. The body is said to have fallen on the eastern side of Azhutha. The Lord came down and danced on the body. When she died, “Leelavathi” absolved of her sins, emerged from “Mahishi’s body. Lord ‘Siva” and “Parvathi”, coming on their riding bull and tethering it to a tree, witnessed “Mahishi Mardanam” destruction of evil from Kala Ketti. Hence the sanctity of the place. Sabarimalai pilgrims who have haunts of evil spirits, offer coconut and camphor at Kala ketti for their relief.
Azhutha river, a tributary of Pampa, is about 2 km from Kalaketti. On the far side of the river is the steep Azhutha hill, famous for its arduous track. In the ascent of 2 km of steep climb there is hardly anyone who does not shed tears. At the summit of Azhutha is Kallidumkunnu. The pilgrims drop the pebble taken by them from Azhutha river here. This is done as the mortal remains of Mahishi was cast off here and filled with stones. 
A 12 miles walk from Erumeli to Azhutha must make a pilgrim muscles and joints ache. A dip in the Azhutha River-which flows a long distance over a bed of “Karim Kuringi”, a specific curative for rheumatism and a massage under water will relieve him of such aches. This has been the experience of many.
Rheum, phlegm and pile are in the human system in a certain proportion. According to Ayurveda, when there is a laxity or superfluity of any one or more of these in the system, diseases are caused. A trek of the long route helps to cure such diseases to a certain extent. From “Perai Thodu” to the Azhutha Hill, all the flora on either side are curatives of rheumatic troubles. The transpiration of the flora makes you breathe more times than ordinarily and so more air of the medicine-charged atmosphere enters your lungs than usual. It will be good if you spend one night in that atmosphere.
While immersed in the water in Azhuthai, each novice pilgrim is asked to take a small pebble from the bed and keep it with him. This he is asked to deposit at “Kallidum Kunnu”. Fording cross the river, the pilgrims start climbing the Azhuthai Hill or Azhutha Medu” as it is called. Going up a little more than half of the Azhutha Medu, you come upon a curve to the right, to the south. At the corner of the left curve, is a big flat rock. That is said to be “Kallidum Kunnu”. The novice pilgrims are asked to deposit there, the pebbles they picked up from the bed of river. It is believed that they are putting them to enter the body of “Mahishi”. In these days heaps of pebbles help the pilgrims to know the track also.

