Thiruvananthapuram: The famous Sabarimala temple pilgrimage season is all set to begin when the sanctum sanctorum opens in the early hours of Friday.
The pilgrimage season coincides with the first day of Malayalam month `Vrishickam` (this year it falls Nov 16).
Situated on the mountain ranges of the Western Ghats, at an altitude of 914 metres above sea level, Sabarimala temple is four kilometres uphill from Pamba in Pathanamthitta district.
It is one of the most famous Hindu pilgrim centres in India and has earned the tag of `Mecca for Hindus`.
The temple, which bars the entry of women who have attained puberty, is accessible only on foot from Pamba.
Even though the temple is now open on the first few days every month of the Malayalam calendar, the peak pilgrimage season begins on the first day of the Malayalam month in November and ends in January.
Like the previous season, the unique online Q-booking has also been opened. Last season 7.43 lakh pilgrims used this facility, while 32 lakh pilgrims could book their darshan this season.
Pilgrims desirous of obtaining an advance Q-coupon for booking a darshan can log on to www.sabarimala.keralapolice.gov.in and book their time of darshan.
Over the years more people from the southern states are turning up for the pilgrimage.
The more serious pilgrim, before setting off to the holy shrine, undertakes an intense 41-day penance -- he does not wear sandals, sports a black dhoti and is a strict vegetarian.
When he sets off for the pilgrimage, he carries ghee-filled coconuts in a cloth bag. The coconut is broken and the ghee is ceremoniously poured upon the icon of Ayyappa.
The ghee-filled coconut symbolizes man`s ego shrouding his soul essence.
When the ghee is released from the coconut and anoints the icon of Lord Ayyappa, the essence of the soul of the devotee is said to unite with the essence of God, thus bringing the pilgrimage to its zenith.
The Indian Railways, on account of the pilgrim season, will put more number of bogies in trains to facilitate smooth travel for the pilgrims from the nearby states. Likewise, the state-owned transport corporation has also made elaborate arrangements.