With the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple opening on Friday evening for the 64-day Mandalam-Makaravilakku pilgrimage beginning the next morning, pilgrims have started arriving. Many from Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka are camping at Pampa, awaiting the opening of the temple.

The Melsanthi (head priest), N. Damodaran Potti, will open the sanctum sanctorum at 5.30 p.m. on Friday for the 41-day Mandalam pilgrimage beginning on the first of the Malayalam month of Virschikom. The temple rituals will begin with the Tantri (chief priest), Kandararu Maheswararu, performing the Ashtadravya Maha Ganapati homom in the morning.

The temple will be kept open for a total of 18 hours a day, P. Mohandas, Devaswom Executive Officer, said.

The Mandalapuja will be held with Utchapuja on December 26.

The temple will be closed after Athazhapuja that day.

For the Makaravilaku festival, the temple will be opened in the afternoon of December 30.

The Pettathullal at Erumely will be held on January 11, and the Thiruvabharanam procession will set off from Pandalam on January 12.

The Makaravilakku festival will be held on January 14, Makara-Samkranthi day.

The temple will be closed after the royal representative from Pandalam Palace has his exclusive customary holy darshan on the morning of January 20.

The new head priest of Sabarimala, P.N. Narayanan Namboothiri of Panangattumpalli Mana at Thrikkariyoor in Ernakulam district, will be installed in a ceremony at the Sopanam of the temple on Friday evening.

The new Malikappuram head priest, P.M. Manoj of Polpakkara Madhom at Edappal, will be installed at the Malikappuram Devi temple Sopanam later.

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