Journey to Pamba

 Climbing up the “Azhutha Medu’, the pilgrims reach the top at the northern end of a small plateau. This place is called “Udumpara Kottai”. Many pilgrims have their night halt there. There they do poojas and bhajans. Many pilgrims take ash from hearths there and smear it all over the body, from head to foot. “Bhoothanatha” is believed to be the presiding deity there and the Bhoothaganams are supposed to dance in and around all fires, lit up there and so the ashes are their Prasadams. Besides, the wood burnt there is all medicinal. This “Prasadam” is believed to be a curative for epipsy. Coconuts and camphor are also offered there. The Ayyappa Seva Sangham has arranged for the supply of spiced boiled water to the pilgrims at “Udumpara Kottai”.
Moving further, the pilgrims reach the southern end of the plateau. It is called “Inchipparakottai”. There, the presiding deity is believed to be “Devi”. There also some pilgrims have night halts.The next important place after Azhudha is the Inchipparakota where there is Kotayil Sastha shrine. Pilgrims offer prayers here and break coconuts. From here, the pilgrims descent the slippery path carefully. The descent ends at Karimala thodu (canal) with Azhutha hill on one side and Karimala hill on the other.
After Inchiparakottai, the descends begin. At the foot of the hill, the place is called “Mukkuzhi”. It is so called because, to the north of the track of the spot, there were three big pits dug, forming a triangle to be covered with thin planks and strewn over with sand and dry leaves to catch elephants. Now only one pit is clearly seen. Many pilgrims have night halts at “Mukkuzhi” also. There is another route, though a little longer, from “Azhutha” to “Mukkuzhi”. This circumscribes “Azhutha Medu” on the northern side and takes you to “Mukkuzhi”. The pilgrims going by this route can avoid climbing up and down the “Azhutha Medu”, though they have to walk a little longer.
 From Mukkuzhi is a long trek till they come to “Elavan Thavalam” where they can have a halt if they want. Then they go on to “Puthu Cheri” and “Karivalam Thodu”. Now-a-days many pilgrims halt at Karivalam Thodu though formerly none ever halted there. Leaving Karivalam Thodu, the pilgrims proceed to the foot of Karimalai, climbing seven terraces, they reach its top. Many have a night halt on the top of Karimalai. Pilgrims do poojas and bhajans there.
 On the top of Karimalai, there is a perennial spring, believed to be the result of a thrust of the Lord’s arrow into the ground, to find water for His following. The spring is now a well-walled, six feet well, with steps to go in and come out. It is now covered with planks. The water in the well is now taken out, well boiled and spiced and distributed among pilgrims by the Ayyappa Seva Sangham.
Karimala is the abode of elephants which visits the Karimala canal to drink water. Pilgrims light the aazhi (campfire) to protect themselves from wild animals and cold weather. Karimala hill consists of seven levels and is climbed in stages. As the ascent of 5 km is difficult the pilgrims continuously chant saranams. On top of Karimala the terrain is flat suitable for the pilgrims to rest. It is interesting to see the Nazhikkinar - a well within a well with fresh spring like water. There deities of Karimalanthan, Kochukaduthaswami and Karimala Bhagawathi.
Climbing down Karimalai, you come to the right bank of the river “Pampa”. Walking past Cheriyanavattam “Valiayanavattam” you reach “Pampa”, wehre all pilgrims halt for one day at least, if not more.
Pampa is the most important and holy spot on the way to Sannidhanam. It is here Lord Ayyappa was found by King Rajasekara. The Pampa River is as holy as the Ganges. The Pampa water purifies one from curse and evil.The pilgrims absolve themselves of all sins by dipping in the Pampa. They do poojas and bhajans there. They do religious rites to propitiate their departed ancestors. They feed as many people as possible. They give away clothes and money as much as possible.
From Azhutha Hill to Karimalai all flora, consisting of gooseberry, gainut etc are curatives of phlegm troubles. A night stay in that atmosphere is also desirable.From Karimalai to Sabarimalai, all floras consisting of Rudraksham, Bhadraksham, Akil, Sandal etc. are curatives of pile troubles. All water you get there flows over beds of iron.

Sacred Pamba

Pampa Feast :
Pampa Annadhanam (feast) and Pampa Vilakku are important rituals followed at the Pampa bank. Pilgrim groups prepare feast with the provisions taken from the Irumudi of the pilgrims. Thousands of pilgrims are fed at Pampa. When a group of pilgrims are ready to fed the fellow pilgrims they display a large papad outside their cottage. It is usually the kanniswamy who are fed first, as they are considered to be Lord Ayyappan himself. After the feast the Guru is honoured by pilgrims prostrating him and offering him the Gurudakshina. Kanni Ayyappas move from kitchen to kitchen collecting the ashes which are considered to be very sacred. It is done with the belief that Lord Ayyappa would have had the feast in one of the cottages in the disguise of a pilgrim. The ash is taken home as prasad.
Pampa Vilakku :
On sunset pilgrim believe that Lord Ayyappan will be present at the banks of Pampa and the cottages are decorated with lights and candles. Small floats are decorated with lights called Pampa Vilakku are let in the Pampa river. The next morning after a dip in the cold Pampa river and performing pitru tarpanam (offering to ones departed soul) the pilgrims start their ascent towards the hill Neelimala after worshipping at the temple of Lord Ganapathi, Lord Rama (avathar of Balaji) and Lord Hanuman. On the foot of the Neeli hill is the representative of the King of Pandalam. The pilgrims offer their respects to the representative. After seeking the permission of the representative to visit the shrine of Lord Ayyappa they proceed with their journey. From here the Sannidhanam is about 6 km. The neeli hill is as difficult as the Azhutha and Karimala. The top of Neeli hill is called Appachi medu. Here there are two abysses - Appachi kuzhi and Ippachi kuzhi. Kanniswamy throw rice balls here to calm down the evil spirits present around the place. From this point the ground is almost even. Some distance from here is the Sabari peetam.

