After filling the holy coconut with ghee and packing the essentials for offering to Lord Ayyappa in the Irumudi (called ketunira), the Guru places the sacred Irumudi on the head of the pilgrims chanting Saranam. The pilgrims leave the place without looking at anyone or bidding goodbye to family or friends. Walking barefoot the pilgrims proceed to realise his Self and attain Lord Ayyappa.
It was below 5000 persons who visited Sabarimala 50 years ago, but with the coming of the road from Mannarakulanji to Chalakayam, this number has increased to 4 crores, that too in the Madala- Makaravilakku season alone. It was too difficult for the people to reach Sabarimala before 50 years as the journey through the dense forest was so grueling an ordeal as it took days to reach the abode of God.
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):
- The Erumeli route – the most arduous – the pilgrims cover about 61 km on foot through forest and hill track.
- The Vandiperiyar route – starts at 94.4 km stone on the Kottayam – Kumily road.
- The Chalakayam route. – the easiest of all. Chalakayam is near Pampa river. Sannidhanam is just 8 km from here.
From Tamil Nadu:
- Shencottai – Punalur – Pathanamthitta –170 Kms.
- Kumily – Vandiperiyar – Erumeli – Plappalli–180 Kms.