Sabarimala is one of most famous and oldest existing temples in India. The presiding deity of the temple is ‘Lord Ayyappa’ (Dharma Sastha). Sabarimala pilgrimage begins at the starting of the malayalam month ‘Vrichikam’ (in November) and ends with Makaravilakku, at the starting of the malayalam month ‘Makaram’ (in January). The temple will also open for the first five days of every malayalam month and during Vishu (in April 14).
Main events of the pilgrim season are Mandalapooja and Makaravilakku. ‘Mandala Vratham’ (penance) to be strictly observed if one has to undertake a pilgrimage to Sabarimala. Dring this period everyone should avoid himself from non-vegitarian food and all observe Brahmacharyam (continence).
People will wear blue, black or saffron dhoti and towel/shawl and they do not cut their hair during the period. Those people who going to the Sabarimala will wear an garland (mala) made of ‘Rudrakhsam’ or ‘Tulsi’ beeds. After wearing the garland each devotee belives to becomes Lord Ayyappa himself and starts the demands of pious life. Devotees even avoid wearing footwear during this period. They have to bath atleast twice a day. They have to keep their mind all time by chanting Saranam Ayyappa. They canot hurt abybody physically or verbally. Pilgrims carry ‘Irumudi kettu’ (made of cloth with two parts) containing traditional offerings. People of all religion are welcomed to the temple. In Kerala certain Hindu temples are allowing only people from Hindu religion. But this temple is open to women who have either passed their fertility age and girls before reaching the stage of puberty. Women between the ages of 10 and 50 are not allowed to enter the temple, since the story attributed to Ayyappa prohibits the entry of the women in the menstrual age group. This is because Ayyappan is a Bramachari (Celibate).
The devotees are expected to follow a vratham (41-day penance) prior to the pilgrimage. This begins with wearing of a special Mala (a garland made of Rudraksha or Tulasi beads). In general from then they are to refrain from non-vegetarian food of any kind (except dairy) alcohol, and tobacco, engaging in sex, using foul language, hair-cuts and shaving. They are expected to bath twice and visit the local temples regularly and only wear plain black, blue or saffron coloured traditional clothing. The visit to Sabarimala is thought for settling the shani-dasha to make the planet give better life and lifespan. This is according to astrological principles of controlling shani-dosha.