Pamba to Sannidhanam

Absolved of all sins, the pilgrims go up “Neeli Malai, climb up “Appachi Medu and reach Sabari Peetam. This was the Kota where Shri Sabari, in Sri Rama's era, performed Tapas. Pilgrims worship here by breaking coconuts, firing crackers and lighting camphor.
Half way between Sabari Peetam and Sannidhanam is Saramkuthi. Kanniswamy leave the wooden arrow they picked from Erumeli here. The first, second and third year pilgrims bringing toy arrows, toy clubs and toy swords are asked to deposit them at a place, where a huge papal tree stood. It is a good many years since the tree has fallen down. That was the tree which the Lord’s arrow struck when he shot it to show to King Rajasekhara, the spot for the construction of His shrine as He had enjoined. That place past, the pilgrims walk up to Sabarimalai, climb up the Holy Eighteen steps and reach the DIVINE PRESENCE
The holy Patinettampadi (18 steps) is 15 minute walk from Saramkuthi. The Golden steps is such a magnificent sight. Pilgrims chant saranams loudly. After breaking the coconut they climb the 18 steps to have the darshan of Lord Ayyappa.
According to legend, the temple of Sabarimala and the deity of Ayyappa have always been regarded as the Pandalam Raja's very own, and it is not considered proper to proceed to the temple without the king's knowledge and permission. To make it easy for pilgrims to obtain the necessary permission, a representative of the king sits even today, with all the royal insignia, on a raised platform at the base of the Neelimala Hill. The pilgrims offer a token amount to the royal representative, and receive vibhuti from him. This marks the beginning of the steepest climb of the pilgrimage, the 3 km trek up the majestic Neelimala Hill, atop which sits Lord Ayyappa in all his glory. The pilgrims wind their way up the difficult trail in an unending stream, the hill reverberating with the constant chanting of thousands. 
At the first sight of the Patinettampadi, the holy eighteen steps, a full throated cry goes up from the devotees, "Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa!" It is the realisation of a mission. Built on a plateau about 40 feet high, the Ayyappan temple commands a lofty view of the mountains and valleys all around. The ancient temple has been rebuilt after a fire in 1950, consisting of a sanctum sanctorum with a copper-plated roof and four golden finials at the top, two mandapams, the belikalpura which houses the altar, and the flag-staff. Replacing the earlier stone image of the deity is a beautiful idol of Ayyappa in panchaloha, an alloy of five metals, about one and a half feet tall.
There are several explanations regarding the significance of the Patinettampadi, but in all of them, the emphasis is on the number 18. One popular belief is that the first 5 steps signify the five indriyas or senses, the next 8 the ragas, the next 3 the gunas, followed by vidya and avidya. Crossing these would take the devotee closer to self-realisation.
Finally, at the eighteenth step, the devotee is at last face to face with the image of the Lord Ayyappa, or Dharma Sasta. A circumambulation brings him right in front of the sanctum sanctorum, and the pilgrim is filled with a sense of accomplishment and utter peace. But there is one more thing to be done - the ghee abhisheka, or bathing of the idol in ghee, which marks the culmination of the pilgrimage. The ghee-filled coconut which the pilgrim has carried in the front section of his irumudi is broken, and the ghee is offered to the deity. Another important abhisheka is of vibhuti, which is also brought by the devotee in his irumudi.

