Sabarimala opens for Makaravilakku festival; Chief priest in quarantine

Pathanamthitta: Pilgrims thronged Sabarimala Ayyappa temple from the wee hours of Thursday with the commencement of Makaravilakku pilgrimage season.The Lord Ayyappa temple opened on Wednesday evening at 5 pm for the Makaravilakku festival, even as the chief priest quarantined himself after coming into contact with three COVID positive people.

The auspicious Makaravilakku festival falls on January 14 and the shrine would be closed on January 20. According to a TDB official, the ”melsanthi” (chief priest), V K Jayarajan Potti, has quarantined himself since 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.

Officials proposes to declare Sannidanam as micro containment zone

Medical officers at Nilakkal and Sannidanam have proposed the government to declare Sannidanam as micro containment zone.

Over 350 people have undergone COVID-19 test on Wednesday and 7 people tested positive for the virus in Sabarimala.

(With added inputs from PTI)

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