The Sabarimala hill has been spruced up in readiness for the influx of visitors to the Lord Ayyappa temple, whose doors will be thrown open in less than 12 hours for the two-month long annual Mandalam-Makaravilakku pilgrimage.
Outgoing Melsanthi (Chief Priest) Damodaran Potti will open the sanctum sanctorum at 5.30 p.m. on Friday for the season that begins on Saturday, the first day in the Malayalam month of Vrischikom. This will be followed by the ceremonial installation of the new Sabarimala Melsanthi P.N. Narayanan Namboodiri and the Malikapuram Melsanthi PM Manoj, who will be leading the proceedings thereafter.
During the period, the temple will be kept open for a total of 16 hours every day and the timings may be altered on peak days. Usually, the temple will be opened at 4 am and closed after the Uchapooja at 1 pm.
The Ayyappa Temple will remain close for two days following culmination of the 41-day Mandalam festival on December 27. The temple will reopen on December 30 afternoon for the Makaravilakku festival that begins the next day.
The Makaravilakku will be celebrated on January 14. The temple will be closed on January 20 morning, marking the culmination of this year’s Makaravilakku festival, after the customary exclusive holy darshan by the royal representative from Pandalam Palace.