Lord Ayyappa temple opens for Mandalam-Makaravilakku Festival
The world famous Lord Ayyappa Temple here in Kerala was opened at 1730 hrs today as part of the two-month long annual Mandalam-Makaravilakku Festival season that begins tomorrow.
The temple was opened by 'Melsanthi' (head priest) N Balamurali in the presence of 'Tantri' (chief priest) Kandararu Rajeevararu. Later, the Melsanthi lighted the sacred fire place (Aazhi) in front of the the holy 18-steps at the Lower Tirumuttom with the fire brought from the sanctum sanctorum.
After this ritual, the installation of new 'Melsanthis'-- N Damodaran Potti (47) and A N Unnikrishnan Namboodiri (45) for the Ayyappa temple and the Malikappuram Devi temple respectively for the next one-year -- would be held at 1900 hrs by the Tantri and the outgoing Melsanthi by pouring holy water (kalasabisekam) over them.
After various rituals, the outgoing Melsanthi would close the temple at 2230 hrs and hand over the keys to the Devaswom Administrative officer.
Later, the outgoing Melsanthi would climb down the holy 18-steps to return from Sabarimala, marking the completion of his one-year term in the temple.
The new Melsanthi would open the sanctum sanctorum tomorrow at 0300 hrs as part of the 41-day Mandalam Pilgrimage, which would come to a close on December 26 at 2230 hrs.
After a brief period, the temple would reopen on December 30 at 1530 hrs as part of the Makaravilakku Festival that begins on December 31. This year's Makaravilakku Day falls on January 14, 2013.
The temple would be closed on January 20 at 2230 hrs, marking the culmination of the two-month Festival, after a customary exclusive Darshan by a royal representative of the Pandalam Palace.
People of all religions could visit the Sabarimala temple and there is no restriction of caste or creed. But there are certain restrictions on women.
Only those women who have either passed their fertility age and those before reaching the stage of puberty are allowed in the shrine.
As part of the festival, security arrangements were tightened at Sabarimala. Cameras have been installed at sensitive forest areas and traditional paths leading to the temple.
Police patrolling has been intensified in the surrounding forest areas during day and night time.
In addition to Specially trained commandos, Bomb Detection and Disposal Squads and Special Intelligence teams, a large number of police force was also deployed at 'Sannidhanam,' the abode of Lord Ayyappa.