The Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala will open on Friday afternoon for the 62-day annual Mandalam-Makaravilakku pilgrimage season that begins on the first day of the Malayalam month of Vrischikom on Saturday.
The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) is busy making arrangements to provide basic facilities for pilgrims at Nilackal, identified as the main base camp in the wake of the destruction of pilgrim facility at the Pampa Manalpuram in the mid-August deluge.
The government would deploy a posse of police force at Sabarimala, Pampa and Nilackal to check any untoward incident during the pilgrim season against the backdrop of the ongoing protests by various Hindu organisations opposing the Supreme Court verdict of September 28, permitting entry for women of all ages to temple.
Outgoing head priest (melsanthi) A.V. Unnikrishnan Namboodiri, accompanied by chief priest (tantri) Kandararu Rajeevararu, will open the sanctum sanctorum at 5 p.m. on Friday. The melsanthi will light the sacred fire place (aazhi) at the Lower Tirumuttom with the fire brought from the sanctum sanctorum.
The installation of V.N. Vasudevan Namboodiri and M.N. Narayanan Namboodiri as Sabarimala melsanthi and Malikappuram melsanthi respectively will be held around 6 p.m. The tantri will lead the installation ceremonies at the respective temple sopanams.
The temple rituals will begin only with the tantri performing Ashtadravya Maha Ganapati homom on Saturday morning.
The new melsanthi will open the sanctum on Saturday morning. The Neyyabhishekom offering to the presiding deity will begin after Ashtabhishekom at 4.30 a.m.
The 41-day Mandalam festival will conclude on December 27. The temple will reopen for the Makaravilakku festival on December 30 afternoon. The Makaravilakku will be celebrated on January 14, 2019.
The procession carrying the sacred attire, Thiruvabharanam, for adorning the presiding deity will set off from Pandalam Valiyakoickal Sastha temple on January 12.
The temple will be closed after facilitating the customary exclusive holy darshan for royal representative of the Pandalam palace on January 20, marking the culmination of the annual pilgrimage season.