The number 18 has so many features with respects to legends. The importance of the number18 can be seen highlighted greatly by epics and sagas. The number of ancient holy scriptures are said to be 18. Likewise the number of chapters in the ancient text Bagavad Gita is also 18. The number of wars fought between god-men and demons are 18. The number of golden steps which lead to Sabarimala temple premise are also 18. There are many mythological beliefs connected with the 18th holy step in Sabarimala.
There is a strong belief that the eighteen steps are to denote 18 ancient sagas.
Some say that these steps represent 18 weapons with which Lord Ayyappa destroyed the evils. There are also beliefs that the first five steps denote the sense organs (eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin) whereas the next eight steps signify man’s emotions (tatwa, kama, krodha, moha, lobha, madha, matsraya, and ahamkara). The next three steps represent human qualities (satwa, rajas and thamas) while the seventeenth and the eighteenth steps denote awareness and ignorance.
A Swami Ayyappan devotee with twin compartment bag (irumudikettu) on his head is only deserved to climb-up the 18th golden step in Sabarimala which stands to represent the utmost truth. For climbing up the 18th step the devotee has to practice 41 days penance and austerities by leading a clean celibacy life. To a person who doesn’t know the value of 1000 rupees and 10 rupees, both of them are mere paper pieces. So, by performing the austerities properly and knowing the divinity and greatness of the 18th step, a devotee of Swami Ayyappan can achieve the goodness of climbing the 18th sacred step. This is the only way to experience the value and real splendor of the Sabarimala pilgrimage.
Video on 18 holy steps in Sabarimala