Fine-tuned queue system in place; Mandalam season ends on December 26
The sacred grove of Sabarimala once again started reverberating with the Ayyappa Sarana ‘mantras’ with the beginning of the annual pilgrimage season on Friday.
Hundreds of devotees from different parts of south India undertook their pilgrimage to the temple on the first day of the Malayalam month of Vrischikom. Though there was an incessant flow of pilgrims to the holy hillock right from the wee hours, the queue for holy ‘darshan’ was found fine-tuned, thanks to the systematic arrangements made for the same by the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) as well as the police, facilitating a smooth darshan for the pilgrims.
The new head priest (Melsanthi) N. Damodaran Potti, 47, from Vaikom opened the sanctum sanctorum at 4 a.m. amidst the chanting of ‘mantras’ by scores of devotees waiting for the holy darshan. The atmosphere was charged with devotion and the temple rituals began with the chief priest (Tantri), Kandararu Rajeevararu, performing the Ashtadravya Maha Ganapathi Homom in the morning followed by Ashtabhishekom and Ushapuja.
There was a long line of devotees waiting for the auspicious Neyyabhishekom, pouring of ghee collected from the ghee-filled coconuts brought by devotees in their sacred bundle (Irumudikkettu) as a main offering to the deity. The Neyyabhishekom ritual came to a close by 11.30 a.m.
A Kalabhabhishekom was performed prior to the Utchapuja.
The Tantri, assisted by the Melsanthi, performed the Brahmakalasapuja and the golden urn carrying the sandal paste (kalabhom) for ‘abhishekom’ was taken out in a ceremonial procession to the sanctum sanctorum with the accompaniment of the sacred Marappai and other traditional temple percussion.
The ‘kalabhom’ offered to the deity was distributed as ‘prasadom’ among the devotees.
M.P. Govindan Nair, TDB president; Subhash Vasu, member; P.R. Bhaskaran, Devaswom Ombudsman appointed by the High Court; K. Babu, Special Commissioner appointed by the Court; N. Vasu, Devaswom Commissioner; P. Chandrashekharan, Additional Director-General of Police, and V.N. Jithendran, District Collector, were among those who offered prayers at the temple in the morning.
The temple will close with the culmination of the 41-day Mandalam pilgrim season on December 26 and reopen for the Makaravilakkku festival on December 30.
The ‘petta thullal’ ritual at Erumely, as part of the Makaravilakku festival, will be on January 11 and the ceremonial procession carrying Thiruvabharanam, the sacred jewellery for the Makaravilakku celebrations at Sabarimala will set off from Pandalam on January 12.
The Makaravilakku will be on January 14 and the temple will be closed after the customary exclusive holy darshan for the royal representative of the Pandalam Palace on January 20.