It was a moment of bliss and ecstasy to the tens of thousands of Ayyappa devotees to witness the Makarajyoti, a celestial star called Makara, and the Makaravilakku, deeparadhana performed at Ponnambalamedu, on the Makarasankranti day at Sabarimala on Tuesday.
The multitude of devotees coming from different parts of the country were camping at the holy hillock and surrounding hills awaiting this twilight delight.
Rooftops of various buildings as well as the hillsides facing the east and the grasslands in the forests were found to have been occupied by Ayyappa devotees much in advance. There were many who have perched on tree branches from where they could worship the Makaravilakku.
Pilgrims camped in the forests, singing bhajans in praise of Lord Ayyappa, charging the the entire Sannidhanam with the ‘Ayyappa Saranam’ mantra. The entire atmosphere was charged with devotion.
The Tantri, Kandararu Maheswararu, assisted by the Melsanthi, P.N. Narayanan Namboodiri, performed the Makarasankramapuja at the Ayyappa Temple at 1.14 pm. The ghee brought from the Kowdiyar Palace in Thiruvananthapuram was offered to the presiding deity on the occasion.
The ceremonial procession carrying the sacred jewellery, Thiruvabharanam, from the Pandalam Palace which is believed to be the ancestral home of Ayyappa alias Manikanta, reached the holy hillock around 6.20 p.m.
The Thiruvabharanam was received by the Travancore Devaswom Board president, M.P. Govindan Nair and members, Subhash Vasu and P.K. Kumaran, accompanied by the Special Comissioner, K. Babu, and
Devaswom Commissioner, P.Venugopal, in the presence of the Devaswom Minister, V.S. Sivakumar, on its arrival at the temple premises.
The Tantri and Melsanthi have taken the Thiruvabharanam to the sanctum sanctorum to adorn the Ayyappa idol with it prior to the deeparadhana.
The police force deployed at the Sannidhanam for crowd management too were in a pensive mood for the next few minutes as the mammoth crowd attained a sort of self-control for a while during the deeparadhana performed at the Ayyappa Temple between 6.30 p.m. and 6.37 p.m.
The ‘Makaraajyoti’ was sighted bright on the eastern horizon, taking the throng of devotees to a spiritual bliss. The bright flame, ‘Makaravilakku’, flickered thrice on the distant hill-top of Ponambalamedu between 6.39 p.m. and 6.40 p.m., later, taking the devotees to a divine frenzy.
There was an uncontrollable rush of devotees immediately after the Makarajyoti darshan due to heavy outflow of devotees from Sannidhanam to the foothills of Pampa.
A. Hemachandran, Additional Director General of Police; Debesh Kumar Behra, Police Special Officer, and Vijayakumar, Assistant Special Officer, were found directly engaged in controlling the crowd at the heavily crowded Lower Thirumuttom and at the Valiyanadappanthal.
A large number of pilgrims have assembled at Pullumedu, Panchalimedu, Pampa Hilltop, Parunthumpara, Panjippara, Nilackal, and Attathode too from where they could worship the Makaravilakku atop the Ponnambalamedu on Tuesday.
The representative of the Pandalam Palace, Dileep Varma, will reach the holy hillock from Pampa on Thursday. He will offer prayers at the Ayyappa Temple and proceed to Malikappuram where he will be staying till the culmination of the Makaravilakku festival on January 20.
The auspicious Kalabhabhishekom wil be performed at the Ayyappa Temple on January 18 and devotees will be permitted to have darshan at the Ayyappa Temple only till January 19 evening.
The Guruti ritual, marking the culmination of the annual pilgrimage will be performed at the Malikappuram temple premises after the closure of all the temples on January 19 evening.
The Ayyappa Temple will be opened for a few minutes on January 20 to facilitate the customary holy darshan for the royal representative. The royal representative will climb down the holy 18-Steps (Pathinettampady), later, by 7 am and will proceed to Pandalam in a ceremonial procession.