Mandalapuja performed, Sabarimala witnesses unprecedented rush of pilgrims

The auspicious Mandalapuja, marking the culmination of the 41-day annual Mandalam festival at the Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala, was held with ritualistic fervour on Wednesday.

Sabarimala Sannidhanam witnessed an unprecedented rush of pilgrims to witness the auspicious Mandalapuja held at 12.30 p.m. Tens of thousands of devotees from different parts of the country thronged the hillock to offer prayers at the Ayyappa temple on the day. Temple authorities suspended the Neyyabhishekom offering to the deity by 11.30 a.m. and the Fire and Rescue Force personnel cleaned the temple premises.

A Kalabhabhishekom was performed at the temple prior to the Mandalapuja held as part of the Utchapuja.

Tantri (chief priest) Kandararu Rajeevararu, assisted by Melsanthi (head priest) N. Damodaran Potti, performed the Kalabhapuja at the Namaskara-mandapam. The golden urns carrying the kalabhom (sandal paste) was taken out in a procession to the sanctum sanctorum, with the accompaniment of the traditional temple percussion and the sacred Marappani for the Abhishekom. The presiding deity was adorned with a Thanka Anki, a golden attire weighing 420 sovereigns offered by the late Sri Chtra Tirunal, head of the ruling family of the erstwhile Travancore, prior to the Mandalapuja.

The Mandalapuja was performed amidst the Utchapuja. The tantri, assisted by the Melsanthi, performed the rituals.

The entire atmosphere was charged with devotion and ‘Swami Saranam’ mantras rented the air.

M. Govindan Nair, Travancore Devaswom Board president; K. Jayakumar, festival chief co-ordinator; K. Babu, Special Commissioner appointed by the High Court; P. Chandrashekharan, Additional Director General of Police; N. Vasu, Devaswom Commissioner; K. Ravikumar, Chief Engineer; and K. Sankaranarayana Pillai, Sabarimala Executive Officer; were among those who attended the ceremony.

The Sannidhanam continued to witness heavy rush, forcing the temple authorities to open the sanctum sanctorum at 3 a.m. in the morning and to close it only at 1.30 p.m. after the Mandalapuja. The sanctum was reopened at 3 p.m. in view of the multitude of pilgrims waiting at the Sannidhanam and along the traditional path awaiting their turn for the holy darshan. The police had blocked the pilgrim flow from Pampa to Sannidhanam for about an hour early on Wednesday in order to ease the human pressure at the holy hillock.

Pilgrims had to wait for hours inside the zig-zag barricades even beyond the Sabaripeedhom, three km away from the Sannidhanam, for the holy darshan on Wednesday.

The temple will remain closed for the next three days and will be reopened for the Makaravilakku festival at 5 p.m. on Sunday.

Makaravilakku festival

The Makaravilakku day, on the Makara-sankranti day when the celestial star ‘Makara’ will be sighted on the eastern horizon of the Sannidhanam, falls on January 14. The auspicious ‘Makara Sankrama puja’ will also be performed at the Ayyappa temple on the Makaravilakku day.

The temple will be closed immediately after the exclusive holy darshan in the morning by the royal representative of the Pandalam palace on January 20.

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