Phase 1 of Sabarimala pilgrimage concludes

via Daily Pioneer - Pathanamthitta published on December 28, 2011

The 41-day first phase of the annual Mandalam-Makara Vilakku pilgrimage of the Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala in Kerala came to a close on Tuesday after the famous Mandalam Pooja at the sanctum sanctorum at noon. The shrine will reopen for the 21-day Makara Vilakku poojas on Friday.

The Mandalam Pooja rituals were held between 1.00 pm and 1.30 pm Tuesday at the shrine under the leadership of Tanthri (traditional chief priest) Kantararu Maheswararu. The sanctum sanctorum was closed after the special evening Poojas. The shrine had opened for the annual pilgrimage on November 16.

The annual pilgrimage would come to an end on January 20 after the sighting of the Makara Jyoti, the holy flame that would flicker three times at Ponnambalamedu on a hilltop away from the shrine, on the eve of the first of Makaram month of the Malayalam calendar. The sighting of the Makara Jyoti would be on January 15 this year.

The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), in charge of the temple administration, and the various Government departments including the police have taken all precautions to provide safety and security to the pilgrims in the context of last season’s gruesome stampede at Pullumedu on January 15 in which 102 pilgrims were killed.

The standoff between Kerala and Tamil Nadu over the 116-year-old Mullaperiyar dam on the inter-state border had reportedly led to a decrease in the number of pilgrims visiting the shrine this season. The standoff had started immediately after the shrine opened for pilgrimage. About 30 percent of the total pilgrims visiting Sabarimala every season are said to be Tamils.

Despite the slight decrease in the number of pilgrims from Tamil Nadu, the income at the shrine went up considerably this season. The income in the form of offerings from pilgrims at the temple in the first 40 days went up by Rs 19.88 crore over the corresponding period last season to Rs 114.66 crore.

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