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Aiyappa devotees commence their pilgrimage with a vow of fasting and discipline wearing a Mala. In the early days they travelled through jungles from Erumeli. It is still believed that this is the route that should be followed for a true Sabari pilgrimage covering 58 km. This is called Peruvazhi Pathai or long route. King of Pandala during his visit to Aiyappa chose this route only, it is said. This route is chosen by the devotees to make their mind more sublime for the purpose.

Erumeli is the place where all Aiyappa devotees gather together. The Dharma Sastha temple built by the king of Pandala is here. Lord Dharma Sastha appears here as a hunter with a bow and arrow.

The mosque of Aiyappa’s Muslim friend Vabar is opposite the Pettai Sastha temple. The devotees visit this mosque and get the Vibhuti Prasad offered here.

Pettai Tullal

This is the place where Lord Aiyappa killed the buffalo headed demon woman Mahishi. The name Erumai Kolli means the place where a buffalo was killed. This later changed as Erumeli. After destroying Mahishi, Manikandan-Lord Aiyappan danced on her body. The ritual remembering this event is called Pettai Tullal. Like the Holi in the north, devotees use to apply colour powders on them and dance chanting the names of the Lord, go round the Vabar shrine in the mosque, break coconuts, light camphor and proceed further on their pilgrimage.

Perur Thodu

The first station on this long route is Perur Thodu two miles from Erumeli. Devotees can have a bath in the river, relax for a while and proceed further.

Kalai Katti

After a journey of six miles then through hills and jungles, devotees reach a place called Kalai Katti. The place is so named as Lord Shiva tied His Nandhi - Kalai (bull) here. Lord Shiva came to this place to congratulate His Son Aiyappa for destroying Mahishi. Azhuda River is about one and half miles from this place:

Azhudha River

After a dip in Azhudha river, devotees take a small stone with them. They reach a place called Azhudhaimedu hill at a distance of two miles and then arrive at a place called Injiparai Kottai and Kallidum Kundru, also a hill place. Aiyappa, after destroying Mahishi, buried her here and placed heavy stones on the spot. The stone taken from Azhuda River is placed by the devotees here remembering Mahishi’s burial here.

Guardian Aiyappan

Injiparai Fort is at the peak of Azhudamalai. Lord Aiyappa graces here in the name of Devan Vyakrapadan. Vyakram means Tiger. Lord is keeping the tigers under His control to protect His devotees. This also has a spiritual background. Men are occupied with material desires as gold, women and land and have little space in mind for sublime thoughts. Men are ready to do anything sinful to gain these desires. These desires are but brutal tigers. When such animal thoughts are shed off, the mind turns towards the Almighty. After worshipping Lord Aiyappa here, the devotee reaches Mukkuzhi where Mother Ambica graces the devotees. They then reach Kariyilamthodu. The ground is plain here without ups and downs. There are some facilities for the devotees here. They can have their food and relax for a while. They will have to cross the river Puducherry here.


Devotees will experience the power of their Brahmmacharya discipline in this place. The hill is very steep. As the sand is black here, this is named Karumalai which later changed as Karimalai. The idol of Karimalainathar is installed here. The water in the spring is very sweet. This was created by Lord Aiyappa shooting His arrow. Devotees quench their thirst here.

Devotees have to be very careful while climbing on the hill. It is a narrow beaten track. It is deep slope on one side and rough rocks on the other. The ups and downs will twist the legs. It is the faith of the devotees that Lord Aiyappa would help them through the way. Devotees chant Aiyappa Charanam while climbing. As there are powerful herbal plants with medicinal values here, it is said that after crossing the place, the devotee would be cured of any disease he is suffering from.

Periyanai Vattam

It is plain place after Karimalai. This is known as Periyanai Vattam. It is so named as there were huge numbers of elephants once. Yanai in Tamil means elephant. Pamba River flows here as a small stream. It is in its full form at a distance.

Pamba River

Devotees coming through Erumeli long route and those from the Salakayam route meet on the banks of Pamba. It is as holy as Ganga. Lord Sri Rama performed Tarpan to His father Emperor Dasaratha in Pamba. Some devotees bathe in a place called Triveni Sangama – confluence of three rivers – and perform Tarpan to ancestors. Others bathe and relax here.

Aiyappa Sathya

Devotees stay on the banks of Pamba for a night and light Pamba deepas. They then cook food from things they have brought in their Irumudi package. They offer it to Lord as Nivedhana and share with their pilgrim mates. It is believed that Lord Aiyappa is accepting the food in the form of devotees. This is called Pamba Shakti or Shakti Puja

Pamba Ganapathy

Devotees begin climbing the Neelimalai after worshipping in Pamba Ganapathy, Sri Rama, Hanuman and Shakti temples and offer some contributions to those belonging to Pandala dynasty. They get Vibhuti Prasad from them. Women are not allowed to proceed further beyond this point.


