The Sabarimala Yatra is undertaken by Ayyappa devotees during the month of October to January. Devotees take the Ayyappa deeksha and get initiated into the yatra by wearing the Ayyappa mala which is made of rudraksha or tulsi beads. The initiation process is always done by the priest or senior devotee called Guruswami who has taken the yatra for atleast seven consecutive years.
This can be done at a temple or one’s home. It is usually a group activity and many people get initiated into the ayyappa deeksha. Then the devotees follow strict rituals like bathing in cold water, not wearing any foot wear, sleeping on the floor and eating sattvic food. These rituals are prescribed for 41 days but devotees follow them for as long as their health and profession permits.
The devotees then head towards the Sabarimala Temple in Kerala. They carry the Irumudi which is the bag containing two compartments, one which contains the puja items and a coconut filled with ghee and the other compartment contains personal belongings required through the journey.
Then the devotees can choose between three routes to the temple. The easiest one is the one through Chalakyam which is very close to the Pampa River and the temple is about 8 kms frm this place. The other route is from Erumeli and the pilgrims have to walk for nearly 61 km on foot through forests and hill track.
There is also a route from kottayam called the Vandiperiyar route which entails the pilgrims to travel nearly 95 kms. The devotees once reaching the temple complex climb the 18 holy steps and have darshan of the God. After that, the coconut in the irumudi is broken and the ghee is offered to the Lord and the coconut to the homa kunda . The devotees take back some part of the ghee and half of the coconut to their homes as prasad. This completes the Sabarimala yatra.