Sabarimala shrine opens

via Pioneer News Service | Pathanamthitta published on November 16, 2008

The sanctum sanctorum of the famed Lord Ayyappa shrine among the Sabarimala hills of Kerala was opened on Saturday for the poojas of the annual Mandalam-Makaravilakku pilgrimage season amidst official claims of arrangements for smooth conduct of the pilgrimage and devotees’ worries of repeat of last season’s discomforts.

Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan, Devaswom Minister G Sudhakaran and the Travancore Devaswom Board, which was the body administering the Sabaraimala temples, said all arrangements had been made for the smooth and hassle-free conduct of the pilgrimage. The Devaswom Board was expecting more than three crore pilgrims from Kerala and other states to visit the shrine in the Mandalam-Makaravilakku season.

The most important rituals of Saturday, the first day of the pilgrimage season, were in connection with the installation of the new Melsanthis (chief priests) at the Lord Ayyappa temple and the adjacent shrine of Malikappurathamma. New Melsanthis are selected for each year at the Sabarimala temple.

Outgoing Melsanthi (chief priest) TK Krishnan Namboothiri lighted the holy lamp inside the sanctum sanctorum after opening it in the presence of Tantri (traditional temple priest) Kantararu Rajeevaru at 5.30 pm Saturday. After this, the Tanthri woke Lord Ayyappa from his Yogic sleep (a ritual) to inform Him about the presence of devotees. This marked the start of the Mandalam pilgrimage season.

This ritual was followed by the Melsanthi’s descent of the holy 18 steps leading to the abode of Lord Ayyappa to light the Aazhi, the fire heap. The pilgrimage to the shrine symbolically started then with the new Melasanthi of the Lord Ayyappa shrine and his associates climbing the holy 18 steps to the deity’s abode after this.

There were no special Poojas on Saturday, the last day of the month of Tulam of the Malayalam calendar. The Mandalam pilgrimage season would formally start at 4.00 am Sunday.

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