The Joy of Pain – Sabarimalai

“Swami Appa, Ayappa”

Deep breath…

“Saranam Appa, Ayappa”

I chanted slowly, catching up with my breath as I try to digest through what I’ve got myself involved with…

As I looked ahead, darkness started to fall in and we’re now walking deep inside the forest, and our journey had just began. After 48 days of intense spiritual fasting in Malaysia, the journey to Sabarimalai now starts from Erumeli and it will be a long walk; around 86 km’s till we reach Sabarimalai, the abode of Lord Ayappa.

Me with Suren Sami, and Perumal Sami

Around 50 million strong crowd throng the Dharma Sastha temple in Sabarimalai from November to January each year, making it the largest pilgrimage in the world.

“AYYAPPAN know as AYYAN who belonged to the Vellalar Kulam, was the army chief of the Pandalam royal family.Ayyan was instrumental in the defeat of Udayanan, who attacked Sabarimala and tried to demolish the ancient Sastha temple in the thick forest of present Pathanamthitta district.

During a clash, Ayyappan got killed. After the demise of Ayyappan; people thought that he was the avatar of Lord Sastha and began to worship him. Later Ayyappan and Sastha became synonymous.”

I’m very lucky because during my growing up years, I’ve always been exposed with spiritualism. I’ve tried and experimented with many types of things, until I got involved seriously in yoga and subsequently Kriya Yoga. But sufficient to say, from piercing to ‘god downloading’, I’ve tried it all.

I’ve heard about the practice of Ayappa fasting, and knew that it is extremely challenging. One should be a complete Brahmachari throughout the fasting period, restraining physically and mentally from sex or sexual pleasure. Every woman must be regarded as mother. Only vegetarian meals are allowed, and you’re not allowed to eat in a shop where they serve vegetarian and non-veg together. After cold showers, prayers must be conducted twice a day, before the sunrise and after the sunset. Alcohol, smoking, ganja, pil kuda and other intoxicating products must be avoided completely. You’re encouraged to wear black to show that you’ve detached yourself from material life, and footwear are not allowed unless to your workplace. You must also sleep on the floor, with just a mat pillowed by your hand. No usage of foul language, and talk as less as you can. You must avoid engaging any of your enemies no matter how angry you may feel. Once this fasting is completed, a devotee will then make the intense and long journey to Sabarimalai; to meet Lord Ayappa.

The journey through the forest full of traditional herbs and at the same time, wild animals.

To look at it from one angle, once you’ve decided to wear Ayappa Malai; the benefit that you would derive would be immense because your lifestyle would change totally. With healthy vegetarian meals for over 2 months, you would be able to go through the process of detoxification; helped with the fact that you can’t consume any intoxicants like alcohol too. By sleeping on the floor, it helps your blood circulation. Disengaging from sexual thoughts and pleasure is one of the key to reach higher level of spiritual stage.

We had the fortunate blessing to serve Anadhanam to the hardcore poor – all credits to our guruswami Sathiasami.


“Kallum Mullum, Kalleke Methei” (Sharp rocks are bed of roses for my feet)
“Swamiyei,……, Ayappa” (My Lord….. Ayappa)

And I chanted and walked onto the rocky steep mountains. Words can’t say the pain, but since I’m inexperienced, it was intense. It’s like stepping onto sharp waterfall rocks. And yes, there is no such thing as flat smooth road. Throughout the journey to Sabarimalai, you would be stepping on sharp rocks and thorns. And to add in more challenge, you will have to hike 3 steep mountains surrounded by thick forest infested with wild animals. I realized the reason why we’re not allowed to wear footwear even in Malaysia.

Resting in one of the ‘R&R’

The journey was guided by a senior Swami called Guruswami.I was extremely lucky to be guided by two amazing individuals, my guruswami Sathiasami and DJsami. For me, the journey itself was a great lesson. It taught me about self discipline, friendship, team work and how we have to overcome challenges and help each other to make sure everyone completes their journey. With nearly 5 kgs of backpack and nearly 1 kg of irumudi( an offering you hold on your head),most of us struggle through with some calling in sick in the first few kms. Some team mates twisted their ankles, some injured by the rocks, some vomiting profusely, and the rest suffering from intense pain.

I’m naturally a very fit person due to my active lifestyle, but it was of no use in Sabarimalai.I realized at that instance that this is NOT a journey for someone who is physically fit, this is a journey for someone who is spiritually fit.

1. Erumeli
2. Perur Thodu
3. Kaalaketi
4. Azhutha
5. Azhutha River
6. Kallidumkunnu
7. Inchipparakota
8. Mukkuzhi
9. Karivalam Thodu
10. Karimalai
11. Periya AnaVattam
12. Seriya AnaVattam
13. Pampa Nadi

After walking about 2 days, we reached Sabarimalai. The intense spiritual vibration in Sabarimalai was beyond words, it is something that you have to go through. I’ve visited hundreds of spiritual locations in the past, but obviously Sabarimalai tops it all. Your spiritual charge would be at a totally different level once you’re there. It is no wonder why people are dying to get into this heaven on earth. When I saw Lord Ayappa for the first time, the intense joy and love that rushed through my spine was extraordinary.


