The Makara Vilakku Pooja is one of the most significant prayer offerings to Lord Ayyappan. This pooja is directly linked to the beginning of the Sabrimala pilgrimage. This pilgrimage begins in the middle of November, on 1st of the Malayalam month of Vrichikam. Usually, the day lies somewhere around 14th to 17th November. The pilgrimage continues in the coming month, with the 1st of the Malayalam month of Makara being the most important. In the rest of the country, this day is known as the Makar Sakaranti.
Makar Sakaranti has always been a significant day for the Ayappan devotees. For them, this is considered a day of miracles. Every year, without fail, a lot of miraculous events happen on this day. During this day, the Thiruvaabaranam (jewels) of Lord Ayappan are transferred from the Old Pandalam Palace to the Sabarimala temple.
Krishnaparanth, the vehicle of Lord Vishnu closely follows the Thiruvaabaranam procession. This is a rare species of eagle and is hardly seen among people. However, on this blessed day, during the procession of Thiruvaabaranam, one can see the auspicious eagle circling the precious jewels. After it follows the procession, it circles above the Sannidhanam at Sabarimala. After making nine circles around the shrine, and paying its respects to the deity, it finally flies away, only to be seen after one year to miraculously appear at the day of Makara Vilakku Pooja.
On the day of the pooja, there is only a single special nakshatram in the sky. As the Thiruvaabaranam are placed on the body of Lord Ayappan within the shrine, all the devotees crammed up to witness the pooja chant the lord's name. After the Lord has been adorned with all the special precious jewels and new clothes, this special nakshtram disappears miraculously. It seems as if the star had just come out to pay its respects to Lord Ayappan. The disappearance of the star is marked by the appearance of a divya jyoti on the hills opposite the Sabrimala temple. This divine light shines thrice and then disappears. It signifies the benevolence of Lord Ayappan and the hill on which it shines is called Ponnambalamedu.
There are only nine places in and around the temple complex from where this divine light can be witnessed.
What are these, if not miracles?
As Lord Vishnu takes his seat among us humans in the temple, all the miracles of nature come to life. Among the devotees who gather to witness the adornment of Lord Ayappan, are many birds, animals and elements of nature – all hailing the presences of the divine Lord among them.
So concludes the Makara Vilakku Pooja. Every year, millions of devotees from all parts of the world converge upon Sabarimala. They gather together without paying any heed to cast, creed and race. They bring with them their prayer laden requests of absolution and help and with that, they bring garlands to adorn the lord and chant paeans. They carry with them their irumudis and bathe in the holy river of Pampa.
Such is the call of Lord Ayappan, that it cannot be resisted, and devotees take all kinds of pains to catch just a glimpse of the lord during the Makara Vilakku Pooja.