|As advised by the Lord, the
Raja of Pandalam constructed the Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala. It is also
believed that there already existed the DharmaSastha temple at Sabarimala, one
of the 64 temples established by Parasurama, and Lord Ayyappa merged into the deity
there. The King (Raja) of Pandalam renovated/ reconstructed the temple,
supervising the work by staying at Perunadu. He constructed an Ayyappa temple
there also for performing his daily pooja of the Lord. Deities of
Malikappurathamma, Kadutha swami and Vaver swami were installed as also the 'pathinettampadi'
(holy 18 steps) and 'bhasmakulam'.
The legend behind Malikappurathamma is that
Leela, daughter of Galavamuni, under curse of her husband Dathan, was reborn as
Mahishi, an "asura' female with a buffalo's face. Upon having killed by
Lord Ayyappa, the curse was revoked and the beautiful woman rose out of the
corpse. She thanked the Lord and prayed to be with Him as His wife.
Lord told her that He is a 'brahmachari' and so her desire would not be
fulfilled. However, He allowed her to remain in Sabarimala, a little distant
from His abode, as His sister - Malikappurathamma. The Vaver temple at Erumeli,
the beginning of the forest route was also constructed. Various rituals were
fixed, believed to be on the advice of Agasthyamuni. Legend also says that
Parasurama himself came down to install the Ayyappa deity. The 'vrutham' and
other practices to be followed before and during the Sabarimala pilgrimage were
also prescribed as dictated by the Lord. Arrangements for monthly poojas were
in a year, during Makaravilakku, the Raja visits Sabarimala along with the holy
ornaments (Thiruvabharanam) from the Palace, which are, adorned on the Ayyappa
deity and 'deeparadhana' conducted. It is at this time that the 'jyothi' appears
on the eastern horizon. During Mandalam-Makaravilakku season, by custom, nobody
starts on pilgrimage after the Raja of Pandalam sets out for Sannidhanam on 28th
Dhanu, along with the Thiruvabharanam. In addition, pilgrims are restrained from
going to Malikappuram after the 'guruthi' there on 6th Makaram.
The period of Ayyappa is considered to be somewhere between 300-400 M.E.
(1125-1225 A.D). Since Pandalam was assumed by Travancore in 1820 A.D, the
administration of all the temples within the kingdom, including Sabarimala was
done by Travancore govt., which was subsequently handed over to the Travancore
Devaswom Board after Independence. As per the Travancore State Manual " the
understanding arrived at when the particular temples were founded and endowed
are followed". Thus the Raja of Pandalam even now continues to function in
the dual status of the father of the Lord and the founder of the temple.
The important pilgrimage season in Sabarimala is from 1st Vrischikom to 6th
Makaram M.E. (mid-November to mid-January). Devotees irrespective of religion,
cast, creed, nationality or social status are equals in His abode and are all
addressed by His own name, namely 'Ayyappa'. In fact, the pilgrimage includes
worship at Vaver temples at Erumeli and Sannidhanam, managed by Muslims. This
stands as a glittering example of Hindu-Muslim unity. However, women in the age
group 10-50 shall not go to Sabarimala. Other women devotees are permitted to
trek the hill and are called as 'Malikappurams'.