Ancestors of the Pandalam Royal family came to Kerala in Malayalam Era 79 from Madurai in Tamil Nadu. Hailing from the Pandya dynasty they fled from Madurai following the threat to their lives posed by machinations of their own ministers.On reaching Pandalam after several sojourns en route, the family was helped by rulers of Venad to settle down. Later, they helped Marthanda Varma Raja to subjugate Kayamkulam.By 370 ME other branches of the dynasty came from Tamil Nadu and a full-fledged kingdom was established which was also known as Airoor Swaroopam.
During 1789 AD, Tipu Sultan attacked Kerala. But the offensive was snubbed by Marthanda Varma. After the battle, a war tax was imposed on all small kingdoms and Pandalam's share was Rs 2,20,001.Known as Pandalam Adamanam, the amount included revenue from Sabarimala Sastha Temple also. However, the Pandalam family failed to pay the amount following which the Raja of Travancore instructed them to hand over all areas to him. In turn, the Travancore king, through the directive of 996 ME, agreed to pay each member of Pandalam family

an amount big enough to take care of their needs.The oldest member of the family is selected as the Raja. The present Raja is 83-year-old Punartham Naal Ravi Varma Thampuran.

The connection between the Pandalam family and Sabarimala is as old as the Ayyappa myth. The most repeated story is the adoption of Ayyappa into the family after King Rajasekhara found him on the banks of River Pamba; about how Ayyappa successfully fetched tiger's milk and exposed the plot to kill him.Though the Pandalam raja apologised for the Queen's folly, Ayyappa insisted on returning to the forest and a temple was constructed at a place where existed a Sastha temple.Even though this is just another theory about the origin of Sabarimala, this story gained credence in spiritual circles. Says Punartham Naal Ravi Varma Thampuran, the present king of Pandalam: ``Whenever a mishap has occurred at Sabarimala, clear omens were witnessed in the palace. Thrice the temple caught fire and at the same time, the same day there were fire-related accidents in the palace.''
History tells this is true. However, for the average pilgrim Pandalam is the place where Ayyappa grew up. The pond in which he bathed and the temple where he prayed are still on the palace premises.The palace itself is on borrowed time. Nothing much is being done by the Government or the Travancore Devaswom Board to protect the premises which carries lot of religious sentiments.
Another interesting aspect is that the king of Pandalam never visits Sabarimala. The belief is that Ayyappa would stand up from his posture to greet the king, who is like father to him. Hence, once a member is selected as the valiyathampuran, he stops going to Sabarimala.

Deluged with religious fervour thousands of pairs of eyes scanned the clear blue sky even as the crowd in the courtyard of Pandalam palace grew restless on that 28 day of Malayalam month Dhanu.
``There, there is the Krishnaparunthu,'' someone cried out pointing at the speck that appeared from somewhere and hovered magnanimously over the area. From somewhere a bright star braved the fierce sun to underscore a mythological enigma.
Soon the lone voice became a mass murmur. ``Swamiye Saranamayyappa,'' thousands cried in unison as members of the royal family prepared to start the procession carrying the thiruvabharanam, set of ornaments of Lord Ayyappa. History was repeating at Pandalam. The representative of the Raja of Pandalam stepped into the palanquin. Floating on a sea of pilgrims, boxes containing the Thiruvabharanam slowly began yet another pilgrimage to Sabarimala. Thiruvabharana procession is one important feature of the Makaravilakku festival, the second part of the annual congregation at the hill shrine. This precious set of ornaments is kept under the custody of the Pandalam royal family even today reaffirming the mythology that Lord Ayyappa was the adopted son of the Pandalam raja. The ornaments are believed to have been made by the king for his son.
The idol of Lord Ayyappa at the hill shrine are adorned with these ornaments only once in a year, during the Makara Vilakku festival. The procession carrying the ornaments follows the traditional route. It reaches Aiyroor on the first day and Laha on the second day.
By afternoon on the third day, the procession reaches Saramkuthy, where stands a pipal tree where devotees deposit toy arrows and bows they buy from Erumely to re-enact Ayyappa's victory in war over dacoit-King Udayan. (Details in mythology). The representative of the king will not accompany the thiruvabharana procession from Neelimalathodu as it is believed that no member of the Pandalam family should visit Sabarimala during Makravilakku season. At Saramkuthy, the procession is received by temple authorities. And as the Deeparadhana is performed after adorning the idol with Thiruvabharanam, the legendary Makaravilakku appears at Ponnambalamedu, a mountain range opposite Sannidhanam.
The king's representative comes to Sannidhanam on Makaram 3. And the chief priest welcomes him at Pathinettampady by washing his legs, the only occasion in Kerala history when a Brahmin washes a Kshatriya's feet. He leaves the premises only on Makaram 7 after all pujas. The chief priest closes the shrine and hands over the key to him which in turn is given to the priest with the instructions to safeguard the shrine till he visits the son next year.Another specialty is that only members of Pandalam family are allowed to enter the temple premises through Pathinettampady without an irumudy. In fact, if one were to rummage through the dusty pages of palace records many more striking facts strengthening ageold beliefs can be found.

