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There are three routes to Sabarimala (0929 North 7706 East) - (a) The Erumeli route (b) The Vandiperiyar route (c) The Chalakayam route. The Erumeli route is the most arduous and the pilgrims cover about 61 km on foot through forest and hill track. The Vandiperiyar route starts at 94.4 km stone on the Kotayam - Kumili road. The Sannidhanam is about 12.8 km from here. TheChalakayam route is the easiest of all. Chalakayam is near Pampa river. Sannidhanam is just 8 km from here.
The people had to walk from Erumeli to Sabarimala via Peroorthodu, Kottapadi, Kaalaketti, Azhhuthamedu, Kallidaamkunnu, Inchipaarakotta, Karimala, Valiyaanavattam, Cheriyaanavattam, Pamapa, Neelimala ,Appachimedu, Sabareepeedom, and Saramkuthi through the forest.
Another path was also used by people to reach Sannidhanam. That was from Kumily through Changara Estate, Uppupaara and Paandithavalam, but it was the route from Erumeli that people used regularly.
The Route- Laaha to Chalakayam has a history hidden behind it. This path was actually built not for the devotees to reach Sabarimala.
It was during 1959-60 that the road was built as part of the Sabarigiri power project that came into being in 1967. Before this project actually started, the Electricity Board tried to bring in a project named ˜Swaami Saranam", which intented to build a dam at Thriveni to produce electricity. For this the board extended the road ( Mannarakulanji- Laaha) to Chalakayam. As time passed the Sabarigiri Project gained importance and to make it a reality another road was made from Chalakayam to Ponnambalamedu. As the Sabarigiri Project became a huge success the Swaami Saranam Project was dropped. Later another road was built from Plapalli to Muzhiyaar via Aangaamuzhi. This is the present Sabarigiri road.
Eventhough there was the Chalakayam Road KSRTC started service through this path only in 1965. The road from Chalakayam to Pampa was built only 7 years later.

With new routes in the chart the journey to Sabarimala may get more easier with the glory of the traditional paths dwindling at a rapid pace.
There are three routes to Sabarimala (0929 North 7706 East)
(a) The Erumeli route - the most arduous - the pilgrims cover about 61 km on foot through forest and hill track.
(b) The Vandiperiyar route - starts at 94.4 km stone on the Kottayam – Kumily road.
(c) The Chalakayam route. - the easiest of all. Chalakayam is near Pampa river. Sannidhanam is just 8 km from here.

Description of Erumeli Route

The Erumeli route, used by Ayyappan himself during his forest expedition to kill Mahishi is described here.

1 Erumeli It is about 56 km from Kottayam. There are shrines for Lord Dharmasastha and Vavar Swamy (the Muslim lieutenant of LordAyyappa). Erumeli detives its name from Mahishi, which in vernacular, is knows as "Eruma" (meaning buffalo). It is believed that the trunk of Mahishi after she was killed fell here. The ritual ofPettai Thullal, the dance of the hunters, observed here is also associated with the killing of Mahishi.
The first timers to Sabarimala, called Kanniswamy, perform pettatullal. Pettatullal is painting the face with colours and dancing with wooden weapons to make one look odd. 
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 Sabari. Later the pilgrims leave Erumeli under the guidance of their Guru for Sannidhanam.  
2 Perur Thodu 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 (Ayyappan's garden).  
3. Kaalaketi 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 killing Mahishi. There is a shrine where the pilgrims light camphor and break coconuts.  
4. Azhutha Azhutha river, a tributary of Pampa, is about 2 kms from Kalaketti. On the far side of the river is the steep Azhutha hill, famous for its arduous track. In the 2 km of steep ascent there is hardly anyone who does not shed tears. At the summit of Azhutha is Kallidumkunnu.
5. Azhutha River -
6. Kallidumkunnu - At the summit of Azhutha is Kallidumkunnu, meaning a hill where pebbles are thrown. 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. Another version is that the pebbles represent the past sins of the pilgrims which they deposit here. Some say that the pebbles were Saligramas presented to the devas who assembled at the time of the killing of Mahishi.
7. Inchipparakota `The next important place is the Inchipparakota where there is Kotayil Sastha shrine. Inchippara Kota is the fortress of the robber chief Udayanan Pilgrims offer prayers here and break coconuts. From here the pilgrims descend 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.
8. Mukkuli -
9. Kariyilam Thodu -
10. Karimalai Karimala is the abode of 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 continuously chant saranams. On top 
of Karimala the terrain is flat suitable for the pilgrims to rest. It is interesting to see the Nazhikkinar - a well within a well with fresh spring like water. Prayers are then offered to Karimalanthan, Kochukaduthaswami and Bhagawathi, all deities. From here after the exhausting descent one reaches the Pampa river that is about 5 kms.
11. Periya Annai Vattam -
12. Seriya Annai Vattam -
13. Pampa Nadi Pampa is the most important and holy spot on the way to Sannidhanam. It is here that Lord Ayyappa was found by King Rajasekara. The Pampa river is as holy as the Ganges. The Pampa water purifies one from curse and evil.


