Pathanamthitta: Doors of the Sabarimala Lord Ayyappa shrine has opened on Monday for the annual pilgrimage season. The devotees will be allowed to enter the temple from Tuesday as marking the official commencement of the Mandala pilgrimage.
This time, 30,000 devotees per day will be allowed to have darshan through the virtual queue system.
The sanctum sanctorum of the temple opened at 4.52 PM on Modnay in the presence of chief priest (Tantri) Kandararu Mahesh Mohanararu by outgoing priest V K Jayaraj Potti.
Appointment ceremony of the newly selected priests (melsantis) of Lord Ayyappa and Malikappuram temples in the hills was held later in the evening.
The pilgrimage will be held strictly adhering to COVID-19 protocol with authorities insisting that two doses covid vaccination certificate or RT-PCR negative certificate taken within 72 hours is mandatory for visiting the hill shrine.The devotees should also produce original ID proofs like Aadhaar card, passport and voters' ID.
The base camp will be at Nilackal. There will be a spot virtual queue booking facility at Nilackal.
No parking for vehicles will be allowed in Pampa. However, Pampa snanam (bathing in river pampa) will be allowed. Pilgrims will not be allowed to stay in Pampa and Sannidhanam.Those who complete darshan should leave the premises.Trekking to the temple will be allowed only through the Swami Ayyappan Road.
The ghee being brought by the pilgrims in coconuts for Neyyabhishekam will be collected by the TDB staff through special counters and sanctified ghee will be returned to the pilgrims through special counters of the Devaswom.
Arrangements have been made for the pilgrims to purchase prasadam while returning to Pampa after having darshan.
The 41-day Mandala puja festival will conclude on December 26.
The temple will be opened again on December 30 for the Makaravilakku pilgrimage. The Makaravilakku is on January 14, 2022, and the temple will be closed on January 20, 2022.
Police have strengthened the security for ensuring a smooth Sabarimala pilgrimage season.
State police chief Anil Kant said plans have been made to provide strict security in and around Sabarimala in connection with this year's Mandala-Makaravilakku festival.
Crime Branch ADGP S Sreejith will be the Chief Police Coordinator for security arrangements. Southern Region IG Harshita Attalloori is the Joint Police Coordinator.
Armed Police Battalion DIG P Prakash and Thiruvananthapuram Range DIG Cory Sanjay Kumar Gurudin are the additional police coordinators.
Security will be beefed up at Sannidhanam, Pampa and Nilakkal, police said.
(With added inputs from PTI)