This is indeed an uphill task as in Karimalai. Knees would hit the ground while climbing. Sage Madhanga lived here with his daughter Neeli and performed penance on Lord Shiva, hence the name Neelimalai, it is said. In the beginning, a road branched from here called Subramaniya path. Things needed for Aiyappa temple are carried through this path on donkeys.

Apppachi Medu and Ippachi Kuzhi are plain places on the Neelimalai hill way. Those visiting Aiyappa Temple for the first time (called Kanni Swamis) throw rice flour balls from Appachi Medu. It is said that this is to please the jungle Gods – Vana Devadas.

Sabari Peetam

Sabari Peeth is at the peak of Neelimalai. Lord Sri Rama’s celebrated devotee Sabari lived here after whom this name came into being. It is noteworthy that while devotees were after Lord Vishnu in his incarnations, it is Lord, during his exile went to see this great devotee during His Ramavatara. Many sages sought His help as Viswamitra. Lord Rama accumulated the blessings of the sages.

Sabari collected the fruits from the forests. Checked the taste of the fruits and kept them to offer to the Lord when He came to meet her. These were fruits that could be taken even if they dried. Lord met her, accepted her hospitality and granted salvation to her. The hill is aptly named after her. Devotees break coconuts here, show camphor Arti, worship and proceed further. The path is plain and comfortable for the devotees from here.

Elephant track

The path towards the Aiyappa shrine bifurcates here. The left track is called Elephant track. Devotees take the other track called Sarankuthi Pathai.


For the first time devotees, Sarankuthi is considered very sacred. They bring with them the wooden knives they used in the Pettai Tullal ritual in Erumeli and throw them in this place. The Great Maha Sannidhanam of Lord Aiyappan is just at a short distance from this place.

Sannidhanam – the merciful shrine of Lord Aiyappa

The devotee feels the blissful experience on seeing the golden temple of Lord Aiyappa. The chanting sound “Charanam Aiyappa” echoes in all directions and the sky.

Ponnu Pathinettam Padi – 18 steps of gold

The first darshan before the devotee is the 18 steps all covered with gold. Before placing their feet on the first step, the devotees worship Kaduthasami and Karuppusami, forgetting all the difficulties they experienced on the way to this great shrine. They begin the stepping with Charana chorus. The devotee automatically sheds his ego by breaking the coconuts. As all the 18 steps represent a deity, only those with their Irumudi package are allowed to use the steps to reach the Sannidhanam.


This Vedic reading ‘Tatvamasi’ greets the devotee at the entrance of the shrine. It is culled from the Vedas, meaning Thou art thou. Elaborating, the greeting reminds the devotee that what he seeks is in him. It says, “you need not have taken the pains to reach me here all the way through jungles and hills, because I am in you. As I protect you from here, to too should help and protect those depending on you. Speak good, do good and seek good.” This is the philosophy of ‘Tatvamasi.’

Sanctum Sanctorum

Reaching the Sannidhanam through the steps, devotees pass through the flag post, go round the shrine and pray to Lord Aiyappa and feel the satisfaction of gaining the purpose of life.

Lord Aiyappa graces from the sanctum sanctorum as an embodiment of Bliss, as Lord of this Kaliyuga granting the devotee all he expects. The Chinmudra symbol explains what knowledge really means and tell him that He would not simply be satisfied with visit through long difficult paths but that He would be happy only if he sheds his arrogance, jealousy and illusions believing that material objects alone can offer all pleasures of life. The Lord also reminds that His pointing finger is the Jeevatma which should join the thumb the Paramatma. “Oh! human, reach me after shedding the vices in you” says the Lord.

The devotee should not fail to notice the Vastra in the feet of the Lord called Yoga Pattam. Lord grants darshan with half-open eyes in meditating form.

Ghee Abishek

After darshan of Lord Aiyappa, the devotee should worship Kanni Moola Ganapathy and Nagar and get down from the sanctum sanctorum. Along with the Guru accompanying the group of pilgrims, he must perform puja to the Irumudi package carried by them, take out the coconut filled with ghee and offer the ghee for abishek to Lord. The devotee can take back one half of the ghee coconut as the Prasad and throw the other half in the fire pit (Agni Kundam) before the 18 steps.

Manja Matha

Mother Manja Matha graces from a shrine left of Aiyappan temple. The devotee should spray turmeric powder here and roll a coconut and go round the shrine, offer puja with camphor arti. The Jewel box – Tiruvabarana petti – is placed here only in the mandap and pujas performed. Near Manja Matha shrine are the shrines for Nagar and Navagrahas the nine planets, where Kodukatti Padal is chanted. Those facing adverse aspects of Saturn pray here engaging Kodukatti artists to sing these songs and worship Manja Matha.

Jyoti Darshan

Gracing the devotees in His penance posture all the days, on the Makara Sankranthi day, Lord Aiyappa appears to the devotees in His alluring attire and jewels. After 6.00 p.m. Lord Aiyappa grants His Jyoti Darshan to devotees from Kanthamalai, the fifth of His hills.

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