Draw of lots to select head priest today

The Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala witnessed a heavy rush on Monday when it was opened for the five-day rituals in the Malayalam month of Thulam beginning Tuesday.

It is the last monthly puja before the temple opens on November 17, Vrishchikom 1, for the Manadalam-Makaravilakku pilgrimage. Many devotees are camping in the holy hillock to witness the draw of lots on Tuesday morning to select the next head priest (Melsanthi) of the temple.

Hundreds of devotees trekked the holy hills, braving the heavy downpour in the forests on Monday. Head priest Ezhikode Sasi Namboodiri, accompanied by chief priest (Tantri) Kandararu Maheswararu and M. Satheeshkumar, Devaswom Executive Officer, opened the sanctum sanctorum at 5.30 p.m.

The rituals will begin with the chief priest performing Ashtadravya Ganapati Homam in the morning. Sahasrakalasabhishekom and Kalabhabhishekom will be performed prior to Utchapuja. The Brahmakalasom will be taken in procession to the sanctum sanctorum to the accompaniment of music from the sacred “Marappani” and other traditional temple percussion in the forenoon.

The Kalabhom (sandal paste) offered to the deity will be distributed among the devotees as prasadom later.

Draw of lots

The draw of lots to select the head priests at the Ayyappa temple and the Malikappuram Devi temple will be held at the respective temple “sopanams” after Ushapuja in the morning.

M. Rajagopalan Nair, President of the Travancore Devaswom Board, and K.V. Padmanabhan and K. Cicily, members, assisted by the Executive Officer, will prepare the lots at the temple sopanam. A boy from Pandalam Palace will draw the lots at the Ayyappa temple and a girl from the palace will draw the lots at the Malikappuram Devi temple, Devaswom sources said.

The new head priests will assume charge for a year's term on November 17.

The Executive Officer told The Hindu that a Laksharchana would be performed at the Ayyappa temple on October 21 and 22. The temple will be closed after the monthly rituals following Athazhapuja on October 22.