Significance of holy 18 steps

Sri Ayyappa Temple has 18 Holy Steps from the ground level to the sanctum sanctorum where the deity resides. These steps are considered holy because they are regarded as the extension of sanctum sanctorum. The number 18 itself has great significance in Hindu philosophy. There are18 chapters in Bhagavad Gita; there are 18 Puranas; there are 18 battle techniques; Kurukshethra battle lasted for 18 days; Four Vedas, 6 Sutras, 5 Senses and 3 deities add up to 18. There are different interpretations to the significance of the 18 Holy Steps. In one interpretation, the first seventeen steps symbolize the seventeen Vasanas(human traits) and the eighteenth step, symbolizes the last stage of evolution to the status of a Gnani.(An individual who has achieved the ultimate state of enlightenment. The bad Vasanas have accumulated for generations and have to be eradicated by a slow and steady process. The good Vasanas have to be carefully cultivated. The combination of the elimination of the bad Vasanas and the development of the good Vasanas enables one to attain the level of a Gnani. To achieve the level of Gnani, one should have Internal Purification and External Purification. 
• Agnana (Ignorance) or Avidya(Illiteracy). In this stage a person is equivalent to an animal. The only way to evolve from this stage is by association with people better than oneself. 
• False Prestige. Every human being is different from the next, and maybe inferior or superior to every other person in one way or another. However no one should have the opinion that one is superior to anybody else. This is a bad vasana, which has to be eliminated in the early stages of a person's evolution, which is why it represents the second step. 
• Dambh (pride). Elimination of this bad vasana is the next stage, symbolizing the third step. 
• Spite. Human beings have a tendency to blame others for any and all misfortunes and harbor ill will towards others as a result of this misconception. The sooner a person can get rid of this vasana the better of he will be. 
• Crookedness. is the next vasana which has to be overcome. This trait is said to be developed as a result of one's previous karma (deeds/misdeeds) and the only way to attain freedom from this vasana is by worshipping God. Kama(sensuousness) is the next vasana which has to be curbed by exercising extreme physical and mental discipline. 
• Kroth(anger) is a bad vasana and to surmount this tendency one should worship God and seek His Grace and Guidance. Bhayam(fear or cowardice) is bad vasana which very difficult to control. Absolute faith in the God Almighty can help to surmount fear. Shokam(sorrow) is caused by the tendency of human beings to be attached to worldly possessions and the weak minded are more susceptible to this vasana. Spiritual development can destroy this vasana.
• Kshama(patience) is a good trait which can be attained only by the Grace of the Lord Almighty and can be sustained by continual worship of the Lord Almighty. 
• Daya(kindness), another good vasana. By simply practicing the philosophy that someone else's need is greater than one's own, a person can attain this good vasana, which is represented by the ninth step. 
• Shanthi (calmness) is the sister vasana of kshama, which can be achieved by satsanga(company of the good). Janapriathwam(to love all people alike) is achievable through Agnana yoga(enlightenment). 
• Akrodham(no anger) is very difficult to achieve and God's Grace can help one to attain this stage Vairagyam. This vasana has two interpretations. It is the absence of worldly desires or passions , indifference to the world , asceticism, or it could mean sincerity of purposes, in which case a person would be successful in whatever activity he undertakes. In either case it is good vasana to have. 
• Nirlobha, which is the ability to be able to do the right thing at the right time, to the right degree, without overestimating or underestimating. 
• Datha(charity) is a trait which should be cultivated to such an extent that one should be willing to sacrifice one's owns needs to fulfill the needs of another. Charity should not be exercised as a means to gain name and fame. 
• Gnanam(Enlightenment) This final stage, symbolized by the eighteenth step, is attained when one is in tune with Brahma. 
18 Holy Peaks: Another belief is that the 18 steps represents the Sabarimala and the 17 other peaks that surround Sabarimala. 
1. Kaalakettimala 
2. Injiparakkota 
3. Puthusserikkanam 
4. Karimala 
5. Neelimala 
6. Goundermala 
7. Ponnambalamedu 
8. Chittambalamedu 
9. Mayilaadum medu 
10. Thalappaaramala 
11. Nilakkalmedu 
12. Devarmala 
13. Sripadamala 
14. Ghadgimala 
15. Maathangamala 
16. Sundaramala 
17. Nagamala 
18. Sabarimala 
The 18 Holy steps are the holy pathways for the Jeevaatma to reach the Paramaatma. Jeevaatma has to cross the 18 virtues to merge with paramaatma. The Holy steps 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 represent the 5 Panjendriams: (Smell, Hearing, Sight, Taste and Touch). The Holy steps 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, and 13 represent the 8 Ashtaragas: Kamam, Krodham, Lobham, Moham, Madam, Matsaryam, Thanbha and Asuya. The Holy steps 14, 15 and 16 represent 3 Gunas: Thamas, Rajas and Satva. The Holy step 17 represents Avidya and the Holy step 18 represents Vidya. By observing stringent vruthams (austerities), the Ayyappa devotees called Ayyappas and Malikappurams, purify their body, mind and intellect and achieve the ultimate sanctity to make pilgrimage to Sabarimala carrying on their head the Irumudi containing the Pooja items, to climb the 18 holy steps and have the Darsan of Lord Ayyappa.

