The gates of Lord Ayappa temple at Sabrimala in Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district opened to devotees of the annual Mandalam-Makaravilakku festivals on Wednesday, marking the start of the two-month long annual pilgrimage season. The Chief Priest (Melsanthi) opened the sanctum sanctorum of the temple priest in the presence of the thantri of the temple and lit the lamp at the hill sanctuary today.
The 41-day Mandala season begins today with the start of the Vrishchikam calendar month of Malayalam and will end on December 27. Live booking facilities were put in place for devotees, who could not book their darshan slots through the online mode. K Jayaraman Namboothiri took over as chief priest of Sabarimala, and Hariharan Namboothiri took over as chief priest of Malikappuram Temple.
Over the past two years, COVID protocols have been scaled back to ensure pandemic protocols are adhered to, but with restrictions removed. According to K Rajan, Minister of Revenue, authorities expect at least 40 lakh devotees to visit the shrine this year. Nearly 50,000 worshipers are expected according to virtual queue signups now. Last year entry was only permitted by online registration in accordance with COVID-19 protocols.
Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), the temple body at the top manages the operation of the hill sanctuary. The temple will reopen on December 30 for the Makaravilakku pilgrimage on January 14, 2023. Thereafter, the shrine will be closed on January 20, concluding the pilgrim season.
The Sabarimala Sree Dharma Sastha temple, dedicated to Lord Ayyappa, is the most famous and important of all the Sastha temples in Kerala. The temple is located on a hill (about 3000 feet above sea level) and is open to people of all religions. The temple is not open all year round but is only open for worship on the days of Mandalapooja, Makaravilakku, Vishu and also on the first day of every Malayalam month. It is said that pilgrims must observe celibacy for 41 days before going to Sabarimala. Pilgrims take the traditional forest roads as well as that of Pamba which is less physically difficult to reach the temple. (ANI)
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