18 Steps - SABARIMALA

Built on a plateau about 40 feet high, the Ayyappan temple commands a lofty view of the mountains and valleys all around. The ancient temple has been rebuilt after a fire in 1950. Within the confines of the sanctum sanctorium with a copper-plated roof and four golden finials at the top, two mandapams, the belikalpura which houses the altar, the flag-staff replacing the earlier stone image of the deity, sits a beautiful idol of Ayyappa in panchaloha, an alloy of five metals, about one and a half feet tall.

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Before one views the Sanctum Sanctorum, one has to climb over eighteen sacred steps. These steps are now covered with `Panchaloham' (a special composition of gold, silver, copper, iron and tin. Pilgrims initiate their ascent up the Pathinettam Padi by placing their right foot on the first step. The symbolism of these 18 steps is as follows:-

The first five steps symbolise the five human senses (Panchendriyas) i.e. visual (vision), auditory (hearing), olfactory (smell), gustatory (taste) and tactile (touch). These signify the `mortal' nature of one's body.

The next eight steps symbolise the eight Ashtaragas viz, Kama, Krodha, Lobha, Moha, Madha, Maltsarya, Asooya, Dhumb (Love, Anger, Avarice, Lust, Pride, Unhealthy Competition, Jealousy and Boastfulness).

The next three steps stand for three Gunas or Thrigunas (nature-born qualities) i.e. Satva, ( perspicuity, discernment) , Rajas (activity, enjoyment) and Thamas (inactivity, stupor).

The last two steps represent Vidya (Knowledge) and Avidya (Ignorance).


It is assumed that after climbing up these eighteen steps reverently, one symbolically detaches oneself from all the worldly ties that bind one physically and mentally to the world . It is only then that a person will be in a receptive condition to be `one' in consonance with the concept of 'The Ultimate Creator.

Source: Spiritual Blossoms

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