Our footprints @ Ponnambalamedu by sri ayyappa bhajanai sangam

On getting to know about the existance of Ponnambala medu, our beloved guruswamy went there for first time in the year of 1984. Later, he went to Ponnambala medu several times in late 1990's.
Our social activities near the Ponnambalamedu is welcome by many senior guruswamies of his age and his seniors.
Many of them later started to sponsor for the tribals in near Ponnambalamedu for items like food, school uniforms, books and notebooks, school bags etc
We have not stopped with this, you can find Bala Sastha Pradhishtai done by us in that village under the leadership of our guruswamy 
     Guruswamy with Bala Sastha in 2008   Guruswamy with Bala Sastha in late 1990s

You can find a Squere shape next to our guruswamy. This is the place Makara Vilakku is lit. There is a cave below the tree and this is the cave where Ayyappa is believed to be born.

Ponnambala medu in late 1990s

You can find the holy chakra and something engraved within the chakra..

Nowadays, nobody is allowed to enter the village by Devoswam Board since many people brought some controversies in this. One has to come across tight security & scrutiny by Forest Officers to enter the place. It has become almost impossible to enter here currently

Sannidhaanam Festivals

Sabarimala Festivals  
The pilgrimage season in Sabarimala commences from November 14 and extends to January 20 till Makara Vilakku. During this period, millions of Ayyappa aspirants converge on the tiny temple complex from all over India. Also the temple is open for brief spells during certain Malayali festivals like Onam and Vishu. All through the year, monthly poojas are offered at Sabarimala, usually during the first of week of every Malayalam month (which actually falls in the middle of each English month); the shrine is open for the first five days of every month.
Girls who have not yet attained puberty and elderly women who have reached menopause are allowed entry into the temple. Men are expected to walk barefoot, sleep on the floor with their hair and nails uncut and refrain from self-indulgence during their 41-day vritham and journey to Sabarimala.
Makara Vilakku The most important festival at the Ayyapppa temple on Sabarimala is Makara Vilakku. It is a seven-day festival, beginning on the day of Makara Sankranthi, the day when the sun is in summer solstice. According to legend, the idol of Dharma Shastha was enshrined in the temple on this day. The annual festivities of Makara Vilakku commemorate this sacred event. The jewellery to adorn the idol during the celebrations is brought from PandalamPandalam, three days prior to Makara Sankranthi. The boxes containing the sacred jewels are borne by an oracle; the procession reaches Sabaripeettam in the evening on Makara Sankranthi and is led to the Sannidhanam to the accompaniment of lights and music. Incidentally, a kite appears in the sky at this very moment and hovers around the boxes, as if to safeguard the precious cache comprising a diamond diadem, gold bracelets and necklaces embedded with precious gems, Lord’s swords, silver arrows and images of elephant, horse and leopard fashioned out of gold. Another highlight of this festival is the appearance of Makarajyothi that leaves an indelible impression on the millions who view it.
The poojas and rituals associated with Makara Vilakku are performed on the Manimandapa (sacred platform) adjacent to the Devi’s shrine. A picture depicting Lord Ayyappan on the back of a tiger is placed on the podium. Afterwards, Malikappurathamma is mounted on an elephant’s back and taken in a procession of torch bearers, drummers and buglers to Pathinettampadi. The procession stops abruptly as the Vettavili (call for hunting) is given out and returns, circumambulating the main temple. Makara Vilakku ends with the ritual called ‘Guruthi’, offering made to appease the god and goddesses of the wilderness. None remains within the temple and its precincts after the ‘Guruthi.’ Other important festivals celebrated at the temple include Onam, Mandalapooja and Vishu Vilakku.

