Devotees coming from different parts of the country started camping at Sabarimala Sannidhanam and the surrounding hillsides to worship the celestial star, Makarajyoti, that 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 the pilgrims so that they can have a clear 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 the Sannidhanam since Thursday.

The Travancore Devaswom Board has also made arrangements for the Makarajyoti darshan from the open space arranged after demolishing the damaged pilgrim shelters at Paandithavalom.

Makarasankrama puja

This year, after a gap of several years, the muhurthom (auspicious time) for Makarasankrama puja is being planned in the midnight hour at 12.59 a.m. on Sunday as per the astrological calculations. The auspicious Sankramabhishekom will be performed with the ghee brought from the Kowdiar palace in Thiruvananthapuram on the occasion.

The Thiruvabharanam, sacred jewellery, will be brought to the Sannidhanam in a ceremonial procession from Pandalam by 6.15 p.m. on Sunday. The presiding deity will be adorned with the Thiruvabharanam prior to the deeparadhana.

Deeparadhana

The deeparadhana at Ponnambalamedu, a remote hill in the shola forests facing the Sannidhanam, will be performed immediately after the deeparadhana at the Ayyappa temple at 6.30 p.m. 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 officials from the Devaswom, Police and Forest departments would be escorting the priest to Ponnambalamedu, board sources said.

Tribals' claim

Meanwhile, tribesmen under the aegis of Mala Araya Samajom have claimed their right to perform the deeparadhana at Ponnambalamedu.

A group of Samajom workers led by its leaders P.K. Bhaskaran and K.K. Gangadharan had gone to Ponnambalamedu in a procession, reviving their lost tradition in the forests and protesting against the denial of permission for them to perform the ritual.

However, Additional Director-General of Police P. Chandrashekharan told The Hindu that the police had taken steps to prevent any outside force from entering the forests to perform the deeparadhana at Ponnambalamedu.

Kummanam Rajasekharan, Sabarimala Ayyappa Seva Samajom general secretary, has called upon the Devaswom authorities to sort out the issue through talks with the tribal people who the have hereditary right to perform the deeparadhana at Ponnambalamedu.

Plea against hartal

Mr. Rajasekharan also called upon Mullaperiyar Samara Samiti chairman Fr. Joy Nirappel to reconsider the Samiti decision to observe a State-wide hartal on August 18 as it would affect the ongoing Sabarimala pilgrimage. He said the Samiti should not have taken such a step during the Sabarimala pilgrim season as it would cause a lot of inconvenience to the pilgrims coming from different parts of the country.