PATHANAMTHITTA: There was heavy rush at the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple with devotees thronging the holy hillock on Friday afternoon to offer prayers and witness the draw of lots to select the next Sabarimala Melsanthi (head priest) on Saturday morning.
Many pilgrims, including children and the elderly, sustained minor injuries in the bustle to ascend the holy 18-steps leading to the temple when the sanctum sanctorum was opened at 5.30 p.m.
The police and Devaswom guards deployed at the Sannidhanam had a tough time as the barricades to regulate the pilgrim flow at the Lower Tirumuttom had been removed as part of the tile-laying work there.
Melsanthi P.N. Narayanan Namboodiri opened the sanctum sanctorum in the presence of Tantri Kandararu Rajeevararu and executive officer V.S. Jayakumar. The temple rituals will begin with the Tantri performing the Ashtadravya Maha Ganapati homom on the first day in the Malayalam month of Thulam on Saturday.
Draw of lots
The selection of the next Melsanthi of the Ayyappa temple and the adjoining Malikappuram Devi Temple will be made through a draw of lots at the respective temple sopanam on Saturday morning.
The TDB had shortlisted nine priests for the post of Melsanthi of the Ayyappa temple and five priests for the Malikappuram Melsanthi post.
Special Commissioner appointed by the Kerala High Court K.Babu will supervise the draw of lots.
The selected melsanthis will assume charge for the next one-year term at a ceremony at the respective temple sopanam on the eve of the Mandalam pilgrim season on November 16.
The Ayyappa temple will be closed after the five-day monthly rituals on October 22.