The Shabarimala Shastha temple of Kerala stands at an altitude of 1565 ft above sea level midst dense forest. There are about 50 million pilgrims who visit this place annually. This temple propagates that any devotee who has faith is welcome irrespective of caste, creed or religion. The only major rule is that women between the age of 10 to 50 years are not allowed to visit the temple. There is an amazing story behind this famous temple. The demon Mahishasura was killed by Goddess Durga after he terrorised and destructed people. His sister Mahishi in order to avenge her brother’s death undertook a severe penance and pleased lord Bramha and requested to be granted a boon of being killed only by the son of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. Mahishi after seeking the boon took the same path as her brother and even ventured the Deva loka and tortured the Devas. They in turn implored lord Vishnu to intervene. Lord Vishnu took the form of Mohini and the child born of Lord shiva and Mohini was Lord Ayyapa.
It was then decided that he would be placed under the care of king Rajashekhara who was also a childless devotee of Lord Shiva. Once, when Rajashekhara went hunting with his men in the forest he heard a child cry. He longed to take the child home and when he held the infant a sage appeared out of nowhere and told him to take the child to his palace. Ever since that incident Lord Ayyappa grew as the prince of the Pandalam state. When he grew up, a little his mother was blessed with a son. Due to the instigation of a courtier and due to the love for her son she wished her son to be crowned as the king or become the next heir. She then pretended to have a severe head ache and the king was informed that she would only be cured by the application of a tigress’s milk. The king’s army returned without victory post which Lord Ayyappa pleaded with his father and set out his journey for the forest. On his way he came across Mahishi and was convinced that she had to be killed for the well being of the people. There was a fierce battle between Lord Ayyappa and Mahishi and the latter lost at the end and realising who the lord actually was, she pleaded to be set free of her curse.
Lord Ayyappa after completing his duty towards the Devas returned mounted on top of Devendra disguised as tigress to Pandalam. The people panicked to see a group of tigers coming to their land. Lord Ayyappa after completing his duty was about to return to Deva loka when he granted a boon to his devoted father. His father requested permission to build a temple for Lord Ayyappa and asked him to choose a site for the same. The lord shot an arrow that landed on mount Shabari and hence the temple came into existence. The lord also said that he would only grace the devotees who seek a vrath or penance of 40 days and then visit him. The temple is considered to be as holy as Kashi and the river Pampa is considered to be as holy as the Ganga.
Kerala is rich of its tradition and devotional culture