Sabari Peetarohanam

W e are going to study how the Lord has taken His Abode at the Sabari Hills over the 18 steps and as to how we are also going to ascend the Holy 18 steps to merge in Him. That is, Peetarohanam by both the Lord and His devotees. A rare phenomenon indeed!
The Devas were immensely pleased at the astounding victory of Manikanta over the demoness and offered their services in fulfilling the Lord’s errand. Devendra - the King of Devas - assumed the form of a tigress and some of the Devas, her cubs. Manikanta returned to Pandalam, seated on the back of the tigress, carrying a bow and arrow in His hands, followed by a herd of her cubs. The King realised the divinity in Manikanta. The queen and the Dewan tendered apology for their mischief. The Lord forgave them and asked them not to grieve over the past, as every action was pre-determined for the fulfillment of the divine mission undertaken by Him. At the request of the King, the Lord advised the tigress and her cubs to disappear, and they did so.
Manikanta was accorded a reverential welcome into the palace. Seated on a high pedestal, Manikanta advocated BHOOTHANATHA GEETHA containing Karma Yoga, Bhakthi Yoga and Jnana Yoga, to the King and Assembly for elevation of the Mankind. Completing His mission in human form, Manikanta took leave of the king. The King pleaded with the Lord to reside within the jurisdiction of Pandalam forever. Conceding his request, the Lord shot an arrow in the thick forest, which struck a big banian tree. Spotting that area, Manikanta advised the King to build a suitable temple for Him there. The tree is called ’Saram kuthi Aal" (the tree struck by Arrow).
King of Pandalam made many ornaments and garments for the coronation of Manikanta on His return from the forest, with leopard milk. The Lord refused to wear them and took to Sanyas. On persistent plea from His foster-father, Manikanta suggested that the Tiruvabharanam (Jewellery) may be placed on His idol on the lst of Makara Vishu every year and he would descend on the earth on that day in the form of a Jyoti above Horizon, as a mark of adorning them. The Lord then disappeared. After the exit of Manikanta, the King was very much upset over the parting with the godchild. He immersed himself in fond memories of the Lord, evergreen in his mind, and how His physical presence glorified the Palace. Sage Agasthiya entered the scene and consoled the King and explained in detail about the mission of Sastha to slain Mahishi.
As ordained by the Lord, the King started construction of a temple for Sastha. In the meantime, the Lord wanted to reveal another divine-secret on His descending to the earth as the foster-son of the King. So, when the construction work was in progress, one evening, when the King was in deep meditation over the Lord, as per orders of the Lord, His lieutenants took the King in his meta-physical form to Kantha Mala and dropped him there, When the King woke up, to his pleasant surprise, he felt that he was at Kantha Mala and passed through gold-gravelled streets, awe-sticken by the golden monuments and palaces everywhere, all golden structures around him and entered the sanctum sanctorum, where he saw Manikanta, once his foster-son, seated as the Lord of the universe, on a golden throne studded with precious stones, all ornaments and valuable garments adorning His body, along with His two consorts Poorna and Pushkala.
Construction of the shrine was nearing completion and the King was in perplexed as to how to design the idol for the Lord. Then Sage and divine incarnation, Parasurama appeared before the King in the disguise of an artist, carrying with him many drawings of Lord Sastha in different forms, and asked the King to select one among them, which might suit man's evolution in this Kaliyuga. When the King questioned how there could be various forms of Sastha, while he was first born in the earth only as his foster-son, Agasthiya, who was nearby, advised that the Lord Sastha is Anadhi - with no beginning or end. He has been taking incarnations to save the mankind for protection of the good and destruction of evil, as and when necessity arises, not only in this Kali Yuga but also in earlier yugas Andmanvantharas as well.
The King had earlier obtained instructions from the Lord as to how the shrine should be built. As per the dictates of the Lord, eighteen holy steps were installed signifying the five Indriyas (Senses), eight raghas, three gunas, Vidya (Knowledge) and Avidya (ignorance). Beyond the realm of these 18 steps, the Supreme Lord reveals Himself in Yogic form, with Chinmudra preaching to the devotees that by conquering the eighteen tatwas, the ultimate can be reached and the jeevatmas could merge in Him. The idol of the Lord was placed on a pedestal with Sree Chakram. The Construction commenced on Vrichigam (Karthigai) lst and completed on Dhanus (Margazhi) 30th and on the first of Makaram (Thai), the temple consecration ceremony was solemnitsed. To commemorate these events, Ayyappa devotees observe their austerities during these two months period. Parasurama installed the idol. Agasthiya formulated and conducted the rituals invoking the presence of the omnipotent, omnipresent and omnicient Sastha in the idol. After consecration, King Rajasekara retired to Vanaprastha and attained immortality in course of time