a. Pandalam Valiyakoyikkal Dharmasastha Temple:
Believed to be constructed by King Rajasekhara soon after his return from Sabarimala after Ayyappa's installation, this temple was built to worship the Lord everyday.Instead of an Ayyappa idol, sadagramam, a piece of rock with considerable gold content, is worshipped here. The Valiyakoyikkal temple has been functioning as a private place of worship. Morever, this is a temple sans festivities.The shrine remains closed for 12 days on the death of any member of the royal family. Says Punartham Naal Ravi Varma Thampuran, the present raja of Pandalam: ``Certain omens appear in the temple as harbinger of an impending tragedy. Like successeive priests have noticed the presence of ants in the sanctum sanctorum before a death in the family.''
b. Kaipuzha Sri Krishna Temple:
This is an ancient temple on the banks of Achankoil River. The idol of the temple is Narasimha Murthy, believed to be a very powerful avatar of Lord Vishnu.Following several unfortunate incidents in the palace, astrologers suggested that the power of the idol should be decreased. And as per the direction of the pundits, priests chanted santhanagopalam to decrease its power, it is said.Elders of the area say that there is a secret tunnel from the temple to the palace. No archaeological exploration has been undertaken to check-out on this theory. But one fact remains that there is an underground cell in the temple which has not been opened. Though Devaswom authorities conducted two devaprasnams (astrological ), they were advised not to touch the cellar on both occasions.
c. Kaipuzha Siva Temple:
This temple was built by Pandalam Royal Family for worshipping. The most famous Siva temple in Pandalam is the Mahadevar Kshetram and the lord is considered as the guardian of the land.After the kings found it difficult to reach this shrine, they invoked the Lord on to a new idol and installed it at the Kaipuzha shrine.
d. Palace pond:

On the premises of the Pandalam palace covered by overgrown shrubs and weeds is a deep pond. It is believed that Lord Ayyappa used to take bath in this pond during his childhood. However, today it's discarded and remains unsung, unheard Though both tantri and mel shanthi hail from the Brahmin community, there are several differences in the rights each one enjoy at a temple. While Tantri is the chief priest or presiding priest who has the final say in ritualistic matters, mel shanthi presides over the pujas only for a time-span.In the case of Sabarimala, tantris from the Thazhamon family supervise the pujas while the mel shanthi is selected every year through a draw of lots.

Seat of the Thazhamon family of tantris is Chengunnur in central Kerala. They are the traditional priests of Sabarimala temple. Apart from Sabarimala, the family presides over the pujas at Aryankavu, Achankoil and Kulathupuzha.The installation of idols at these temples was also performed by Thazhamon priests and this gives them a paternal status vis-a-vis the respective temple. ''The tantri turns a statue into God,'' points out Tantri Kandaru Rajeevaru of Thazhamon, one of the two Tantri familes in Kerala; the other being Tharanallur in North Kerala.The myth about the origin of these families dates back to the time of Sage Parasurama.The sage brought two able Brahmins from Andhra to Kerala for looking after pujas at the 108 Sastha temples and 108 Durga temples he had built in the State after creating it from the Ocean.En route to Kerala they came on the banks of swirling River Krishna. For testing the powers of the Brahmins, the sage asked them to cross the river.The first priest walked over the current to the other bank. But the second priest stopped the flow of the river and walked through the river bed.PArasurama was pleased with them and granted them titles.
While the Brahmin who walked over the water was called Tharananelloor (Tharanam means to cross), the other priest was called Thazhamon (the one who walked on the sand below the river). The sage also bestowed the title Kandararu to the Thazhamon family.The present idol at the Sabarimala was installed by late Kandararu Sankararu.
The earlier idol which was destroyed in a fire was installed by Kandararu Prabhakararu.Eldest among the present generation of priests at Thazhamon is Kandararu Neelakantararu. The others are his brother Kandararu Maheswararu and son Kandararu Mohanararu, and son of his late brother Kandararu Krishnararu, Kandararu Rajeevararu.Each priest officiates the proceedings once in three years.The male child in the family is initiated into the tantric world soon after his upanayanam at the age of five. The boy observes three years of brahmacharyam and wears blades of the dharbha grass on his body.This period is followed by samavarthana kaalam. During this time the boy is taught vedas, mantras and other rituals. After samavarathanam, he will have to observe penance for a year. This is followed by a pilgrimage to Sabarimala as a junior tantri.He begins performing pujas alone at the age of 18. Before this he would've obtained the `Rahasya upadesham' (secret and sacred advice which is given to the member of family only at a particular age).Even the women of the family have to follow certain practices. From the third month of pregnance they have to start consuming medicated ghee. There are several other traditions to be followed in the successive months.

Unlike the tantri, the chief priest is selected every year. And one gets only one chance in his life.Only those brahmins with the deep knowledge of mantras and who satisfy many other criteria can apply for the post.The Devaswom Board holds the interview after a preliminary screening. The final selection is through draw of lots.
The names of those selected from the interview are put in an urn. Title chief priest is written on a piece of paper and is deposited in another urn contaning similar number pieces. The tantri performs certain pujas and the urns are broht out of the sanctum sanctorum.A young devotee on pilgrimage is invited to draw the lots. He'll have to pick up one piece from each urn. When the name of a priest and the paper scribbled chief priest are drawn together, that person is appointed to the post.