N. Balamurali of Edamana Illom at Manikanteswarom in Thiruvananthapuram and T.K. Eeswaran Namboodiri of Koramangalam at Attukal in Thiruvananthapuram, have been selected the new head priests (Melsanthi) at the Lord Ayyappa Temple and Malikappuram Devi Temple respectively at Sabarimala through a draw of lots held at the holy hillock on Tuesday.

Travancore Devaswom Board had introduced the system of draw of lots to select the head priests at Sabarimala way back in 1980 by the then board president, T.N. Upendranatha Kurup, in the wake of larger allegations of corruption and malpractice involved in the process.

Draw of lots

The procedure for draw of lots began with the TDB president, M. Rajagopalan Nair, along with K. Cicily and K.V. Padmanabhan, members, preparing the lots at the temple sopanam itself after the Ushapuja. The lots were put in two silver urns and the senior tantri (chief priest), Kandararu Maheswararu, placed them before the presiding deity inside the sanctum sanctorum and returned them to the TDB authorities for drawing the lots in the next few minutes.

The lots were drawn at the Ayyappa Temple by a nine-year old boy, Saurav P.Varma of the Pandalam Vadakkekkara Palace whose name was designated for the job by the Pandalam Palace Managing Committee.

The lot carrying the name of Balamurali who topped the list of 10 priests shortlisted for the Sabarimala Melsanthi post was drawn in the first draw itself. The TDB president announced his selection as the new head priest at the Ayyappa shrine from the temple sopanam itself amidst loud chants of Ayyappa Sarana mantra.

The Special Commissioner appointed by Kerala High Court, S.Jagadeesh, supervised the procedure. Devaswom Commissioner, N. Vasu, was also present.

The 39-year old Mr. Balamurali is presently the head priest at the Puthiyakavu Bhagavathy Temple in Kollam. He had also served as the Melsanthi at the famous Attukal Bhagavathy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram in 2010.

Mr. Balamurali who had undergone training in tantra sastra at the Tantra Vidya Peetom in Aluva has been serving as Melsanthi at Puthiyakavu Bhagavathy Temple from 1997.

Selection at Malikappuram

Six-year-old, Gauthami G.Varma of the Pandalam Srambickal Palace, drew the lots at the Malikappuram Devi Temple sopanam for selecting the new Melsanthi there, later.

The TDB chief has announced the selection of Eeswaran Namboodiri as the new Malikappuram Melsanthi from the temple sopanam itself.

Mr. Namboodiri is presently the assistant priest (Kizhsanthi) at the Attukal Bhagavathy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram.

Talking to The Hindu, Mr. Namboodiri said he had applied for the post nine times and his name was shortlisted for the draw of lots thrice, earlier.

Training

The newly selected head priests will have to undergo training in various ritualistic practices at Sabarimala under the guidance of the tantri, before assuming charge at Sabarimala on the first day in the Malayalam month of Vrischikom that begins on November 17. Their installation ceremony will take place at the respective temple sopanam on November 16.