P.N. Narayanan Namboodiri, 42, of Panangattumpilli Mana at Thrikkariyoor in Ernakulam district, will be the Melsanthi (head priest) of the Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala for one year beginning November 16. P.M. Manoj of Polpakkara Math at Edappal in Malappuram district will be the head priest at the Malikappuram Devi temple, Sabarimala.

A draw of lots to select the head priests was held at the respective temple ‘sopanams’ on Thursday.

Narayanan Namboodiri is presently the head priest at the Sree Dharma Sastha temple of the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) at Perumbavoor. He had been serving as ‘priest’ with the TDB since 1998. P.M. Manoj, a priest attached to the Malabar Devaswom, had been Melsanthi at the Perumbarambu Siva temple at Edappal. He had also been serving as an assistant to the Melsanthi and the Tantri at Sabarimala for the past six years. He was present at Sabarimala when the draw of lots was held. Vyas J. Varma and Gauthami S. Varma, child nominees of the Pandalam palace drew the lots at the Ayyappa temple and the Malikappuram temple respectively. The lots were prepared by TDB president M.P. Govindan Nair; Subhash Vasu, P.K. Kumaran, both TDB Members; and P. Venugopal, Devaswom Commissioner; in the presence of K. Babu, Special Commissioner appointed by the Kerala High Court. TDB had shortlisted 16 persons out of 73 applicants for the post of Sabarimala Melsanthi and 12 of 38 for the Malikappuram post by an interview.

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