KOCHI: Sabarimala Ayyappa temple opened for the annual Mandala – Makaravilakku pilgrim season on Sunday evening. Devotees were allowed to enter the hill shrine from Monday morning.
The outgoing melshanti (chief priest) A.K. Sudheer Namboothiri opened the doors of the temple’s sanctum sanctorum on Sunday evening in the presence of thantri (head priest) Kandhararu Rajeevaru. There were no special poojas on Sunday.
Installation ceremony of the newly elected melsanthi V.K. Jayaraj Potti and Malikkapuram melsanthi M.N Reji Kumar was also held.
The Mandala festival season will be on till December 26 after which the hill shrine will be closed. The temple will be reopened on December 30 for the Makaravilakku festival. Makaravilakku festival will continue till January 14, 2021.
The state government and the Travancore Devaswom Board have made elaborate arrangements to ensure safety during the two-month long annual pilgrim season. Pilgrimage will be strictly in compliance with the pandemic protocol and only those with a COVID-19 negative certificate would be permitted to enter the shrine.
The state government has capped the number of devotees and only 1,000 pilgrims, who have booked through the virtual queue system, would be allowed to enter the temple for darshan. Devotees will not be allowed to stay within the temple premises. On Saturdays and Sundays, 2000 devotees will be allowed. However, more devotees will be allowed to offer prayers during the Makaravilakku day.
Antigen testing facility has been set up for devotees at various centres like bus stands and railway stations.