As I mentioned in my previous Wizzley page on the legends associated with Sabarimala temple, Swami Ayyappa is a Brahmachari. All the devotees who wish to visit the temple, also practice some strict customs before going to the temple, to follow the traditions and rules of the temple. Let us have a look at the general practices.
The devotees going for the pilgrimage have to wear a chain made of holy basil beads, mostly for the 41 days. Once someone wear the holy necklace, he is regarded as a Swami. He is expected to stay away from non vegetarian food, alcohol and such things and also follow a celibate life even if married.
After following this lifestyle for 41 days, the pilgrimage will begin, traditionally walking a long way by foot, to the mountains where the temple is located. I know those who even walk kilometres to reach the temple, taking days for the travel. It is very hard to do so, but that is the speciality of Sabarimala pilgrimage. Today, many people travel by vehicles up to a particular point near to the mountains, then walk from there. Everyone has to go through the mountains to reach the top, and then go through the 18 holy steps to get inside the temple.
It has to be noted that the pilgrims walk through the mountains with bare foot.
The devotees carry a bundle of many holy items including coconuts and such items in their head, while they go to the temple. The bundle in cloth is known as "irumudikkettu", the items inside which is usually filled during a pooja or rituals performed before you start the pilgrimage. The coconut is usually filled with ghee and the devotees break it before entering to the temple.
If you think you cannot follow the traditional customs for 41 days, you can wear the holy basil chain just before going for the pilgrimage.