The annual Niraputhari festival was celebrated at Lord Ayyappa Temple at Sabarimala on Friday.

The Sannidhanam witnessed heavy rush early in the morning despite the downpour in the forests.

The ceremony began at 5.40 a.m. Devotees offered paddy spikes to the presiding deity in front of the holy 18 steps (Pathinettampady). Melsanthi (head priest) N. Damodaran Potti and his assistants took the paddy spikes offered to the deity to the Namaskara Mandapam.

Tantri (chief priest) Kandararu Rajeevararu, assisted by the Melsanthi, performed the Niraputhari rituals. The Putharipuja was performed and the paddy spikes were taken out in a ceremonial procession to the sanctum sanctorum to the accompaniment of the sacred Marappani and other temple percussion instruments. The Tantri later performed Deeparadhana after offering rice flakes (avil) made of the fresh paddy offered by the devotees as Nivedyam to the deity. The paddy spikes offered to the deity were distributed among the devotees as prasadam. It is believed that witnessing the annual ritual brings good luck and prosperity in the year ahead. N. Babu, Special Commissioner appointed by the Kerala High Court; K. Sankaranarayana Pillai, executive officer; and N. Velayudhan Nair, Ayapa Seva Sanghom general secretary, attended the ceremonial function.

Sahasrakalasabhishekom and Kalabhabhishekom were performed at the temple. Holy water (Brahmakalasom) and sandal paste (Kalabhom) in two golden urns were taken out in a customary procession to the sanctum sanctorum for pouring over the Ayyappa idol (abhishekom) prior to Utchapuja. Udayastamanapuja, Ashtabhishekom, Padipuja, and Pushpabhihekom were the other important rituals performed.

Kandararu Rajeevararu’s one-year term as Tantri ends on August 16, and Kandararu Maheswararu, senior Tantri of the Thazhamon Madhom at Chengannur, will assume charge as Tantri at Sabarimala for the next one year on the Malayalam new year day on August 17.

The Ayyappa temple will reopen on August 16 afternoon for the five-day rituals in the month of Chingom in the Malayalam calendar to be held from August 17 to 21.

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