Sabarimala is a Hindu pilgrimage center located in the Western Ghats mountain ranges of Pathanamthitta District in Kerala. It is one of the largest annual pilgrimage in the world with an estimated 45-50 million devotees visiting every year. Sabarimala is believed to be the place where the Hindu God Ayyappan meditated after killing the powerful demon, Mahishi. The temple is situated on a hilltop about 3000 feet above sea level, and is surrounded by mountains and dense forests.
Sabarimala is linked to Hindu pilgrimage, predominantly for men of all ages. 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 'Nithya Brahmachari' (Celibate). The pilgrimage begins in the month of November and ends in January. The temple attracts pilgrims not only from the southern states of India, but also from other parts of the country and abroad. The shrine gets thronged with devotees especially during the main pilgrim season from November to January. Mandala pooja (December 26, 2012) and Makaravilakku(Jan.14th,2013) are the two main events of the pilgrim season. The temple is not open through out the year. It is open for worship only during the days of Mandalapooja, Makaravilakku and Chitra Vishu (April).
Certain customs are to be strictly observed if one has to undertake a pilgrimage to Sabarimala. A pilgrim attending the Mandalapooja should observe austerities for 41 days. During this period, the pilgrim should abstain himself from non vegetarian food, alcohol, tobacco and carnal pleasures. Pilgrims set out in groups under a leader, and each carry a cloth bundle called Irumudi kettu/Pallikettu containing traditional offerings. Unlike certain Hindu temples, Sabarimala temple has no restrictions of caste or creed. The temple is open to males of all age groups and to women who have either passed their fertility age and those before reaching the stage of puberty. Pamba is the main halting point on the way to Sabarimala. From here one has to trek 4 to 5 kms to reach the temple.