Sabarimala Sree Ayyappa Temple attracts millions of devotees every year from all over the world, the ancient mountain shrines situated in a deep, dense forest on the virgin hill of Sabari, in the Ranni-Perunad village of Pathanamthitta district, Kerala, India. This Dharmasasthav temple surrounded by 18 hills draws millions of devotees. The pilgrimage culminates on a grueling 4 km journey on barefoot through dense forest to reach the shrine. All Pilgrimage are treated as Ayyappa, irrespective of caste, religion and social status creating the true spirit of Tatvamasi.
The main Pratishta of Sabarimala is Dharma Sasthavu, holding Chinmudra in meditating state as Parabramha sworoopan .It is believed that the presiding deity of Sabarimala temple, Lord Ayyappa was born with the unification of Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu. Another belief said that Mahishi demon living in Sabarimala region was consecrated that she could be killed by someone who was born with the union of Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. Branches of Hinduism, Vaishnavism and Shaivism come mutually in the form of Lord Ayyappa.
Upa devans are Ganapathi (Kannimoola ganapathy) Naga gods, Valiya kadutha swamy, Kochu kadutha swamy, Mala daivangal, Nava grahas, Karuppu swamy and Karuppai Amma & Malikapuram, has importance almost in par with Sri Ayyappa.
The important message given at the temple is the ultimate knowledge that each individual is a God unto himself/herself, Tat Tvam Asi in Sanskrit meaning "That is you". Due to this pilgrims call each other Swami.
Tat Tvam Asi, meaning "That Thou Art" is the message that is given out by the Lord. It means, in short, you are part of the Universal Soul (in Sanskrit "Paramatma") which is the quintessence of Advaita philosophy. It also means for reaching Paramatma or Universal Soul. this mahavakya suggested by swami chinnmayananda in end of 70's.
Mandala Pooja celebrations continues for a period of 41 days beginning from first day of the Malayalam month of Vrishchikam (November-December) and culminating on eleventh day of Dhanu (December-January). During this period devotees make a pilgrimage to the famous shrine of Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala. Mandala Pooja signifies 41 days of austerities. Main Mandala pooja is conducted on the 41st day after the 1st of Vrichikam.
Lord Sri Rama and his brother Lakshmana met Sabari, a tribal devotee, at Sabarimala. Sabari offered the Lord fruits after tasting them. But the Lord accepted them gladly and whole-heartedly. The Lord then turned and saw a divine person doing tapas. He asked Sabari who it was. Sabari said it was Sasta. Rama walked towards tapas, Sasta stood up and welcomed the Prince of Ayodhya. The anniversary of this incident is celebrated on Makara Vilakku day. It is believed that on Makara Vilakku day, Lord Dharmasasta stops his tapas to bless his devotees.and also it is called makara shankranthi. The most important day for Ayyappan is Makarasankranti Day, which is the 1st of Makara (a month of the Malayalam calendar). This day will fall between January 14 and 16.
The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), a government of Kerala owned body, administers the temple. TDB has insured the Ayyappa's shrine for a value of Rs 30 crore ($7 million) and also introduced a free-of-cost accident insurance project for pilgrims visiting the temple. The pilgrims' insurance scheme offered up to Rs 1 lakh to the devotees suffering from injuries or death at a stretch of about 18 km from Nilakkal to uphill Sannidhanam where the temple is located. An estimated 5 crore (50 million) pilgrims visits the temple every year.