The portals of the Lord Ayappa temple at Sabrimala in Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district opened on Wednesday for devotees for the annual Mandalam-Makaravilakku festivals, marking the beginning 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 shrine today .
The 41-day Mandala season begins today with the start of the month of Vrishchikam of Malayalam calendar and will end on December 27. Live booking facilities have been set up for the devotees, who could not book their darshan slots via online mode. K Jayaraman Namboothiri took charge as Sabarimala’s chief priest, and Hariharan Namboothiri took over charge as chief priest of the Malikappuram temple.
For the last two years, COVID protocols had been scaled back to ensure adherence to pandemic protocols but with restrictions removed. According to K Rajan, Revenue minister the authorities expect at least 40 lakh devotees to visit the shrine this year. Close to 50,000 devotees are expected as per the virtual queue registrations now. Last year, entry was allowed only through online registration following the COVID-19 protocols.
Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), the apex temple body manages the functioning of the hill shrine. The temple will be reopen on December 30 for the Makaravilakku pilgrimage on January 14, 2023. Subsequently 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 prominent among all the Sastha temples in Kerala. The temple is situated on a hilltop (about 3000 feet above sea level) and is open to people belonging to all religions. The temple is not open throughout the year but opens for worship only during the days of Mandalapooja, Makaravilakku, Vishu and also during the first day of every Malayalam month.It is said that the pilgrims have to observe celibacy for 41 days before going to Sabarimala. Pilgrims take the traditional forest routes as well as the one from Pamba which is less physically challenging to reach the temple.