Thousands of devotees from different parts of the country offered worship at the hill shrine here during the 'Makara Samkrama puja' this evening, marking the finale of the two-month-long pilgrimage to the famous Lord Ayyappa temple.
The holy hillock and the foothill Pampa reverberated with chants of "Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa" as the portals of the shrine opened after the puja performed with the idol of the presiding deity being donned with the glittering holy jewels 'Thiruvabharanam."
The jewels had been brought to the sanctum sanctorum in a ceremonial procession moments before the 'aarti'. The procession carrying the jewels had set out a couple of days earlier from the Pandalam palace where, according to the legend, Lord Ayyappa was born and spent his childhood.
The sannidhanam (temple complex) atop the hillock and the base camp Pampa have been overflowing with devotees in the last few days making it a challenging task for police to manage the crowd.
Makara samkramam is considered as an auspicious moment when the sun moves from 'Dhanu rasi' to the 'Makara rasi'.
Thousands of pilgrims had reached and camped atop the hill in make-shift tents and shacks, with devotees from Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka forming a major chunk.
"It is a fantastic experience to be in Sabarimala every year during the pilgrimage," said Bollywood actor Vivek Oberoi who has been coming to the temple on Makaravilakku day for the last several years. "The central message of the pilgrimage is that of sense of oneness, harmony and devotion. It is a beautifully concept," Oberoi said.
"It is unflinching faith and total dedication that give thousands of pilgrims the spiritual and physical strength to undertake such an arduous pilgrimage", said K Jayakumar, former Chief Secretary of Kerala and the state government's chief representative for Sabarimala.
Police, armed commandos, RAF, disaster management contingent and other state agencies including doctors and paramedics had made elaborate arrangements for the smooth conduct of the final phase of the pilgrimage.
Tight security had been enforced in and around the hillock like Pampa Hilltop, Pandithavalm and Pulmedu, especially in view of the stampede