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Sabarimala Shrine

Listed under Sacred Spaces in Kerala, India.

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The shrine of Sabarimala is one of the more remote shrines in southern India yet it still draws three to four million pilgrims each year. Before beginning the multi-day walk through the mountain jungles to get to Sabarimala, pilgrims prepare themselves with weeks of fasting, celibacy, meditation and prayer. Finally arriving at the shrine, the pilgrims wait in line for hours, even days, to have a few seconds in front of the golden statue of Ayappa, the resident deity of the site. After seeing the deity, many pilgrims will complete a vow called Shayana Pradikshanam. In the Malayalam language of Kerala, Shayana means ‘body’ and Pradakshinam means ‘revolution,’ so Shayana Pradakshinam means ‘revolution with the Body.’

The Sabarimala shrine is only open a few times each year: during 41 days of a festival in November and December; during another festival in January; on the day of the vernal equinox in April; and during smaller festivals in May and August. The shrine, unlike many in southern India is open to persons of all religious callings, and there are no caste restrictions during the pilgrimage. However, women - unless they are younger than six or older than sixty - are not allowed to come to Sabarimala. This is explained by referring to the celibacy of Ayappa and the concern that he might be lured away from his shrine by a woman his age. Ayappa, one of the most fascinating of Hindu deities, is said to be the son of both Shiva and Vishnu, who had appeared as a woman to seduce a local demon. Mystics living in the deep forests surrounding the Sabarimala Mountains have for a thousand years reported seeing Ayappa riding through the jungles upon a majestic tiger.

More on the Sabarimala Shrine from Sacred Sites.

Written by  Martin Gray.

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