Heavy rush of Ayyappa pilgrims in Sabarimala

The famous hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa here today witnessed heavy rush of devotees, a day before the 'Mandalapuja' festival, which marks the end of the first phase of the annual two-month long season.

Pilgrims have to wait for hours for darshan and police were having a very tough time in controlling the crowd, official sources said.

The temple will be closed after the Athazhapuja (night puja) on Wednesday, marking the culmination of the Mandalapuja festival and reopen for the Makaravilakku festival on December 30.

Earlier, the ceremonial procession carrying "Thanka Anki", golden attire of the presiding deity, reached the "sannidhanam" (main temple). The holy attire was taken from  the foot-hill Pampa to the Sannidhanam by the Ayyappa Seva Sanghom volunteers on their head.

The Mandalapuja will be held between 12.15 p.m. and 12.30 p.m. tomorrow. The deity will be adorned with the Thanka Anki prior to the Mandalapuja. A Kalabhabhishekom will also be performed to the deity prior to the Utchapuja (afternoon puja).

Meanwhile, the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) has deployed 160 buses for conducting chain service between Pampa and Nilackal on Sunday and Monday, official sources said.

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