Ancient Hindu sages believed that periodic fasts or vrithams purify the human mind and body. By adhering to an austere way of life and observing tapas in body, mind and speech, man transcends his earthly limitations and changes for the better, so says the Bhagavad Gita. A devotee aspiring for a darshan of Lord Ayyappan has to be pure both mentally and physically and for this, he is expected to observe a mandatory fast (vritham) of 41 days that usually begins on the first day of the Malayalam month of Vrischikam in mid November. A pilgrim who is on his maiden trip to Sabarimala is called a Kanni Ayyapppan.
The 41-days fast highlights the significance of austerity and abstinence in the lives of those seeking a complete merger with the Ultimate. A devotee has to abide by several regulations and dictates if he is to mount the pathinettu padikal and enter the temple on Sabarimala.
The devotee embarks on the 41-day vritham after he gains permission from his parents and Guru. Next, an auspicious day is fixed for the commencement of the vritham and on the eve of the said date, he offers poojas to the family deity and makes a holy knot with yellow cloth containing 1.25 currency units and presents it to the family deity thereby gaining his/her approval to begin the vritham.