The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) is to conduct a personal interview for the selection of new head priests (Melsanthi) for the Lord Ayyappa Temple as well as the Malikappuram Devi Temple at Sabarimala on October 6 and 7.

According to TDB sources, as many as 29 persons have been shortlisted for a personal interview for the post of Sabarimala Melsanthi and 17 other persons for the post of Malikappuram Melsanthi.

Shortlisting nine eligible aspirants each for both the posts would be held on the basis of their performance at the interview.

As it being the convention for the past several years, the final selection would be made through a draw of lots to be held before the sanctum sanctorum of the respective temples on the first day in the Malayalam month of Thulam which falls on October 17.

Serving priests with not less than 10 years experience at a temple where daily puja is being held in the morning, noon and evening are eligible for the coveted post of Sabarimala Melsanthi, devaswom

sources said.

The Kerala High Court had suggested certain norms for the Melsanthi selection on the basis of the recommendations made by the Justice Paripoornan Commission and the former High Court Judge, K. Padmanabhan Nair who was the observer appointed by the Court for the Melsanthi selection in the previous year.

Interview board

The interview board has been reconstituted by including experts in ritualistic matters and a nominee of the High Court as an observer with a view to ensure maximum possible transparency as in the previous years, say TDB sources.

Devaswom Chief Commissioner (Additional Chief Secretary) who represents TDB in the absence of board president and members, Devaswom Commissioner, Kandararu Maheswararu, Kandararu Rajeevaru, both

Sabarimala Tantris (chief priest), a former Sabarimala Melsanthi and a Sanskrit scholar are the members of the interview board.

The observer appointed by the High Court will oversee the entire selection procedure.

Draw of lots

They said the draw of lots would be held at the respective temple sopanam after the Ushapuja on October 17. The outgoing Melsanthi’s one-year term expires on November 15, last day in the Malayalam month of Thulam and installation of the new Melsanthi will be held at the respective temple sopanams the same day in the evening so that they can assume charge on November 16, the first day in the Malayalam month of Vrischikom when the annual 41-day Mandalam pilgrim season begins at the holy hillock.

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