Thousands of devotees offered worship at the famous Lord Ayyappa temple here on the auspicious occasion of Makaravilakku this evening, marking the culmination of the over two-month-long pilgrimage.
The holy hill of Sabarimala, atop which the Ayyappa temple is located, reverberated with chants of "Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa" when the portals of the shrine was opened for "deeparadhana" (arti) in the evening.
State Minister for Devaswom Kadakampally Surendran was among those offered worship at the time of deeparadhana.
Hundreds of devotees from across the state were camping at the hillshrine for the past few days to have darshan on Makarasankrati today.
The state government had strengthened the safety and security arrangements at the temple especially against the backdrop of a minor stampede on its premises on December 31 in which a few devotees were injured.
The "makara jyothi", held as a divine light by devotees, flickered across the eastern horizon above the Ponnambalamedu soon after the arati.
Devotees queued up with folded hands for hours to have a glimpse of the presiding deity, who was adorned with Thiruvabharanam, the holy jewels which were brought here in a ceremonial procession from Pandalam Palace moments before the aarti.
The procession carrying the jewels in wooden caskets had begun a couple of days earlier from the Pandalam palace where, according to legend, Lord Ayyappa was born and spent his childhood.
The Travancore Devaswom Board, that manages the Temple, had estimated about 4.50 crore devotees during the pilgrimage season.
The temple would close on January 20. It will reopen on every first day of the Malayalam calender for monthly poojas and remain open for five days.
The hillock had been witnessing heavy rush of devotees, especially from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka besides Kerala over the last few days.
Hundreds of devotees camped atop the hill in make-shift tents and shacks for some days to have darshan of the deity.
Policemen, disaster management personnel, doctors and paramedics were deployed at the temple town as part of the arrangements for the festival season.
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