Pandalam Palace lies on the banks of the Achankovil River and was resided by the royal family of Pandalam. This historical palace is situated in Pandalam, which is located at a distance of about 10 km from Adoor town. The royal family of this palace takes a significant place in the history of the state, Kerala. It is said that they are the descendants of the Pandya Kings of Madurai. Pandalam Palace not only carries a historical importance but it is also carries a religious magnitude. According to the legends, Lord Ayyappa was born from the King of Pandalam.
The banks of Achankovil River also have a temple dedicated to Lord Ayyappa. This temple is remarkably similar to the popular Sabarimala Temple. The most important festival celebrated in this region is Makaravilakku. During this festival, the sacred ornaments of Lord Ayyappa are carried in a magnificent procession from Pandalam Palace to Sabarimala three days before the festival. Religion accompanied with colorful festivities makes Pandalam Palace a famed destination among the travelers.
The main attraction of this palace is the Makarvilakku festival. It is a centuries old tradition that includes the decoration of the idol of Lord Ayyappa, with some special ornaments called Thiruvaabharanam. Then a grand procession is taken out from Pandalam to Sabarimala, which includes a distance of about 90 km. The locals participate in this procession with great zeal and devotional fervor. After the Makara-samkrama Pooja, the Thiruvaabharanam is brought back to the palace.
In a strong room in the palace near the Valiakoikkal Dharma Sastha temple, the Thiruvaabharanam is usually kept and every year, from the beginning of the Malayalam month, Vrischikam or mid-November, these ornaments, which are held in high admiration for their spiritual significance. Then it displayed for public viewing at the palace during all Wednesdays and Saturdays before taking them in procession to Sabarimala. All through the pilgrimage season, hundreds of pilgrims visit the Valiakoikkal Dharma Sastha temple and the Pandalam palace at Pandalam before heading towards the renowned Sabarimala temple. On the 28th of the month Dhanu or mid January, the Thiruvaabharanam is taken to Sabarimala after the required poojas are performed to the ornaments at the Valiakoikkal temple.
The relationship of father-son that exists between the Pandalam dynasty and Lord Ayyappa is kept alive till date by the devotees with celebrations in certain rituals. During the festival special privileges are bestowed upon the members of the royal family of Pandalam. The most noteworthy privilege given to them is to climb the Pathinettampadi, the eighteen sacred steps, without holding the Irumudikkettu on the head.
Neighboring the Pandalam palace is a temple of Dharma Sasthawhich, which is known as Valiyakoikkal Dharma Sasthatemple. The temple is said to have been structured by the king of Pandalam for his personal worship, after the release of the primeval Sri Dharma Sastha temple of Sabarimala by Lord Ayyappa and its revival.
The procession also includes a special palanquin, in which the representatives of the king of Pandalam are seated. All along the way, devotees assemble at various spots to pay their respects to the Thiruvaabharanam. Before reaching Sabarimala, the procession halts at two places, at Ayroor Puthiyakaavu Devi Temple on the first day and at Laha forest station on the second day. On the third day, on reaching Pampa, the representatives of the king stay back and camp at Pampa for two days. Then they proceed towards Sabarimala on the third day, which is on the third of the month of Makaram. On reaching Saramkuttiyaal, via Appachimedu and Sabaripeedam, the procession is received ceremoniously, which is accompanied by traditional instrumental music and guided to Sannidhaanam.