The holy hillock of Sabarimala witnessed heavy rush as tens of thousands devotees from different parts of the country, especially from the South Indian States, undertook their annual pilgrimage to the forest shrine on Friday.
The sprawling sandy banks of Pampa (Pampa Manalpuram) turned into a sea of humanity with the multitude of pilgrims congregating there for the customary holy dip in the river Pampa preparatory to the holy trek to Sabarimala in the afternoon.
The intermittent drizzles that troubled the pilgrims on the trekking path in the afternoon intensified to heavy downpour by evening, literally drenching many a pilgrim waiting inside the barricades on the trekking path.
The head priest (Melsanthi), N.Balamurali, has opened the sanctum sanctorum at 5.30 pm in the presence of the Tantri, Kandararu Maheswararu; devaswom Executive Officer, M.Satheeshkumar, and other Travancore Devaswom Board officials.
A large number of pilgrims coming from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka have been camping at Pampa and Nilackal since the past two days, awaiting the temple reopening. However, pilgrims were permitted to undertake the climb only on Friday morning.
Meanwhile, police have regulated the pilgrim flow to the Sannidhanam by blocking them at different points at definite intervals in an effort to ease the human pressure at the holy hillock.
The rituals will begin with the Tantri performing Ganapati homom on Saturday morning followed by Ashtabhishekom and Neyyabhishekom.
The annual Petta-thullal at Erumely by the Ambalappuzha and Alangadu teams will be held on January 12.
The customary Pampa-Vilakku and Pampa-Sadya will be held on the banks of river Pampa on the foothills on January 13.
The ceremonial procession carrying the Thiruvabharanam, sacred jewellery, for the Makaravilakku festival will set off to Sabarimala from the Pandalam Valiyakoickal Sastha Temple at 1 pm on January 13.
This year, the auspicious Makaravilakku day coinciding the Makara-sankramom, falls on January 15. The Ayyappa idol will be adorned with the Thiruvabharanam prior to the deeparadhana the same day afternoon.
Sighting of the celestial star, `Makara-jyoti’, on the eastern horizon of the Sannidhanam and lighting of the `Makara-vilakku’ atop a remote hill, Ponnambalamedu, facing the Ayyappa Temple will take place immediately after the deeparadhana.
Tens of thousands of Ayyappa devotees are expected to throng the pilgrim centre to witness the Makara-jyoti and Makaravilakku, which, they consider the most auspicious event at Sabarimala.
The Kalabhabhishekom, marking the culmination of the Neyyabhishekom offering to the presiding deity during the Makaravilakku festival will be performed prior to the Utchapuja on January 19.
The annual Guruti ritual to propitiate the cohorts (Bhoothagana) of Lord Ayyappa will be performed at Malikappuram on January 20 evening.
The Ayyappa shrine will be closed immediately after the exclusive customary holy darshan by the representative of the Pandalam Palace at 7 am on January 21, marking the culmination of this year’s Makaravilakku festival.