Lord Ayyappan is a symbol of religious unity and communal harmony. Being born to Mohini (the female incarnation of Lord Vishnu) and Lord Shiva, he is also known as Bhuthanatha, Dharmasastha, Hariharan, Ayyanar and Manikanta.
There are several temples dedicated to Lord Ayyappan all over India. Among these the important temples along the Western Ghats are: Kulathupuzha - Ayyappan is a child here, Aryyankavu - He is a bachelor here, Achankovil - here he is as Dharmasastha with Poorna and Pushkala (his wives) Sabarimala - here he is a yogi, meditating for the benefit of all.
Sabarimala (Mount Sabari - about 3000 feet above sea level) is the most favourite and significant temple in Kerala. Pilgrimage to this temple symbolises the journey to heaven. The journey of spiritual candidate to Sabarimala is difficult and adventurous. The pilgrims observe severe austerities, wearing rudraksha or tulsi beads strings in the neck and trek up the forest to reach the temple. The feeling of delight and spiritual elevation one gets when devotees have the darshan (when devotee sees) of the deity is remarkable and significant. The magnetic charm is so high, it makes any devotee, who undertakes the yatra (pilgrimage) once, to revisit the shrine every year in quest of spiritual solace.
Sabarimala temple is open to all, irrespective of caste, creed, religion, social status or nationality. The pilgrims undergo 41 days of fast to cleanse the mind. He carries on his head, the holy ghee for the Lord's Abisheka filled in coconut in "Irumudi" (two compartment cloth bag). The temple is open only to males and menopaused females (beyond 50 years of age) and little girls below 10 years of age. This is because the Lord is a chaste yogi in Sabarimala. The male pilgrims are called 'Ayyappan' and the female pilgrims are called 'Malikappuram'.
The shrine is open only during specific period in a year. It is open from Mid- November to Mid-January and for first five days of every Malayalam month.