The history of Sabarimala Temple

24/10/2011 Temple History

Sabarimala Sree Dharmasastha Temple is one of the most ancient temples in Kerala. 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. The temple attracts pilgrims not only from the southern states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh but also from other parts of country and abroad.

There is a Vavar Thara very close to. The deity is Vavar, the friend of Ayyappa and a Sufi saint is at the close proximity to the main temple. Ayyapa cult gifts much importance for 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 are all equal before Lord Ayyapa and all of them address each other as Ayyappa or Swamy.

Sabarimala is believed to be the place where Lord Ayyapa meditated soon after killing the powerful demon, Mahishi. Another mythology says that its ‘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 Panchaloham. Each of these eighteen holy steps represents a desire one must conquer in life, it is believed. Only those who observe 41 day’s of austerity as ritual can only carry erumudi and can climb these steps.

The Pandalam Royal Family has its roots in Tamil Nadu. The members of the Pandalam Royal Family are descendants of the Pandya dynasty of Madurai. The Pandya Kings fled to today’s Kerala in two groups, after losing the battle against Malik Kafur, the General of the then Delhi Sultan Alauddin Khilji. One group settled down in Punjar (Kottayam Dist) and the other in Pandalam in 1202 AD. The then ruler of Venad helped them establish the Kingdom of Pandalam. The Kingdom of Pandalam extended to over 1,000 square miles. The royal family of Pandalam belongs to the ‘Bhargava Gothra’ while other Kshatriya families in Kerala belong to the ‘Viswamithra Gothra’. Secularism was one of the prime principles of Pandalam dynasty and they helped the other religious followers to build a mosque at Kadakkad and a church at Kudassanad. It is also believed that those who settled down in Pandalam had sympathies toward the Buddhist beliefs[citation needed] .

There is no clear evidence as to when did the pilgrimage to Sabarimala begin. After the installation of the temple, it was mostly unreachable for about three centuries. One of the kings in the later generation rediscovered the traditional paths to reach Sabarimala. He had many followers with him, including the descendants of the Vavar family. They refreshed their resources at Erumely and this marked the beginning of the famous Petta Thullal at Erumely. They laid down their arms at the place today known as Saramkuthy. Those who are on their maiden visits to Sabarimala thrust arrows at this place. The temple was then renovated. In 1821 AD, the kingdom of Pandalam was added to Travancore. 48 major temples including the Sabarimala temple were also added to Travancore. The idol was erected in 1910[citation needed] . The temple conflagrated in 1971 and underwent a major revamp.

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