Before taking the vows for the pilgrimage, seeking the permission and the blessing of the parents is a must.
The devotees undertaking the pilgrimage for the first time (called ‘Kanni Ayyappan‘) should seek the guidance of a senior Guruswamy.
The Vritam (vow) should be observed for at least 45 to 48 days before ascending the sacred 18 steps to the sanctum sanctorum (sannidhanam) of Sabarimala. The Vritam is very simple and easily observable. The devotees shall try to be pure in all the 3 aspects – Kaaya (Physical) Vaacha (Speech) and Manasa (Mental) and obey the Guruswamy always.
Strict celibacy, repeated chanting of the ‘taaraka mantram’ ie SWAMIYE SARANAM AYYAPPA, conditions the body for the trek through the Sabari hills.
Utmost devotion, honesty and unfliching faith in His ultimate grace, abstinence from alcohol and non-vegetarian food, are the other prerequisites.
During Deeksha, the devotees shall be in black or saffron clothes, remain unshaven, wear Tulsi or Rudraksha mala.
The sacred mala should be worn in the presence of a Guruswamy. If unable, then place mala at the altar, chant “Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa” thrice and then wear.
Once you wear the mala, ensure you observe full Vritam. The devotees shall participate in Bhajans, pooja etc.
Devotion alone is the surest and simplest way to take one nearer to the Almighty.