Sabarimal Temple - the shrine of Lord Ayyappa - is located atop a hill, 3000 metres above the sea level, at Sabarimala in Pathanamthitta district of Kerala. The Sabarimala temple was once owned by the royal family of Pandalam, and its administration was handed over to the then princely state of Travancore in 1949. It is one of the largest annual pilgrimages in the world, with millions of people offering prayers at the temple chiefly from the five south Indian
states. The temple opens for devotees to offer prayers for the first five days of every month in the Malayalam calendar, as well as during the annual ‘mandalam’ and ‘makaravilakku’ festivals between mid-November to mid-January. The pilgrims arrive at the temple after they undertake a rigorous 41-day vratham, or a vow of abstinence. The Supreme Court, in a historic verdict, this year lifted the centuries-old entry ban on women of all ages in the shrine.