Three routes to Sabarimala (0929 North 7706 East)
The Erumeli route
The Erumeli route, used by Ayyappan himself during his forest expedition to kill Mahishi. The Erumeli route is the most arduous and the pilgrims cover about 61 km on foot through forest and hill track.
The Vandiperiyar route
The Vandiperiyar route starts at 94.4 km stone on the Kotayam - Kumili road. The Sannidhanam is about 12.8 km from here.
The Chalakayam route
The Chalakayam route is the easiest of all. Chalakayam is near Pampa river. Sannidhanam is just 8 km from here.
Important places the pilgrims crosses between Erumeli and Sannidhanam are :
It is a river about 4 km from Erumeli. Lord Ayyappa rested here during his expedition. It is from here the rise begins. Giving alms here is important. By giving alms, one is disposing of all dharma and seeking asylum in Ayyappa. The forest beyond Perur Thodu is poongavanam (Ayyappan's garden).
About 10 km from Perur Thodu is Kalaketti. The legend says that Lord Shiva, Ayyappa's father, came on his ox and tied it here and witnessed Lord Ayyappa killing Mahishi. There is a shrine where the pilgrims light camphor and break coconuts.
Azhutha river, a tributary of Pampa, is about 2 km from Kalaketti. On the far side of the river is the steep Azhutha hill, famous for its arduous track. In the ascent of 2 km of steep climb there is hardly anyone who does not shed tears. At the summit of Azhutha is Kallidumkunnu. The pilgrims drop the pebble taken by them from Azhutha river here. This is done as the mortal remains of Mahishi was cast off here and filled with stones.
The next important place is the Inchipparakota where there is Kotayil Sastha shrine. Pilgrims offer prayers here and break coconuts. From here the pilgrims descent the slippery path carefully. The descent ends at Karimala thodu (canal) with Azhutha hill on one side and Karimala hill on the other. Pilgrims rest here for a while.
Karimala is the abode of elephants which visits the Karimala canal to drink water. Pilgrims light the aazhi (campfire) to protect themselves from wild animals and cold weather. Karimala hill consists of seven levels and is climbed in stages. As the ascent of 5 km is difficult the pilgrims continuously chant saranams. On top of Karimala the terrain is flat suitable for the pilgrims to rest. It is interesting to see the Nazhikkinar - a well within a well with fresh spring like water. There deities of Karimalanthan, Kochukaduthaswami and Karimala Bhagawathi. From here after the exhausting descent, Pampa river is about 5 kms.
THE DIVINE PAMPA
Pampa is the most important and holy spot on the way to Sannidhanam. It is here Lord Ayyappa was found by King Rajasekara. The Pampa river is as holy as the Ganges. The Pampa water purifies one from curse and evil.
This was the Kota where Shri Sabari, in Sri Rama's era, performed Tapas. Pilgrims worship here breaking coconuts, firing crackers and lighting camphor.
Half way between Sabari Peetam and Sannidhanam is Saramkuthi. Kanniswamy leave the wooden arrow they picked from Erumeli here.
The holy Patinettampadi (18 steps) is 15 minute walk from Saramkuthi. The Golden steps is such a magnificent sight. Pilgrims chant saranams loudly. After breaking the coconut they climb the 18 steps to have the darshan of Lord Ayyappa.