Ezhikode Sasi Namboodiri of Paingulam Mana near Cheruthuruthy in Thrissur district has been selected the new head priest (melsanthi) at Lord Ayyappa Temple at Sabarimala through a draw of lots held at the temple sopanam at Sabarimala Sannidhanam on Monday forenoon.
In another draw of lots held at Malikappuram, later, Dhananjayan Namboodiri of Mangalasserry Illom at Vallikunnam-Kaduvinal near Mavelikkara in Alappuzha district has been selected the next Melsanthi at Malikappuram Devi Temple.
Both the newly selected priests will assume charge at the respective temples for the next one year period on the first day in the Malayalam month of Vrischikom that begins on November 17.
Sasi Namboodiri who had served as the head priest at the famous Guruvayur Sree Krishna Temple in 1995 was the head priest at the Government-controlled Sidhaputhur Ayyappa Temple in Coimbatore for 18 years. He is presently doing priestly duties at Pavakkulam Mahadevar Temple near Kaloor in Ernakulam.
In a telephonic conversation, Mr Sasi Namboodiri told The Hindu that he began his priestly duties from Sabarimala way back in 1982 as a helper to the then Sabarimala Melsanthi.
He had also served as the head priest at Attukal Bhagavathy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram.
Mr Namboodiri said he has been a regular applicant for the covetous post of Sabaimala Melsanthi since the past 15 years and was shortlisted 12 times for the draw of lots, earlier. Moreover, he stood first nine times in the personal interview to shortlist priests for the draw of lots as part of the screening process.
This was Mr Namboodiri’s last chance to apply for the Sabarimala Melsanthi post and this time too he, with 83 per cent marks, was the topper in the personal interview.
The draw of lots to select the Sabarimala Melsanthi was held at the sopanam of the Ayyappa Temple at 9.20 am. The lots were prepared by the TDB authorities at the sopanam itself and the lots were drawn by two children, Abhinand (7) from Kannur and Atheeth Anand (5) from Kozhikode. The selection process was over with the first draw of lots itself and Sasi Namboodori was declared elected the new Sabarimala Melsanthi by the Special Commissioner appointed by Kerala High Court, M.Rajenderan Nair, in the next few minutes.
The draw of lots to select the Malikappuram Melsanthi was held at the Devi temple sopanam, later. A nine-year old girl devotee, Lakshmi Balagopalan from Aluva, was picked from among the devotees present to draw the lots.
Mr Dhananjayan Namboodiri is presently serving as the head priest at a temple attached to Travancore Devaswom Board at Karunagappally.
Both the newly selected Melsanthis will undergo a 10-day training programme at the Tantri household of Thazhamon Madhom at Mundankavu near Chengannur to learn certain special rituals at Sabarimala from the senior Tantri (chief priest), Kandararu Maheswararu in November, according to TDB president, M.Rajagopalan Nair.
The installation ceremony of the newly selected Melsanthis will be held at the respective temple sopanam on the eve of Mandalam festival season on November 16.