Yathra from Pampa to Sannidhanam

Pampa Feast : Pampa Annadhanam (feast) and Pampa Vilakku are important rituals followed at the Pampa bank. Pilgrim groups prepare feast with the provisions taken from the Irumudi of the pilgrims. Thousands of pilgrims are fed at Pampa. When a group of pilgrims are ready to feed the fellow pilgrims they display a large papad outside their cottage. It is usually the kanniswamy who are fed first, as they are considered to be Lord Ayyappan himself. After the feast the Guru is honoured by pilgrims prostrating before him and offering him the Gurudakshina.

Kanni Ayyappas move from kitchen to kitchen collecting the ashes which are considered to be very sacred. It is done with the belief that Lord Ayyappa would have had the feast in one of the cottages in the disguise of a pilgrim. The ash is taken home as prasad.  

Pampa Vilakku : At sunset the pilgrims believe that Lord Ayyappan will be present at the banks of Pampa and the cottages are decorated with lights and candles. Small floats are decorated with lights called Pampa Vilakku and are let in the Pampa river.

After worshipping Pampa Ganapathy devotees start the trcking towards Sabarimala.

The next rest point is Neelimala top At the end of Neelimala is Appachimedu . Both sides of this place are steep depressions filled with dense forest, known as ‘Appachi Kuzhi’ or ‘Eppachi Kuzhi.’The devotees who are first time to Sabarimala throw Ariyunda (an offering made of rice) to the pit. It is believed that this offering is done to the evil deities who are captured by Kaduvaran, a securityof Lord Ayyappa . Sabari Peetam comes after Appachimedu. Appachimedu is considered to be the seat of evil spirits and the pilgrims propitiate them by throwing offerings of rice powder balls into gorges.This is symbolic of Advaithic vision that there is no phenomenon external to the ultimate reality.Both good and bad are conditioned expressions within reality and the spiritual inquirer is making an effort to transcend both.Sticking to the bad trends ,as selfishness,violence,jealousy ,etc.makes one degrade or stagnate ,while the cultivation of love,compassion,etc ,expands ,elevates and equips one for a break through to transcended reality of Divine consciousness,which is beyond the conditioned states of good and evil.Good and evil and such dual opposites are limitations confined to the field of human action and reactions in which the mind involves itself .These conditioned states of mind have to betranscended to embrace the freedom of unconditioned wholeness within and this has to be achieved through discriminate and intelligent spiritual practice

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Sabari Peetam is the place where Shri Sabari, in Sri Rama's era, performed Tapas. Pilgrims worship here breaking coconuts, firing crackers and lighting camphor. Half way between Sabari Peetam and Sannidhanam is Saramkuthi. Kanniswamy leave the wooden arrow they picked from Erumeli here. The Saramkuthi is known for the Saramkuthi Aal, a big banyan tree around, this is the a spot ,where it is believed , Ayyappa and his soldiers discarded their weapons after the liberation of Sabarimala temple from the domination of Udayanan .This act indicates the total shifting of this attention to personal spiritual advancement and to the renaissance of the Dharama Shaastha temple to the welfare of the whole mankind . It also symbolically indicates the potential evolutionary state in man , the realization of which would make all lethal weapons irrelevant in human society. Sharamkuttiyaal symbolisis that at a stage of his development man will have to inevitably discard his arms for a break through to a greater evolutionary stage and a super civilization. It is to be specially noted that only the kanni –ayyappa-s those who go on pilgrimage for the first time,are expected to bring the arrow. Others are supposed to have eradicated violence from their minds and refined themselves spiritually. The major festival here is the pallivetta, which is held on the eve of the `Arattu’.The pilgrim has now come very close to the temple and the whole region is vibrant with loud chantings of the pilgrims and the explosion of the fire works offerings in the shrine.

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Patinettampadi : The holy Patinettampadi (18 steps) is 15 minute walk from Saramkuthi. The Golden steps is such a magnificent sight. Pilgrims chant saranams loudly. After breaking the coconut they climb the 18 steps to have the darshan of Lord Ayyappa Patinettampadi : The holy Patinettampadi (18 steps) is 15 minute walk from Saramkuthi. The Golden steps is such a magnificent sight. Pilgrims chant saranams loudly. After breaking the coconut they climb the 18 steps to have the darshan of Lord Ayyappa.