SANGAREDDY: They are men dressed in a black ensemble whogreet you in the morning when you go for a morning walk in the biting cold of the winter. Sans any additional cover like shawls are woollen cloths they move on the vehicles. There are about 1,500 persons who took up ‘Ayyappa Deeksha’ in the Sangareddy town and the number would be around 25,000 across the district. Children in the age of eight years are also taking up ‘deeksha’.

“Taking up ‘deeksha’ gives us a strict discipline in personal life and controls habits like smoking,” says Ramesh, who took up ‘deeksha’ for the fourth time. Many prefer to have ‘Ayyappa darshan’ during Sankranti period, particularly on Jyothi Darshan day. “On that particular day there will be around over one crore people gathered at Shabarimala to have ‘darshan’ ,” says Sharma, another devotee.