Devotees witness Makarajyothi at Sabarimala

Sabarimala: Thousands of Ayappa devotees who ascended to the hill shrine witnessed the Makarajyothi at the ‘Ponnambalamedu’ here on Friday. The 'Marakaravilakku' ritual marked the culmination of the two-month-long pilgrimage season in the temple.

The ceremonial procession carrying ‘Thiruvabharanam’ reached the Saramkuthy by evening. Devaswom board representatives received the procession as per the rituals.

‘Thiruvabharanam’ was handed over to the Tantri and the chief priest at the temple. The Makarajyothi was flickered thrice following the ‘Deeparadhana’.

Over 10,000 devotees thronged to the temple to witness the Makarajyothi as part of the Makaravilakku festival.

The ritual was held in accordance with tradition and gaiety and compared to previous year, there were more footfalls on the day this year, temple management sources said.

Draped in the customary black dress and carrying the ''irumudi kettu'' (the traditional bundle a devotee brings to the shrine) on their heads, pilgrims, including elders and children, trekked the hill path.

Queuing for hours without food or water to offer prayers on the auspicious occasion did not dampen the spirit of devotees who thronged the forest temple to have a glimpse of Lord Ayyappa, the presiding deity.

The ''sannidhanam'' (temple complex) atop the hillock and base camp on the banks of river Pampa reverberated with chants of "Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa."

The portals of the shrine were thrown open after the ''deeparadhana'' (arati) in the evening, which was performed after the idol of Lord Ayyappa was donned with the holy jewels, ''Thiruvabharanam''.

The jewels were brought shortly before the ''arati'' in a ceremonial procession, which started its journey days ahead from the Pandalam palace, where, according to legend, Lord Ayyappa was born and spent his childhood.

The ''Saranam Ayyappa'' chants intensified when the ''makara jyothi'', considered a divine light by devotees, flickered across the eastern horizon above Ponnambalamedu, a remote hilltop 8 km from the temple complex, soon after the arati.

The lighting of the flame by the Kerala government, with the support of the Travancore Devaswom Board and forest department, at Ponnamabalamedu is a continuation of the practice followed by tribal families who live near the hilltop.

In view of the heavy rush, the board, which manages the shrine, and state police and other agencies made elaborate arrangements for crowd management and to ensure the safety of devotees.

(With added inputs from PTI)

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