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There are thirty six rituals to be observed and followed for the Sabaimala Pilgrimage, out of which eighteen(18) DOs and eighteen(18) DONOTs are there..

Eighteen Do’s:-

  1. MALADHARANAM:-For SABARIMALA YATRA, the prime duty is the Maladharanam. As far as possible the Mala, should be worn through Guruswamy with whom the Bhaktha intend to perform the Yatra. If Guruswamy could not be contacted, the wearing of the Mala can be had through his mother or father or at any temple Sannidhanam. The Mala can be of either Rudraksham or Tulasi.
  2.  As a main principle, Mala should be worn first and then the VRATHAM starts which should be observed for a minimum of 41 days and to be completed before the commencement of the Yatra.
  3. From the day of Mala Dharan and commencement of Vratham, the Bhaktas should take bath twice every day, i.e., early in the morning and after Sun set and to do small pooja at both the times. Also should chant SARANAMS before closing the Pooja.
  4. BRAMACHARIYAM:- Should be observed very strictly during the Vratham period till the reaching of their home after the Dharsanam and Abishekam at Sabarimala.
  5. During the Vratham period, Bakthas should take only limited food as required to subside the hunger.
  6. During this period always speak TRUTH and Talk LESS.
  7. What ever may be your daily work, you have to do for your livelihood, do it with full devotion on Lord Ayyappa and discharge it in the correct manner.
  8. Treat all living creatures, as they are also created by the GOD, like us.
  9. While talking with others (whether they are Ayyappa Swamis or not) the main Taraka Manthram, i.e. Swami Saranam should be uttered with every sentence you use.
  10. Try to be, as far as possible in the company of small Ayyappa group so that you can gain more experience about the Yatra and Vratham.
  11. During this period, as far possible, try to take part in the Poojas and Bhajans.
  12. Before the date of commencement of Yatra, within your capacity, if possible, do a small Pooja and do a small scale ANNADANAM to poor and needy people. The guidance in all the connected books clearly says that Ayyappas should do ANNADANAM to poor. Feeding Ayyappas Bhakthas with big feast, assuming that we are satisfying Lord Ayyappa, is a great Sin, as during this period the Ayyappa Bakthas should have restricted food.
  13. Try always to be calm and even when you are being provoked by others, control your temper and say the only word “ SARANAM AYYAPPA”
  14. Address all men as “Ayyappa or Swami” (Not only Vratham Ayyappas) and ladies and girls, including your wife as “MALIGAPURAM” and boys as “Manikanta”. Especially the Muslims should addressed as VAVAR SWAMY.
  15.  The main principle of Ayyappa Deeksha is, that all religions and castes are to be treated as ONE. Any body (Whether they are Christians, Muslims or other religion) having faith in Ayyappa, can worship Him. Ladies can participate in Poojas and Bhajans, but only girls below 10 years who have not attained Maturity and Ladies who have reached menopause, after certain age, can very well perform the Yatra duly observing the Vratham.
  16. Manasa, Vaacha and Karmana (with mind, word and duty) have full devotion to Lord.
  17. Though there is no prescribed dress to wear during this Vratham and Yatra period, to distinguish you as Ayyappa on Deeksha either black, blue or saffron dresses can be worn.
  18. As your mind is always occupied with devotion, it is desired to have always atleast Viboothi or Kumkumam or Chandanam or Namam on the forehead.

Eighteen DONOT’s:-

  1. While speaking with others, do not address in singular forms. i.e., HE, SHE, IT etc.
  2. Atleast from the date of Maladharan and the commencement of Vratham, till reaching home after Darsanam and removing of Mala, do not consume any alcoholic, intoxicating substance and to avoid eating non-vegeterian food.
  3. Avoid oil bath, smoking and chewing of pan during this period.
  4. Never get angry under any circumstances.
  5. Do not tell lies.
  6. Do not hurt others feelings either by word or action
  7. Do not take part in death ceremony. After the Mala dharan during the Vratham period, if any close relatives passes away, adhere to your family traditions and as far as possible avoid performing the Yatra this time. As per the advise of Guruswamy, late poojya Shri. Kambamkudi Meenakshisundaram, if it is of distant relatives, you can remove the Mala, take bath observe the morning for that period without removing the deeksha and on the completion of the said period, take bath, ,keeping three times very little cow dung every time and then chant SARANAM 108 times or if you had GAYATRI MANTRAM upadesam already, chant 108 times and wear the Mala after purifying it with Panchagavyam, through Guruswamy or in the temple.
  8. Do not tease anybody or any living things
  9. Do not earn illegal money.
  10. Do not scold any Ayyappa even they are your disciple.
  11. Do not point out other’s mistakes
  12. Do not take part in Court Cases and stand surety for anybody during this period.
  13. Do not take part in Dramas or in Cinemas in which you have to act in undesirable scenes and avoid seeing such Cinemas.
  14. Either knowingly or unknowingly, do not commit sins.
  15. Do not go near or touch ladies who are in monthly period. If it happens it is advised to have bath immediately and to take “PANCHAGAVYAM” if available or chant SARANAM 108 times before attending other works.
  16. Do not have shaving and hair cuttings during this period.
  17. Avoid sleeping day time and to avoid sleeping long time in night.
  18. As far as possible avoid taking solid food outside and consume only fresh food. If you have to take food outside, due to unavoidable circumstances, have it after bath and avoid spending money lavishly.

