Lord Ayyappa devotees who wish to go to Sabarimala Temple observe vratham or follow certain austerities for one mandalam season that is 41 days. The main aim of the Mandala Kala Vratam is to purify the mind and soul. The Mandalam season begins in the Malayalam month Vrichikam and ends in the middle of Dhanu month.
The Mandala Vratham is also observed by many devotees who don't intent to go to Sabarimala Temple.
Austerities followed during Mandala Vritham
Those devotees going to the Sabarimala temple apart from observing the austerities wear a mala made from Rudrakhsam or Tulsi beeds. This ritual is known as Maladharan. It is performed at a temple or in one's own house after performing a simple puja. The garland is received from a temple priest or from a guruswami or from an elderly person amidst chanting of Swami Saranam.
Devotees during this period wear blue, black or ochre (yellow-orange color) dress. Most devotees do not cut their hair or shave during the Mandalam period.
Some strict Ayyappa devotees even avoid wearing footwear during this period.
Even after visiting the Sabarimala temple, some people complete the 41-day period of Vratham. Some people terminate the Vratham after visiting the shrine.
Nowadays many devotees wear the garland a couple of days prior to visiting the shrine or on the day of visiting the shrine. And several devotees don't strictly follow the traditional Vratham.
It is up to each individual whether he/she wants to perform the traditional austerities or not.