The whole journey from the first day I put on my malai to the day I took it out was beyond ordinary, and it’s an addiction. This is a spiritual addiction. Only someone who had gone through the pain would be able to say how joyful it is in the end.Only someone who had gone through would be able to feel the joy; for it is beyond words to convey the message behind this practice.

Sabarimalai is a place blessed by the Supreme Energy of the Universe, and as expected; our ancestors consisting of Great Maharishis and Sages had carefully planned steps and rules to be followed by all, which in the end benefits none other than the devotees themselves. I just can’t wait for the next round.

May the Blessings of the Supreme Energy of the Universe be with us all. Swamiye Saranam Ayappa.


12 comments to The Joy of Pain – Sabarimalai

  • Anonymous

    Thumb up Thumb down +2

    I would like to ask a question though; why are females not allowed in taking up the Ayyapan fasting and not allowed into the Sabari Malai unless its a child or an elderly woman? I heard these things before and do not know whether its true or not, but I wasn’t given a convincing explanation. And, these days, there are married woman and menstruating young ladies who takes up Ayyapan fasting as well, is it okay?

    • Durai

      M1 comment! Thumb up Thumb down +15


      I’m going to answer this from my own point of view.

      Women in between the age of 10-50 are not allowed to Sabarimala temple, simply because of their menstruation cycle; therefore during this period they’re considered unclean. In Hindu temples worldwide, women are not allowed or not encouraged to visit temples during this period because of the ‘negative’ energy they may bring.There are a lot of other reasons being given though, such as it may distract male devotees practicing their ‘Bramachari’ and so on.

      Personally for me, Lord is all accepting and He is beyond all rules. Rules are set by human beings. My personal view about this, everyone should be given the rights to worship Him, regardless of their physical condition. Most male devotees break the rules by smoking in Sabarimala and using public places as public toilets, so if a women devotee is considered unclean just because of conditions set by nature, I couldn’t digest the fact.

      But rules having set by great Mahans and Rishis, there is a lot of contradicting theories on how menstruation period can affect spiritual vibration in spiritual places, but I’m not knowledgeable enough to answer this. I’m quite sure there is a valid reason behind this, but I personally wouldn’t be able to accept it because what matters personally to me is intense devotion towards the Supreme Spirit sitting in whatever form that we can see, such as Lord Ayappa or Darmha Sastha.

      • B

        Thumb up Thumb down +3

        Thanks a lot for that reply, Durai. That’s also what I believe: God is beyond all physical rules such as these. After all, Lakshmi and Saraswati were both females, but there is no indication of them being considered “unclean” during their menstrual periods.

  • Sunder

    Thumb up Thumb down +2

    What I think is..One who completes 41 Days of Fasting (1 mandalam) are allowed to go to sabarimala and When someone can complete the fasting cycle you are allowed to see him.So ladies only can complete this before the age of 10 and after the age of 50.Swamiye saranam ayyappa

  • logic889

    Poorly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up Thumb down -7

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    • Malaysian Sensation

      Thumb up Thumb down +2

      Your sentence and reference made no correlation and sense at all.

      SKD said your lifestyle will change which is true and obvious. Sleeping on the floor, barefooted, and mental preparation-these are not the daily stuffs that you do.

      Lifestyle is individual based and you are blabbering about a country’s performance. hahah wow da.

      logic eh tukki kuppeileh podengge.

  • logic889

    Poorly-rated. Like or Dislike: Thumb up Thumb down -6

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

  • shiva neha

    Thumb up Thumb down +2

    bootha naatha sathaa nantha, sarva bootha thayabara…
    ratcha ratcha maha babu.. saasthre thurbyam namo namaha…

    agilanda kodi bramanda nayagan engal aiyan aiyappan….

    swamye…..saranam aiyappa….

    may lord shiva bless always…

  • Heman

    Thumb up Thumb down +2

    this is NOT a journey for someone who is physically fit, this is a journey for someone who is spiritually fit.

    Well said brother!


    Thumb up Thumb down +1

    the rules are not set by humans as you wish to believe Durai.. and the vedas may seem contradictory because you are noit learning it from the right people.. there is something called a disciplic sucession- heard abt it.. the knowledge is passed down from the Supreme Lord right down to his bona-fide reps. In this way, the knowledge is absolute truth, no concoction, no speculation or interpretations made by men.. but good luck in finding such a Guru…

  • Chiru lion Brothers

    Thumb up Thumb down 0

    What is meaning of “Anandachitta ayyanayyappa swamiye sharanamayyappa”


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