The main temple, Sannidhanam(Sacred Abode), constructed on top of a raised platform. 18 golden steps lead to temple shrine known as Patinettampadi, each step considered sacred with reference to each Hindu Veda and scriptures.The temple is believed to have originated from the specific instructions of the Lord himself, who wanted Malikappurathamma, on his left a few yards from Sannidhanam, his trusted lieutenants Vavur, Kadutha and Karuppa to be positioned as his guards at the foot of the holy 18 steps. The temple is open to all faiths. The divine qualities like equality, fraternity, tolerance, humanity are shining well in the pilgrims.
The sole reason for a person to visit Sabarimala, is to have a darshan of Sree Ayyappa. Garbhagriha or Garbha griha is the small unlit shrine of a Hindu temple. Garbhagriha or garbha gṛha is a sanskrit word meaning the interior of the sanctum sanctorum, the innermost sanctum of a Hindu temple where resides the murti of the primary deity of the temple.
Pathinettapadi (18 divine steps) to the sanctum sanctorium is divine in all aspects. Every Ayyappa devotee, before he sees the Sanctum Sanctorum, has to lay his footsteps over eighteen sacred steps. Initially the 18 steps were made of granite. It was later covered with Panchaloha (a special composition of gold, silver, copper, iron and tin), in the year 1985 to prevent it from deterioration. Pilgrims initiate their ascent up the Pathinettam Padi by placing their right foot on the first step. As per the tradition, only those who undertake the penance for 41 days and those who carry the irumudi on their head are allowed to use the steps.
There is a giant fire pit, Homakundam (coconut aazhi) close to the main shrine in front of the pathinettampadi. A Homakundam is erected toward north-east of the holy 18 steps. After removing ghee for Neyyabhishakam the pilgrims throw the remaining coconuts into this sacred fireplace. It is interesting to note that the vast Homakundam burns throughout the Mandala and Makaravilakku season. The coconut in which the ghee is brought for Abhishekam, is thrown into the homakundam. Since lakhs of devotees arrive here during the season, the homakundam will be burning continuously. The fire and the smoke arising from it purifies the atmosphere, destroying disease-causing germs, besides being an offering to Lord Ayyappa.
Two shrines stand at the bottom of the Pathinettampadi (18 steps) and are the guardians of the Sannidhanam. They are dwarapalakas, ensuring that the holy steps are not polluted by pilgrims who do not undergo the rigors of the 41-day abstinence and celibacy. Also they safeguard the pious from the dark spirits of the surrounding forests. It is held that Kadutha was a valiant warrior who helped Pandalamraja (Lord Ayyappan's foster father) beat his archenemy Udayanan. Soon afterwards, Kadutha accompanied the Raja to Sabarimala to reconstruct the Ayyappa temple and eventually grew so attached to the Lord that he spent his remaining days in the temple and the adjoining woods.