The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) has shortlisted 28 priests for the posts of Melsanthi (head priest) at the Lord Ayyappa temple and Malikappuram Devi temple at Sabarimala for the next one year period beginning from November 16.

The one-year tenure of the present Sabarimala Melsanthi, N. Damodaran Potti, and the Malikappuram Melsanthi, A.N. Unnikrishnan Namboodiri, ends on November 15.

The new head priests will be selected through a draw of lots to be held at the respective temple Sopanam after the Ushapuja on Thursday

morning. M.P. Govindan Nair, TDB president; Subhash Vasu, P.K. Kumaran, board members, and P. Venugopal, Devaswom Commissioner, will jointly prepare the lots at the temple Sopanam itself. The Special Commissioner appointed by the Kerala High Court, K.Babu, will choose a child from among the devotees present at the temple for drawing the lots, ensuring transparency in the final selection process.

TDB sources told The Hindu that 16 priests from 73 applicants have been shortlisted for the post of the Sabarimala Melsanthi post through an interview at the Board headquarters in Thiruvananthapuram.

Twelve priests have been shortlisted from 38 applicants for the post of the Malikappuram Melsanthi.

The TDB had introduced the draw of lots system to select the Melsanthis way back in 1970 following allegations of corruption in the selection system followed earlier.

The ceremonial installation of both the new Melsanthis will be held at the respective temple Sopanams on November 15 evening.

The Tantri will give a week-long training to the new head priests in the unique ritualistic matters relating to Sabarimala temples, later.

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