There are three routes to Sabarimala
The important places the pilgrims crosses between Erumeli and Sannidhanam are
It is about 65 kms from Kottayam. There are shrines for Lord Dharmasastha and Vavar Swamy - the Muslim friend and lieutanant of Lord Ayyappa. Those pilgrims who take the pilgrimage for the first time peforms Pettathullal; smearing the face with colours and dancing with wooden weapons. The essence of this practice is to give up ones ego and surrender to Lord Ayyappa. They go round the Ayyappan Temple and Vavar Shrine and later bathe in the river. Then the temple is visited again to seek authorization from Lord Ayyappa to tread the sacred hill of Sabari. Later the pilgrims leave Erumeli under the guidance of Guru for Sannidhanam.
It 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 - Lord Ayyappa's Garden.
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 annihilating Mahishi. This is a shrine where the pilgrims light camphor and break coconuts.
Azhutha river, a tributary of Pampa, is about 2 km from Kalaketti. On the far side of the river is 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.
The next important place 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. Pilgrims rest here for a while.
Karimala is the abode of the 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 continuosly chant sharanams. On top of Karimala terrain is accommodations 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 Karimalanathan, Kochukaduthaswamy and Karimala Bhagawathi. From here after the exhausting descent, Pampa river is about 5 kms.
Pampa the most sacred river compared to Ganges of the North. Pamps is the most important and holy spot on the way to Sannidhanam. It was here where Lord Ayyappa was found by King Rajasekhara. All the devotees take a dip in this river and performs pitru tarpanam (offering to ones departed soul) the pilgrims start their ascent towards the hill Neelimala after worshipping at the temple of Lord Ganapati, Lord Rama and Lord Hanuman. One of the coconuts are broken before the Pampa Ganapati for blessings and to clear of all hurdles while ascenting the hill. 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 Apachi 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.
This was the place where Shri Sabari of Sri Rama's era performed Tapas. It is said that Sabari met Sri Rama & Laxmana here and offered them some fruits to eat. The ayyppas worship here by breaking coconuts etc.
Half way between Sabari Peetam and Sannidanam is Saramkuthi. The Kanniswamy peirce their arrows here which they bought from Erumeli. At this place is a Banyan tree called the Sharam kuthi Aaal
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