Pathanamthitta: Thousands of Sabarimala pilgrims witnessed the 'Makarajyothi' on the auspicious occasion of Makaravilakku on Saturday.
After the traditional procession carrying the 'thiruvambaranam' was received at Sannidhanam, all eyes turned toward Ponnambalamedu where the 'Makarajyoti' emerged by 6.50 pm.
The chants and hymns intensified when the portals of the shrine were opened after the 'deeparadhana' in the evening.
The 'deeparadhana' was performed after the idol of Lord Ayyappa was donned with 'thiruvabharanam' brought from the Pandalam Palace, where, according to legend, Lord Ayyappa was born and spent his childhood.
The jewels were brought shortly before the 'deeparadhana' in a ceremonial procession, which started its journey three days ahead from the palace.
The 'Saranam Ayyappa' chants further intensified when the 'makarajyothi', considered a divine light by devotees, flickered across the eastern horizon above Ponnambalamedu, a remote hilltop eight kilometres from the temple complex, soon after the 'deeparadhana'.
The lighting of the flame by the Kerala government, with the support of the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) and forest department at Ponnamabalamedu, is a continuation of the practice followed by tribal families who live near the hilltop.
The state government and TDB, the apex temple body which manages the shrine, made elaborate arrangements for crowd management and to ensure the safety of devotees.
State Devaswom Minister K Radhakrishnan was camping at the hilltop since morning to oversee and coordinate various arrangements. The temple would be closed on January 20, TDB sources said.
(With inputs from PTI)