The holy hillock of Sabarimala witnessed heavy rush on Saturday as a large number of devotees from different parts of south India undertook their pilgrimage to the Ayyappa shrine during the weekend.

Hundreds of devotees, including elderly women and small children, trekked the steep Neelimala-Appachimedu path leading to the Sannidhanam, braving heavy downpour in the forests, on the first Saturday in the holy Malayalam month of Karkidakom.

Devotees carried the sacred bundle (Irumudikkkettu) on their head covering it with a long plastic sheet as a rain-shield. The chief priest (Tantri), Kandararu Rajeevararu, assisted by the head priest (Melsanthi), D. Damodaran Potti, performed the Brahmakalasapuja and Kalabhapuja in the forenoon.

Customary procession

The Brahmakalasoms carrying sandal paste (Kalabhom) and the holy water in two golden urns, were taken out in a customary ceremonial procession to the sanctum sanctorum, with the accompaniments of the sacred Marappani and other traditional temple percussion, for pouring it over the Ayyappa idol prior to the Utchapuja.

The sandal paste offered to the deity was distributed among the devotees as prasadom, later.

Padipuja, Udayasthamanapuja, Ashtabhishekom, and Pushpabhishekom were the other important rituals performed at the Ayyappa shrine on Saturday. Devaswom Executive Officer, K. Sankaranarayana Pillai, supervised the rituals.

Temple closes today

The temple will be closed after the Athazhapuja on Sunday evening, marking the culmination of the five-day monthly rituals in the Malayalam month of Karkidakom.

The base camp of Pampa witnessed heavy traffic block in the forenoon allegedly owing to shortage of policemen for traffic control. Heavy vehicles were found parked on either side of the Chalakkayam-Pampa stretch of the main trunk road leading to Sabarimala.

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