KERALA, INDIA, November 17, 2022 (Web India): The portals of the Lord Ayappa temple at Sabarimala in Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district opened on Wednesday for devotees for the annual Mandalam-Makaravilakku festivals, marking the beginning of the two-month long annual pilgrimage season. The 41-day Mandala season begins today with the start of the month of Vrishchikam of Malayalam calendar and will end on December 27. For the last two years, COVID protocols had been scaled back to ensure adherence to pandemic protocols but with restrictions removed. According to K. Rajan, Revenue minister, the authorities expect at least 4 million devotees to visit the shrine this year.

The temple will reopen on December 30 for the Makaravilakku pilgrimage on January 14, 2023. Subsequently the shrine will be closed on January 20, concluding the pilgrim season. The Sabarimala Sree Dharma Sastha Temple, dedicated to Lord Ayyappa, is the most famous and prominent among all the Sastha temples in Kerala. The temple is situated on a hilltop (about 3,000 feet above sea level). The temple is not open throughout the year but opens for worship only during the days of Mandalapooja, Makaravilakku, Vishu and also during the first day of every Malayalam month. It is said that the pilgrims have to observe celibacy for 41 days before going to Sabarimala. Pilgrims take the traditional forest routes as well as the one from Pamba which is less physically challenging to reach the temple. (ANI)