Sabarimala temple opens for devotees, chief priest appointed

Sabarimala, Oct 17 (PTI):
The famed Lord Ayyappa temple here opened to devotees Saturday morning after remaining closed for over six months due to the coronavirus pandemic, with a few worshippers wearing masks and carrying COVID-19 negative certificate offering prayers.
The temple, which opened for the monthly puja on Friday evening, will allow pilgrims to offer prayers till October 21.
Rapid antigen tests are being conducted at Nilackal for those not carrying a negative test report for COVID-19.
This is the first time since March 25, when a nationwide lockdown came into force, that pilgrims are being allowed to offer prayers at the hill shrine, which opened at 5 am, sources in the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which manages the temple, said.
As many as 246 people have booked through the virtual queue system for darshan on Saturday. The usual rush of devotees was missing this time. Entry of devotees was allowed only from Saturday, the first day of ‘Thulam’ (malayalam month).
Only those between 10-60 years, having a medical certificate stating that they were fit to trek the holy hill, are being allowed to offer prayers.
Due to the pandemic, the pilgrims will not be allowed to stay at Sannidhanam, Nilackkal or Pamba. Also, VK Jayarajan Potti was on Saturday appointed ‘Melsanthi'(Chief Priest) of the Lord Ayyappa temple here for one year from November 16, when the Mandala Puja season commences. Raji Kumar MN Namboothiri was selected as Chief Priest of the adjoining Malikappuram Devi temple.
The selections were made by drawing lots from a panel of priests shortlisted after interviews conducted by the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which manages the hill shrine.
They will take over as Chief Priests on November 16, on the eve of the 41-day Mandala season starting from the month of Vrishchikam of Malayalam calendar,TDB sources said

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