Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala has re-opened for the Makaramavilakku festival from Wednesday, 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 isolated himself earlier after they had come in contact with three people who had tested positive for COVID-19. The Makaravilakku festival will be carried on January 14, after which the temple will shut its doors on January 20.
The doors of the temple were opened at 5:00 pm on Wednesday, devotees will only be permitted in from Thursday ahead, according to the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which controls the temple. According to a TDB official, the ‘Mel Santhi’ (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.
As per the temple tradition, the chief priest can dismount the holy hills only after one year after he takes control at the hill temple. The Board would determine also the term of activity if he tests positive for the virus after five days, the official added. Due to COVID-19 regulations, only 5,000 devotees would be allowed to deliver prayers at the shrine per day during the Makaravilakku season.
As in the first stage of the pilgrimage which concluded on December 26 with traditional Mandala pooja, a COVID negative certificate, carried within 48 hours of the pilgrimage, is compulsory in the second leg also. Pilgrims, who do not have such a certificate, would not be permitted to move further from the base camps-Nilakkal and Pampa- to Sannidhanam (temple complex), they added.