Thousands offer prayers at Sabarimala

Thousands of pilgrims prayed at the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple on Friday, the first day of the world’s largest annual religious confluence.

New head priest N Damodran Namboodri opened the sanctum sanctorum of the Ayyappa temple at 4 am marking the beginning of this year’s pilgrimage season. Almost at the same time, Unnikrishanan Namboodri, the newly selected head priest of Malikappuram temple, opened the sanctum sanctorum of the temple.

Long queues of devotees for darshan were formed even on the previous night. Ayyappas from Karnataka, Tamil Nadu outnumbered those from Kerala. Over 2,000 policemen  have been deployed at Sabarimala and Pampa.

According to the new timing, the temple will be opened at 4 am and after morning poojas, it will be closed at 1:30 pm. The evening pooja will start at 4 pm instead of 3 pm earlier and the closing is at 11 pm.

The season’s first causality occurred on the first day when Siva Kumar, 22, of Bangalore, drowned in the Bahrathappuzha at Kuttipuram. Police said Siva, of Rajaji Nagar came with 34 others. While taking bath, he was caught under current. Though other group members made an attempt to rescue him, they did not succeed.

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