Rituals begin today; Makaravilakku on January 14

Thousands of devotees from across the country, mainly South Indian States, prayed at the Ayyappa temple here as it was opened for the Makaravilakku pilgrimage on Monday afternoon. The Pampa Manalpuram was crowded with a multitude of pilgrims congregating for the customary holy dip in the Pampa before climbing the hills.

The head priest (Melasanthi), P.M. Narayanan Namboodiri, accompanied by the chief priest (Tantri), Kandararu Maheswararu, and other priests, opened the sanctum sanctorum at 5.30 p.m. The rituals will begin with the Tantri performing Ashtadravya Maha Ganapati Homom on Tuesday morning followed by Ashtabhishekom and Neyyabhishekom.

The “Saranam Ayyappa” mantra filled the air of the sacred grove in the Periyar Tiger Reserve. A large number of pilgrims from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka have been camping at Pampa and Nilackal for the past three days, awaiting the reopening of the templeclosed after the 41-day Mandalam festival in the evening of December 26. They were permitted to climb the hills only on Monday afternoon.

The police regulated the flow of pilgrims to the Sannidhanam by blocking them at different points.

The famous Pettathullal at Erumely, a major base camp of Sabarimala pilgrims that houses another ancient Sastha temple and the historic Vavar Mosque in Kottayam district, will be held on January 11.

The procession carrying Thiruvabharanam (sacred jewellery) for the Makaravilakku festival at Sabarimala will set off from the Valiyakoickal Sastha temple at Pandalam in the afternoon of January 12. It will reach the Sannidhanam in the afternoon of the Makaravilakku day on January 14. The Ayyappa idol will be adorned with the sacred jewellery prior to Deeparadhana.

The temple will be closed after the customary holy darshan of the royal designate in the morning of January 20.

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