There are five important temples dedicated to Lord Ayyappa in the
Western Ghats in Kerala including the famous Sabarimala Shrine. It is believed that these temples were founded by Lord Parashurama. Dharma Shasta or Lord Ayyappa is represented in different stages of his life in these temples. Legend has it that Lord Ayyappa passed through Kulathupuzha, Aryankavu and Achankoil on his return to with the milk of leopardess. Madurai
In the Ayyappa temple at Kulathupuzha near Thenmala in Kollam District, Lord appears as Balaka or child and is known as ‘Manikantan.’ (more details about Kulathupuzha Ayyappa Temple)
At Aryankavu in Kollam District, Lord Ayyappa appears as a young man - Brahmachari. The temple is closely associated with the Pandi Raja of
. (more details about Aryankavu Shastha Temple) Madurai
in Pathanamthita District, the Lord appears as a Grahastha with his two consorts Poorna and Pushkala. The idol of Ayyappa here is in Rudraksha Shila. (more details about Achankoil Ayyappa Temple) Achankoil Sasta Temple
At Sabarimala, Lord is depicted in the Vanaprastha form. And this is the most popular shrine.
At Ponnambala Medu or Kantamala, the Lord appears as yogi and the ‘Makaravilaku’ emanate from here. (Public is not allowed to visit this part of the forest.)
It must be noted that temples dedicated to Lord Ayyappa or Dharma Shasta can be found in several parts of Kerala, in other Indian states and in foreign countries. In Kerala, even in temple dedicated to other gods in Hindu pantheon, there will be a Sasta shrine.