Sabarimala shrine opens for annual pilgrimage

published on November 16, 2012

The Lord Ayyappa shrine at Sabarimala, Kerala’s famous mountainous Hindu pilgrim centre, opened on Thursday evening for the annual Mandalam-Makaravilakku pilgrimage amidst tight security measures.

The pilgrimage season starting on the morning of Friday, the first day of Vrischikam month of the Malayalam calendar, will conclude on January 20 after the sighting of the holy Makara Jyoti on the eve of the Makaram month, falling on January 14. There will be a four-day recess after the conclusion of the 41-day Mandalam phase with special Poojas on December 26.

The sanctum sanctorum of the temple was opened for the two-phase, 66-day pilgrimage at 5.30 PM Thursday by the outgoing Melshanti (chief priest) in the presence of Tanthri (traditional chief priest) Kantararu Rajeevaru. No special Poojas were performed on Thursday. Thousands of pilgrims had reached to have Darshan of the deity on Thursday evening itself.

At 7.00 PM Thursday, the ceremony marking the installation of the new Melshantis was held at the Sannidhanam, the abode of the Lord. N Damodaran Potti took over as the Melshanti of the Lord Ayyappa shrine and AN Unnikrishnan was installed as the chief priest of the adjoining Malikappuram temple for the next one year.

The Melshantis for the next one year were selected through draw of lots on October 17, the first day of the Thulam month of the Malayalam calendar. The annual pilgrimage would formally start early Friday morning with new Melshanti Damodaran Potti opening the sanctum sanctorum for Poojas.

VS Sivakumar, Devaswom Minister looking after temple affairs in Kerala, said extensive arrangements had been made for the smooth conduct of the annual Sabarimala pilgrimage. He held a video-conference with concerned district collectors and department heads to review the arrangements.

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