Sabarimala temple opens for Makaravilakku festival
Sabarimala: Amid heavy security, the hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa at Sabarimala opened on Monday evening for the "Makaravilakku" festival.
The temple had closed on December 27 to mark the culmination of the 41-day mandala pilgrim season.
There was a heavy rush of Ayyappa devotees when the shrine opened at 5 PM.
Chief Priest A K Sudheer Namboothiri opened the temple doors and performed the rituals inside the sanctum sanctorum as well as on the holy 18 steps after which the pilgrims were allowed to have darshan.
Head priest Kandaru Mahesh Mohanaru oversaw the various rituals.
The Makaravilakku will be held on January 15 and the shrine will be closed on January 21.
Chanting 'swamiye saranam Ayyappa', thousands of devotees thronged the temple after waiting for hours in long queues.
However, no special pujas were held on Monday.
This year it was a peaceful pilgrimage season during the first half.
Last year the shrine had witnessed massive protests by devotees against the state government's decision to implement the Supreme Court's September 28 verdict, allowing women of all ages to offer prayers.
Traditionally, women in the menstrual age were not allowed inside the shrine.
A new batch of 1,397 police personnel took charge at Sabarimala for the Makaravilakku festival.
At present 1,875 police personnel, including a quick response team and Bomb squad, are already at the temple.