Marking the culmination of the 41-day annual Mandalam pilgrim season at Sabarimala, Mandalapuja was performed at the Ayyappa temple here on Saturday.
The rituals during the day were led by the chief priest (Tantri), Kandararu Rajeevaru. The Mandalapuja was performed between 11.40 p.m. and 12.20 p.m. Prior to the puja, the presiding deity was adorned with the Thanka Anki, a golden attire that had been brought to the temple in a ceremonial procession.
The Ayyappa temple will remain closed till 5 p.m. on December 30 and the devotees will be permitted from December 31 onwards. The Petta Thullal at Erumeli will be held on January 11 while the customary procession carrying the Thiruvabharanam to Sabarimala will set off from Pandalam a day later.
The Makaravilakku day falls on January 14 and the Guruti ritual, marking the culmination of the annual Makaravilakku festival, will be performed on the Malikappuram Devi temple premises on January 19 evening.
The Ayyappa temple will be closed after the customary holy darshan permitted exclusively to the royal representative on January 20 morning.
As per estimates by the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), as many as 71,706 persons visited the temple on the first 39 days of the season. This, however, was just 5% of the total footfall recorded during the same period last year.
The income during the period, meanwhile, stood at ₹9.9 crore as against a whopping ₹156.60 crore collected during the same period last year. The number of persons who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 at Sabarimala was 390 and of this, 289 were employees of various departments.
According to TDB president N. Vasu, as many as 5,000 pilgrims will be permitted to the temple on a daily basis and the online booking till the Makaravilakku festival has already been completed. “While the TDB is now making use of the virtual queue system implemented by the State police this year, the agency is now considering taking over the system and operating it on the lines of the systems in place at Guruvayur or Tirupati,” he said.
Based on the directions by the State government and the High Court of Kerala, only those who have undergone RT-PCR, RT Lamp, or Express NAT tests will be permitted entry to the temple from December 26, added Mr. Vasu.