Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala has opened its doors for the Makaramavilakku festival from Wednesday i.e., December 30. The opening of the temple marks the beginning of the second phase of the annual pilgrimage season. The chief priest of the temple had quarantined himself earlier after they had come in contact with three people who had tested positive for COVID-19. The Makaravilakku festival will be held on January 14, after which the shrine will close its doors on January 20.
Even though the doors of the temple were opened at 5:00 pm on Wednesday, devotees will only be allowed in from Thursday onwards, according to the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which manages the shrine. According to a TDB official, the 'melsanthi' (chief priest), V K Jayarajan Potti, had quarantined himself on Tuesday.
"Three persons, whom he had close contact with, tested positive for COVID 19. So, he is in quarantine now at Sabarimala itself. As of now, it will not affect the daily rituals of the shrine," he told PTI.
As per the temple custom, the chief priest can descend the holy hills only after one year after he takes charge at the hill temple. The Board would decide further course of action if he tests positive for the virus after five days, the official added. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, only 5,000 devotees would be permitted to offer prayers at the shrine per day during the Makaravilakku season, TDB sources said. As in the first phase of the pilgrimage which ended on December 26 with customary Mandala pooja, a COVID negative certificate, taken within 48 hours of the pilgrimage, is mandatory in the second leg also. Pilgrims, who do not have such a certificate, would not be allowed to proceed further from the base camps-Nilakkal and Pampa- to Sannidhanam (temple complex), they added.