Makara Vilakku Pooja is a seven-day festival conducted annually in the famous Ayyappa Temple at Sabarimala. The festival begins on the auspicious day of Makara Sankranthi, the day on which the sun is in summer solstice (vernal equinox). This is also the first day of the Malayalese month of Makaram. Makara Vilakku Pooja commemorates the day on which idol of Lord Ayyappa or Dharma Sastha was enshrined in the temple and is the most important event to be conducted at Sabarimala. Thousands of devotees gather to participate in the celebrations of Makara Vilakku every year. Mandala Pooja festival extends to 41 days prior to Makara Sankranthi.

Ayyappa Temple at Sabarimala in Pathanamthitta district of Kerala is the most sacred pilgrimage centre for the people of Kerala. Presiding deity of Sabarimala shrine is Lord Ayyappa known as Dharma Sastha, a symbol of unity between Vaishnavites and Saivites. This is so because, Ayappan is said to be born of union between Lord Vishnu and Shiva when the former took the avatar of Mohini, the seductress. Shiva succumbed to the charms of Mohini and Ayappa was born out of this union. Hence Ayappa is also called ‘Hari Hara Putra’ where ‘Hari’ is Vishnu, ‘Hara’ is Shiva and ‘Putra’ means son. No wonder, Sabarimala attracts lakhs of devotees from across the country particularly, southern states of India every year.

What makes the shrine so much more interesting is the rugged terrain on which it is located. The spirit of the thousands of devotees must be saluted who walk this terrain on foot as no other means of transport function in the rough stretches of Western Ghats where Sabarimala is located. Pilgrims have to make their way through the dense forests housing wild animals. For the lovers of adventure, there is a mandatory, 5 km stretch from Pamba to the shrine which can be passed only by trekking. Pilgrimage to Sabarimala requires a lot of prior preparations and is not advisable on all times. It is open only from November to January.