Spiritual fervor engulfs Sabarimala ahead of Makaravilakku festival

Representational Image: Manorama/ File

Sabarimala: With less than a day left for the procession carrying Thiruvabharanam (sacred ornaments) from Pandalam Palace to Sabarimala, a spiritual frenzy enveloped the holy hillock as devotees from far and wide started converging at the holy shrine to witness the celestial light - Makara Jyothi.

Numerous devotees are camping at Sannidhanam and on the surrounding hills to worship the 'Makaravilakku Deeparadhana' to be performed at Ponnambalamedu on Monday evening. Almost all vantage points at the holy hillock have been occupied by the devotees. Pilgrims have been camping at makeshift tents at Pandithavalom, Appachimedu, Marakkoottom, Urakkuzhy, Malikappuram temple, copra drying yard, and near the Forest Department office at the Sannidhanam since January 12 evening.

The entire hillock has been choked with people as the number of those returning after having darshan at the temple has waned considerably. The queue complexes as well as the flyover at Sannidhanam are now witnessing people waiting in queues for long hours before ascending the 18 holy steps and offering darshan at the temple.

The Makara Jyothi will be flickered thrice at Ponnambalamedu, a remote hill in the Shola forests facing the Sannidhanam immediately after the Deeparadhana at the Ayyappa temple between 6.30 pm and 7 pm on Monday. This will be preceded by the sighting of the celestial star (Makara) on the eastern horizon of the hillock.

Meanwhile, the procession carrying Thiruvabharanam will be brought to the Sannidhanam by Monday evening. Once the temple is reopened at 5 pm, a group of Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) officials will proceed to Saramkuthi for a formal reception to the procession at 5.15 pm. The holy jewellery will then be taken to Sannidhanam, where it will be given a reception by Devaswom Minister K Radhakrishnan. The presiding deity will be adorned with the Thiruvabharanam before the Deeparadhana.

Authorities have limited the virtual queue bookings for January 16 to 50,000, though the same will be raised to 70,000 per day from January 17 to 20. The spot booking facility, which has been suspended since January 10, will be restored from January 16 and the pilgrims will be permitted to trek up the hill till January 20 evening. The season will draw to a close with a representative of the Pandalam royal family visiting the temple on January 21 morning.

According to P S Prashanth, TDB president, they are expecting a crowd between 1.5 to two lakh pilgrims to arrive for the Makaravilakku festival, the high point of the three-month-long pilgrimage, and the board has arranged 10 viewpoints in the hillock temple for viewing the celestial light.

“The Tamil Nadu Government has sent 80 lakhs biscuits for the pilgrims while we have ensured the distribution of medicinal water round the clock, besides free meals three times a day,” he said.

Meanwhile, a team led by the Pathanamthitta district Collector A Shibu inspected the hotels and shops functioning at Pampa and Nilackkal base camps. Inspections were also completed in and around the restaurant units and the TDB establishments near Sannidhanam where cooking gas is used. Authorities ensured that the fire hydrants installed at all points were operational. The service of Fire and Rescue personnel has been deployed at all points opened for witnessing the Makara Jyothi.

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