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'Makaravilakku' Ritual Held At Ayyappa Temple In Sabarimala, Thousands Offer Prayers

Tens of thousands of devotees braved long queues and heavy rush on Saturday to offer prayers at the Lord Ayyappa temple, Sabrimala, which marked the culmination of over two-month-long annual pilgrimages. 

Devotees at Sabarimala temple
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Braving long queues and heavy rush, tens of thousands of devotees on Saturday offered prayers at the Lord Ayyappa temple, Sabrimala on the day of the auspicious 'Makaravilakku' ritual which marked the culmination of the over two-months-long annual pilgrimage season. 
        
A sea of devotees, clad in customary black dress and carrying the "irumudi kettu" (the traditional bundle a devotee brings to the shrine) on their heads, were seen patiently waiting in and around the temple complex, forest paths and the base camp chanting the hymns of Lord Ayyappa since the morning.
        
Due to heavy rush, restrictions were put in place by the authorities for spot booking to trek the hill from the base camp.
        
The chants and hymns intensified when the portals of the shrine were thrown open after the "deeparadhana" (arati) in the evening.
        
The 'arati' was performed after the idol of Lord Ayyappa was donned with the holy jewels "Thiruvabharanam" brought from the Pandalam Palace, where, according to legend, Lord Ayyappa was born and spent his childhood.
        
The jewels were brought shortly before the 'arati' in a ceremonial procession, which started its journey three days ahead from the palace.
        
The "Saranam Ayyappa" chants further intensified when the "Makara Jyothi", considered a divine light by devotees, flickered across the eastern horizon above Ponnambalamedu, a remote hilltop 8 km from the temple complex, after some minutes after the 'arati'.
        
The lighting of the flame by the Kerala government, with the support of the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) and forest department at Ponnamabalamedu, is a continuation of the practice followed by tribal families who live near the hilltop.
        
The State government and TDB, the apex temple body which manages the shrine, made elaborate arrangements for crowd management and to ensure the safety of devotees.
        
State Devaswom Minister K Radhakrishnan was camping at the hilltop since morning to oversee and coordinate various arrangements.
        
The temple would be closed on January 20, TDB sources said.

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