Sabarimala pilgrims have to observe several austerities and regulations to undertake the pilgrimage.
- The vritham can be undertaken only after getting permission from one’s parents and Guru. It should be undertaken in such a manner as to cause no inconvenience to one’s family.
- The day before the vritham begins one has to offer prayers to ones’ family deity and present a yellow cloth with coins within to the family deity.
- The devotee must shave, clip his nails, trim his hair and bathe before the vritham.
- The holy garland should be cleaned and smeared with sandal paste and placed before the portrait of Lord Ayyappa.
- The devotee should also buy a new pair of coloured dhoti and towel or shawl.
- On the day of the vritham the devotee rises early, bathes, prays to the family deity and performs a pooja to the holy mala.
- He will be accompanied to the temple by his Guru and recieve his mala from him.
- Wearing the mala denotes that the devotee becomes Lord Ayyappa and must thus lead a pious life.
- The devotee must keep away from all social activities and spend his time praying and singing bhajans and in worthy causes like visiting temples, cleaning temples, feeding the poor, helping the poor and sick and attending religious discourses.
- He must eat only vegetarian food and abstain from meat, physical or verbal violence, alcohol and tobacco and intoxicants in any form.
- The devotee must sleep on the floor, use a wooden block for a pillow and walk barefeet.
- The devotee is obligated to treat all co-devotees as Lord Ayyappan and serve them in every way.
- He must be humble despite the respect and privileges accorded to him as a Sabarimala pilgrim.
- The devotee must treat all women like his mother and strictly follow celibacy.
- He must not oil his body or his hair and must always carry a tulsi leaf with him to keep away evil thoughts.
The guru has a significant role to play in the Ayyappa cult. The Guruswamy is usually an elderly person who has undertaken pilgrimage to Sabarimala not less than seven consecutive years in the traditional long route and had darshan of Makara Jothi. The devotees treat the Guruswamy as Ayyappan himself. It is important that pilgrims gain knowledge from the Guru on all the aspects of the Pilgrimage. One should serve the Guru physically, mentally and verbally.
The pilgrims should give the due respect and reverence that the Guru deserves. All instructions of the Guru should be carried out without fail. The Guru will enlighten the Shisyas about the austerities to be followed. He will teach them the slokas and way to perform pooja and bhajans. He shall prepare them for the pilgrimage mentally and physically. He will lead the pilgrims safely and comfortably to Sabarimala.