After having Dharsanam and after reaching home only remove the Malas. On reaching home, breaking coconut at entrance, keep the Prasadam at your Pooja place at home, take bath, do Harathi for the Prasadam with Naivedyam, distribute the Prasadam for the entire family of yours and then remove the Mala yourself, duly chanting Saranam or chanting the Manthras for the removal of Mala, if you know it. Removing the Mala en-route is not advisable.


  1. As you have to spend atleast two nights in the forest, during your Yatra and as you won’t get comfortable beds, it is advised to practice by sleeping on mats without pillows.
  2. To identify as Ayyappas, it has become a custom to wear either black, blue or saffron color dresses
  3. As the route through out the forest is slippery as well as with smooth rocks, it is advised to practice walking without foot wear during this period..

 From the book published as SHRI MAHASASTRA POOJA KALPAM
(Written by Shri Bala Dandayudhapani Swamigal in the year 1942)


Ayyappa Devotees visiting the Sabarimala Temple carry the Irumudi – a specially designed bag with two compartments. This ceremony is referred as Kettunira or Palli Kettu. The front portion of the bag is meant for keeping the puja articles and other offerings to the deities at Sabarimala. The other compartment is meant for holding the personal belongings.

But nowadays both the compartments are filled with puja items. Earlier, the journey used to be of two to three days and therefore people used to carry provisions in the second compartment.

Puja Items Needed

A coconut filled with Ghee
Five coconuts
Arecanut (Supari)
Betel leaf
Turmeric Powder
Vibhuthi (Sacred Ash)
Rose Water
Avil (Beaten rice)
Malar (Puffed rice)
Jaggery or Small banana
Kalkandam (Sugar Candy)
Pepper (For Vavar)
Small bottle of honey (optional)
Dry grape (optional)
Towels (for personal use)

While buying the bag, make sure that it has enough space and can hold the puja items.
The ‘kettunira’ ceremony is done on the day of the pilgrimage. It is conducted usually in one’s own home or at a nearby temple.

How to prepare the ghee-filled coconut?

Take a small or medium sized ripe coconut. Polish the shell. Pierce a hole through anyone of the eye of the coconut. Drain the water and leave it to dry. (This should be done a few hours before the kettunira ceremony)

After praying to Lord Ganesha and to Ayyappa, it is time to fill the ‘mudra’ coconut with ghee. This ghee-filled coconut is the main offering to Lord Ayyappa.

This should be done by the devotee visiting the shrine by chanting ‘Swami Sharanam.’ After completely filling the coconut with fresh ghee, the opening of the coconut is corked and sealed using wax or other seals.

Filling the Front portion of the Bag

  • Rice is taken with both hands and is dropped into the front compartment of the Irumudi. This is done three times. Some devotees put the first rice along with a betel leaf. Family members can also fill rice in the front portion.
  • The ghee-filled coconut is then placed on top of the rice in the front compartment.
  • Coins, money, betel leaves and arecanut are also placed on top of the rice.
  • Other puja articles are separately wrapped and placed in the compartment this include – camphor, incense sticks, rose water, jaggery, sandal paste, vibhuthi.

Filling the Rear portion of the Bag

  • Five coconuts – one for breaking while comingout of the temple/house after kettunira,one at Pampa Ganapathy temple ,one at the time of climbing the sacred 18 steps , another for breaking while coming out of the shrine and the other before removing the mala .
  •  Malar, avil, turmeric powder, and kumkum are separately packed and kept for Malikappurathamma in the rear portion.
  •  Pepper is taken in this compartment of Vavar Swami.

If you want to fill the rear portion of the bag with personal items then these above mentioned puja items too can be filled in the front portion.

Once the Irumudi is filled, it symbolically represents the deity and it is held reverentially and is not kept on the ground. Usually it is placed on a sheet or wollen rug. If the journey is for more than one day, Pujas are done in the morning and evening on the Irumudi. While walking, the Irumudi is balanced on the head.