The sacred ornaments of the Lord Ayyappan, known as “Thiruvabharanam” are the ornaments which were actually worn by him when He was the son and servitor of the then Raja of Pandalam. The Lord chose to do penance at Sabari Hills and, therefore, gave back all the ornaments to the Raja. But the Raja wanted to see his son wearing them only, and not as a Sanyasin. The boon was granted and the Lord promised that He would wear all the ornaments made for him on Makara Sankaranti day, when the Raja visits the temple at Sabari Hills.
Since then, the ornaments of the Lord are kept with the Raja of Pandalam, who brings it to Sabari Hills on Makara Sankaranti Day. Even today that is the practice and the ornaments are put on the idol only one day, but now, they are kept in the temple for 3 days. Then the ornaments are returned to the present descendant of Pandalam, who keeps them in safe custody.
The ornaments, which worth lakhs of rupees, were made long before, and are in a conditions to be repaired and polished. The present Raja of Pandalam, who is in no way better than a middle class man, finds it extremely difficult to make necessary repairs. It becomes his duty, as the father of the Lord, to see that the ornaments are in good shape and condition. The devotees, who flock at Sabari Hills to have the “Thiruvabharana Darshan” should think of this, and see that His ornaments are repaired, and polished. It is also the duty of everyone to see that the ornaments, which have both divine and historic background, are not let in the hands of people, who hold authority in governmental level, to do anything with them. The best they can do is to contribute their mite to this worthy cause, directly to the Raja of Pandalam, or to the devotees who hold guaranteed responsibility to help the Raja for this worthy cause.

Why Ayyappa descended to earth?

There are the questions haunting the minds of not only the King of Pandalam but also devotees of our order. The Knot was untied through the own words of the Lord, for the benefit of questioning human minds, as an answer.
1. Why did the Lord, who had refused ornaments and the throne offered by the King earlier, and taken to Sanyas, is now adorned with ornaments, seated on a throne to rule over the Universe
2. While the Lord in human form as Manikanta declared Himself to be an ever-green bachelor, how is it that he be adorned with His two consorts and when did the weddings take place
The Lord narrated the incident at Gurukulam during his servitude at Pandalam as to how he was blessed by his Gurunatha, and to ensure that the words and blessings of His Gurunatha did not turn false, He had to take upon Himself the ornamental decoration and the throne, not much to his like, just to obey the words of His Guru. As for the wedlock, the Lord said that He got married to Poorna and Pushkala even before His manifestation as Manikanta.
As the story goes, once upon a time Palingna, King of Nepal, wanted to live for ever and undertook foul means repugnant to Dharma to accomplish that aim. He got attached to a religion which profitiated evil-spirits and advocated sacrifice of human lives in fulfillment of one's vow. Accordingly, the King started sacrificing the lives of virgins to please evil-spirits longevity. Once the turn befell on a virgin highly devoted to Lord Shiva. She prayed to Shiva to save her and Lord Shiva nominated Sastha to stop the atrocities of the King and save the devotee. Lord Sastha descended on Nepal, stopped the killing of the innocent virgin at the right time and exhorted the King at length that his sinful act and its consequences would make his soul irredeemable. Realising the gravity of his misdeeds, the King prayed for clemency at the Lord’s lotus feet and got pardoned. Highly pleased with the merciful charm of the Lord, King Palingna offered the hands of his daughter Pushkala in marriage to the Lord. The Lord accepted Pushkala as His Bride and returned to Kantha Mala after the wedding ceremony.
On another occasion, sometime later, one King Pinchaka of Cochin Region went for hunting wild animals in the forest. It was too late for him to return after the Sunset and he found it extremely difficult to locate the path leading from out of the dense dark forest to his palace. Surrounded by wild animals, ghosts and bhoothakanas making alarming sound, he was helpless and cried for Sastha to rescue him from the situation. The Lord appeared before the King, and on the very sight of the Lord, the wild animals, ghosts and bhoothakanas ran away in various directions, The Lord accompanied the King through the thick forest and helped him reach his palace safely. The King, out of gratitude, offered his daughter Poorna in marriage to the Lord. The Lord accepted her too and returned to Kantha Mala. On hearing this episode of a second marriage, King Palingna, father of Pushkala was highly infuriated and questioned the propriety of the act of the Lord. In a state of mental depression, he unwrittingly cursed the Lord to take a human form, and continue to be an astute bachelor for atonement of his fault committed on Pushkala, by his remarriage.
Smilingly Sastha accepted the curse as a boon and told the King: "As per my purpose of birth, I can annihilate demoness Mahishi only alter my being a servitor to a mortal for twelve years as a bachelor. Your curse has come as boon for me. Let you be born as King of Pandalam when I will take the human form as your child and serve you to heal your wounds"