N. Damodaran Potti, 47, of Vaikom in Kottayam district will be the new head priest (Melsanthi) at Lord Ayyappa Temple at Sabarimala for the one-year period beginning November 16, first day in the month of Vrischikom in the Malayalam calendar.
A.N. Unnikrishnan Namboodiri, 45, of Karamala, Koothattukulam, will be the new head priest of Malikappuram Devi Temple during the period.
Selection of the two new head priests was made through a draw of lots held at the respective temple sopanam immediately after Ushapuja on Wednesday morning.
Hrishikesh Varma and Keerthana Varma, children from the Pandalam Palace, drew the lots at a function held at the sopanam of the Ayyappa temple and the Malikappuram Devi temple, respectively, in the presence of K. Jayakumar, Chief Secretary who is also the chief commissioner of the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), and K. Babu, Special Commissioner appointed by the Kerala High Court.
Mr. Potti is at present the head priest at the Elankavu Bhagavathy temple of the TDB in Vaikom. Mr. Namboodiri is the head priest at the NSS Devi temple at Kochu Kadavanthra in Kochi.
The TDB had shortlisted nine priests for the post of the Sabarimala Melsanthi and 10 others for that of the Malikappuram Melsanthi on the basis of a personal interview held earlier at the board headquarters in Thiruvananthapuram.
The lots were prepared by the TDB authorities at the respective temple sopanam. A. Chandrashekharan, Additional Director General of Police; N. Vasu, Devaswom Commissioner; S. Unnikrishnan, TDB secretary; K. Sankaranarayana Pillai, executive officer, and K. Ravikumar, TDB chief engineer; were present.
The TDB had introduced the draw of lots for selecting the Melsanthi at Sabarimala every year in 1970 following large-scale allegations of corruption in the conventional selection process.
The ceremonial installation of the new head priests will be held at the respective temple sopanam on the eve of the 41-day Mandalam pilgrim season on November 15.