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Devotees witness the Makaravilakku that appeared on the Ponnambalamedu hillock on the evening of January 14, 2023.
| Photo Credit: Leju Kamal

PATHANAMTHITTA Amid an unprecedented rush of devotees, who had been camping in and around the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple for the past few days, the Makaravilakku festival was celebrated at the hill temple on Saturday.

Braving the heavy rush, thousands of devotees queued up for hours to have a glimpse of Makarajyoti, a celestial star that appears on the eastern horizon of the Sannidhanam, and the Makaravilakku deeparadhana performed atop the Ponnambalamedu hillock facing the temple.

The entire pilgrimage zone, including surrounding hills, had been packed with crowds for the past few days, awaiting the twilight delight. Rooftops of various buildings and hillsides facing the east and grasslands in the Sabarimala forests too had been occupied by the devotees.

Prior to the ritual, Kulathinal Gangadharan Pillai, who headed a 22-member team carrying the sacred jewels from the Pandalam palace, handed over the jewellery box to the Tantri and the Melsanthi. Devaswom Minister K. Radhakrishnan, Travancore Devaswom Board president K. Ananthagopan and others were present on the occasion. The deity was adorned with the ‘thiruvabharanam’ and the deeparadhana was performed by 6.50 p.m.

Ponnambalamedu

Devotion reached a feverish pitch when the deeparadhana was performed atop the Ponnambalamedu and the bright flame of Makaravilakku was sighted three times around 6.45 p.m. Besides those at the Sannidhanam, people took positions at the various vantage points around the Sabarimala hills to witness the celestial light. The police had initiated elaborate security arrangements at all these locations.

The Makarasankrama puja was performed at the Ayyappa temple later in the day.

In view of the rush, authorities had opened more parking grounds at Nilackal. The Kerala State Road Transport Corporation operated 1,000 additional services to accommodate the rush. As many as 2,000 police officers were deployed at the Sannidhanam and two paths were opened simultaneously to facilitate the return of devotees.

With the entire region packed with devotees and their vehicles, strict regulations had been imposed on traffic along the Sabarimala route during the day from different directions.

The annual pilgrimage season will draw to a close on January 20 morning, a day after performance of the Guruti ritual at Malikappuram. As per estimates, over 50 lakh people are expected to visit the temple by the end of the season. The neighbouring States of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana accounted for majority of the pilgrims.

The income received during the pilgrimage season, meanwhile, has crossed Rs.310 crore.



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