Prayers of hundreds of pilgrims provided the perfect accompaniment to the Mandala Puja at the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple, the culmination of the 41-day annual pilgrimage, on Thursday.
The temple was opened at 3 a.m., and the rituals began with the chief priest (Tantri), Kandararu Maheswararu, performing Ashtadravya Maha Ganapati Homam and Ashtabhishekom.
Neyyabhishekom, pouring of ghee on the Ayyappa idol, was wound up by 10 a.m. to ready the ground for the Mandala Puja.
The Fire and Rescue Services washed the temple premises, and the preparations for the puja began at 11 a.m. The Tantri, assisted by the head priest (Melsanthi), P.N. Narayanan Namboodiri, performed Brahamakalasapuja and Kalabhapuja at the Namaskara Mandapam by 11.30 a.m. The Brahmakalasom and the Kalabhom (sandal paste) were taken out in procession to the sanctum sanctorum for Abhishekom, part of Mandala Puja.
The idol was adorned with the Thanka Anki, an attire made with 420 sovereigns of gold and presented by Chithira Tirunal Balarama Varma, the erstwhile Maharaja of Travancore, prior to Mandala Puja.