Devotees from different parts of South India began to camp at Sabarimala Sannidhanam as well as the surrounding hillsides in the forest area to worship the celestial star, Makarajyoti, which appears on the eastern horizon of the Sannidhanam on the Makaravilakku day on Sunday.
Almost all vantage points at the Sannidhanam have been occupied by pilgrims so that they could have a trouble-free view of the deeparadhana to be performed at Ponnambalamedu on Sunday evening.
Pilgrims have been camping in make-shift tents pitched at Paandithavalom, Appachimedu, Marakkoottom, Urakkuzhy and near the Malikappuram temple, copra drying yard and the Forest department office at Sannidhanam since the past two days. They cook food in the surroundings of the tents made of poles, twigs and tree branches collected from the forests.
Travancore Devaswom Board have also made arrangements for the Makarajyoti darshan from the open space arranged after demolishing the damaged pilgrim shelters at Paandithavalom.
This year, after a gap of several years, the muhurtham (auspicious time) for Makarasankrama puja is being planned in the midnight hour at 12.59 am on Sunday as per the astrological calculations. The auspicious Neyyahhishekom offering, ritualistic Sankrambhishekom as is called, to the presiding deity will be performed with the ghee brought from Kowdiyar Palace in Thiruvananthapuram.
The Thiruvabharanam, sacred jewellery, will be brought to the Sannidhanam in a ceremonial procession from Pandalam by 6.15 pm on Sunday.
The presiding deity will be adorned with the Thiruvabharanam prior to the deeparadhana.
The deeparadhana at Ponnambalamedu, a remote hill in the shola forests facing Sabarimala Sannidhanam, will be performed immediately after the deeparadhana at the Ayyappa Temple at 6.30 pm on Sunday. Travancore Devaswom Board president, M. Rajagopalan Nair, told The Hindu that the deeparadhana at Ponnambalamedu would be performed by a senior priest.
A 25-member team comprising TDB, Police and Forest officials will also be escorting the priest to Ponnambalamedu, board sources said.
Meanwhile, tribals under the aegis of Mala Araya Samajom have also claimed their right to perform deeparadhana at Ponnambalamedu.
The samajom workers led by its leaders, P.K. Bhaskaran and K.K. Gangadharan, have already set off to Ponnambalamedu in a procession, protesting against the denial of permission for them to performing deeparadhana, reviving their lost tradition in the forests.
Additional Director General of Police, P. Chandrashekharan, told The Hindu that the police have taken steps to prevent any outside force entering into the forests for performing deeparadhana at Ponnambalamedu.
Kummanam Rajashekharan, Sabarimala Ayyappa Seva Samajom general secretary, has called upon the TDB authorities to sort out the issue through constructive talks with the tribal groups having hereditary right to perform deeparadhana at Ponnambalamedu and not to make Sabarimala and Ponnambalamedu a centre of controversy.
Plea against hartal
Mr Rajashekharan has also called upon the Mullaperiyar Samara Samiti chairman, Fr Joy Nirappel, to reconsider the samiti decision to observe a State-wide hartal on August 18 as it would further affect the ongoing Sabarimala pilgrimage.
The SASS leader said the samiti should not have taken such a step during the Sabarimala pilgrim season as it would cause lot of inconvenience to the scores of Sabarimala pilgrims visiting the State from different parts of the country.