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Adhering to COVID protocol, devotees witness Makaravilakku at Sabarimala

The temple was thronged by only a few pilgrims due to strict safety guidelines

Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala | Reuters Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala | Reuters

Amid strict COVID-19 protocol, hundreds of devotees on Thursday offered prayers at the famous Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala on the auspicious occasion of 'Makaravilakku', marking the culmination of the over two-month-long pilgrimage.

The hill temple, which used to witness heavy rush of lakhs of pilgrims on the occasionevery year, was thronged by only a few pilgrims due to the strict safety guidelines in place in the wake of the virus outbreak.

As per the government directive, only 5,000 pilgrims were permitted to climb the holy hills to offer prayers on the day, Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) officials here said.

Wearing face masks and carrying the customary 'irumudikettu' (the traditional bundle a devotee brings to the shrine) over their heads, devotees gathered at the temple complex to have a glimpse of Lord Ayyappa, the presiding deity in the evening.

The portals of the shrine was thrown open after the 'deeparadhana' (arti), which was performed to the idol of Lord Ayyappa adorned with the holy jewels, 'Thiruvabharanam'.

The jewels were brought here, moments before the 'arti', in a ceremonial procession, which started its journey a couple of days earlier from the Pandalam palace, where, according to legend, Lord Ayyappa was born and spent his childhood.

The 'Saranam Ayyappa' chants intensified when the 'makara jyothi', considered a divine light by devotees, flickered across the eastern horizon above the Ponnambalamedu soon after the arti.

Police, health department and other agencies made elaborate arrangements for the smooth conduct of the final leg of the pilgrimage and to manage the crowd in compliance with the COVID protocols.

Meanwhile, state Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran earlier said here that the Left government was prepared to extend all support for the developmentof Sabarimala.

Indicating the fall in revenue collection at the hill temple, he said only Rs 16 crore was collected till Tuesday in this season compared to the revenue of Rs 260 crore last year.

The minister also requested devotees to extend all help to the hill shrine.

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