Females who menstruate (usually between the ages of approximately 12 and 50) are not allowed to enter the temple, since the story attributed to Ayyappa prohibits the entry of the women in the menstrual age group. This is because Ayyappan is a Bramhachari (celibate). The temple is open for worship only during the days of Mandalapooja (approximately 15 November to 26 December), Makaravilakku or "Makar Sankranti" (14 January) and Maha Vishuva Sankranti (14 April), and the first five days of each Malayalam month.
Sabarimala is a shrine for lord Ayyappan, who is a chronic bachelor or "brahmachari".He took a vow of celibacy due to which women are not allowed into the premises.
The Sabarimala pilgrimage ritual is also very stringent and difficult. It involves 41 days of celibacy, cooking one's own food, wearing all black, not wearing footwear, not trimming or shaving body hair and nails and wearing the sacred garland (mala).
In modern times, the temple premises and the roads leading to it have been cleared out. But in the past, it was notorious for wild animals, thorny and stony paths and was all in all a very arduous journey.