As it being the custom, the Melsanthi had closed the sanctum sanctorum and handed over the keys to the royal representative who, in turn, had given a purse as dakshina to the priest.

The annual Makaravilakku festival at the Lord Ayyappa Temple at Sabarimala came to a close with the closure of the sanctum sanctorum immediately after the customary worship exclusively by the royal representative of the Pandalam Palace, Ashoka Varma Raja, on Sunday morning.

The head priest (Melsanthi), N. Damodaran Potti, opened the sanctum sanctorum to facilitate the customary worship exclusively for the royal designate at 6.30 am. No other person was permitted to offer prayers at the Ayyappa shrine on Sunday.

As it being the custom, the Melsanthi had closed the sanctum sanctorum and handed over the keys to the royal representative who, in turn, had given a purse as dakshina to the priest.

The Raja had descended the holy 18-steps and returned the keys to the Melsanthi, in the presence of the Devaswom Executive Officer and Administrative Officer at the Lower Tirumuttom, later.

Thiruvabharanam

The royal representative embarked on his return journey to Pandalam, escorting the sacred jewellery in a ceremonial procession from the holy hillock, marking the grand finale of the Makaravilakku festival.

The royal entourage was accorded a reception at Nilackal where a group of devotees from Aranmula served them with a mid-day feast.

The Thiruvabharanam procession had its night halt at the Laha Sathram, later.

The royal entourage will reach the Sastha Temple at Perinad on Monday forenoon.

The presiding deity at the Sastha Temple at Perinad will be adorned with the Thiruvabharanam prior to the Utchapuja on Monday.

The ceremonial procession will proceed to Aranmula on Tuesday morning and will halt there, later, in the night.

The Thiruvabharanam procession will return to Pandalam on Wednesday morning and the devaswom authorities would return the sacred jewellery to the Palace authorities for keeping it in the strong room there, later.

Cleaning drive

The Sabarimala Sanitation Society chaired by Pathanamthitta District Collector, has launched an intensive cleaning drive at Sabarimala and Pampa on Sunday morning itself.

As many as 750 sanitation workers recruited by the Akhila Bharatha Ayyappa Seva Sanghom from Tamil Nadu were carrying out the sanitation drive at Sabarimala, Pampa and Nilackal during the annual pilgrimage season, said District Collector, V.N. Jithendran.

Mr Jithendran said the SSS would complete the waste clearing drive in the next 48 hours.