The sacred grove (poonkavanom) of Ayyappa at Sabarimala is all set to celebrate the annual Makaravilakku festival on Monday. Ayyappa devotees from different parts of the country have started camping at the Sannidhanam and on the surrounding hillsides to worship the Makaravilakku deeparadhana to be performed at Ponnambalamedu in the twilight hours of Monday.
The pilgrim turnout on Sunday was only moderate compared to the huge turnout on the eve of the previous festival. Pilgrims are camping in tents pitched at Paandithavalom, Appachimedu, Marakkoottom, Urakkuzhy, and Malikappuram. Many prepare food near the tents, disregarding the ban on cooking in the forests.
Tantri Kandararu Rajeevararu, assisted by Melsanthi V.N. Vasudevan Namboodiri, performed the Bimba-sudhikriya, Prasada-shudhi, and other purification rites at the temple on Sunday as a prelude to the Makaravilakku festival.
The procession carrying the Thiruvabharanam, sacred jewellery of the deity, will reach the Sannidhanam by 6.20 p.m. on Monday. The deity will be decorated with the Thiruvabharanam prior to the deeparadhana to be performed between 6.30 p.m. and 6.40 p.m.
The celestial bright star Makara, known as Makarajyoti, will appear on the eastern horizon of the Sannidhanam by this time.
The Makaravilakku deeparadhana at Ponnambalamedu, a remote hill facing the temple, will be performed in the next few minutes. The Neyyabhishekom on the deity will be performed with the ghee brought from the Kowdiar Palace in Thiruvananthapuram. Abhiram, a 19-year-old youth from East Fort, brought seven ‘nei-thenga,’ coconuts filled with ghee, from the Kowdiar Palace for the Sankramabhishekom. Meanwhile, the pilgrim flow to Sabarimala on the Erumely-Azhutha-Karimala route was in full swing on Sunday.
As many as 62,300 Sabarimala-bound pilgrims crossed the door-framed metal detectors at Pampa by 5 p.m., police sources said.
The Ambalappuzha and Alangad Petta-thullal teams conducted the Pampa Sadya at Pampa before embarking on their trek to the hillock on Sunday. The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) has made elaborate arrangements for the worship of the Makaravilakku deeparadhana at Ponnambalamedu from nine view points at Sabarimala and Paandithavalom.
The deeparadhana at Ponnambalamedu would be performed by a senior priest on Monday evening. A 25-member team, comprising officials of the TDB, police and the Forest Department, will escort the priest to Ponnambalamedu to perform the deeparadhana on Monday.
The Guruti ritual will be performed at Malikappuram after the closure of all temples at Sabarimala on January 19 night. The Ayyappa temple will be closed after facilitating the worship exclusively for the royal representative and the Thiruvabharanam will be taken back to Pandalam in a procession.