Sabarimala temple opens for annual pilgrimage today

Thousands of devotees from across South India arrived here to offer prayers before Lord Ayyappa in Sabarimala as the temple opens its doors this evening for the 62-day long Mandala Pooja-Magaravilaku annual pilgrimage season.

The temple will allow devotees inside the Sanctum Sanctorum after climbing the sacred 18 steps following completion of pooja at 5 pm. The traditional Naiabishekham, which is very revered among devotees, will take place after 4 am on Saturday.

Police personnel dotted the foothills and Nilackel, the new base camp after Pamba was ravaged by the August floods, to prevent any untoward incident due to Supreme Court ruling that women of all age can pray at the temple.

Menstruating women are not allowed inside the Sabarimala Temple and though the Supreme Court overturned the custom, none of the women in the age group of 10 to 50 were allowed when the temple opened for a brief period in October and early this month.


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Tension was palpable in Pamba as police checked vehicles and enforced strict restrictions even as activist Trupti Desai announced that she will offer prayers at Sabarimala on Saturday.

Desai, who along with members of Bhumata Brigade arrived at the Cochin International Airport early on Friday, faces vociferous protests against her decision to visit the temple. Due to protests, she remained at the airport premises till afternoon. Unfazed by the protests, she said she will not return to Maharashtra before visiting the temple and offering prayers.

The temple will allow pilgrims, most of whom are from the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, till December 27, 2018.

After a three-day hiatus, the temple will open its doors yet again for the famous Magaravilaku season from December 30, 2018, to January 20, 2019. Magaravilaku, which falls on January 14 this year, is the most important day for Lord Ayyappa and pilgrims can view it from nine places in and around Sannidhanam, the sanctum sanctorum of the temple.

With the Kerala Government yet to clarify its stand on allowing menstruating women inside the temple after the Supreme Court admitted the review petition, tension has already gripped the areas in and around the temple.

Women in the age group of 10-50 have been barred from praying at the temple for centuries together and male devotees follow a strict vegetarian diet and observe 41-day 'viradham' (fast) before beginning their 4-km long trek to get a darshan of Lord Ayyappa.

On Friday evening, the sanctum sanctorum of the temple will be opened by outgoing head priest (melsanthi) A.V. Unnikrishnan Namboodiri who will be accompanied by chief priest (tantri) Kandararu Rajeevararu. Immediately after lighting the fire, V N Vasudevan Namboodiri and M N Narayanan Namboodiri will be installed as Sabarimala melsanthi and Malikappuram melsanthi respectively.

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