Sabarimala (Hindu pilgrimage center located in the Western Ghat mountain ranges of Pathanamthitta District, Perunad grama panchayat in Kerala) is believed to be the place where the Hindu God Ayyappan meditated after killing the powerful demoness, Mahishi. Ayyappan’s temple is situated here amidst 18 hills.
Ancient Hindu sages believed that periodic fasts or vrithams purify the human mind and body. By adhering to an austere way of life and observing tapas in body, mind and speech, man transcends his earthly limitations and changes for the better, so says the Bhagavad Gita.
Thousands and Lakhs of male go for this pilgrimage every year. Females 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 Bramhachari (celibate). The temple is open for worship only during the days of Mandalapooja Makaravilakku and Maha Vishuva Sankranti and the first five days of each Malayalam month.
The devotees are expected to follow a Vratham ie. 41-day fasting prior to the pilgrimage. To begins the pilgrimage the pilgrim wear a special Mala made of Rudraksha or Tulasi beads. In general from then they are to refrain from non-vegetarian food of any kind alcohol, and tobacco, engaging in sex, using foul language, hair-cut, shaving and even trimming the nails. They do not shave till the completion of pilgrimage and smear Vibhuti or Sandal paste on their forehead.