Sabarimala shrine closes after 2-day 'pooja'

The doors to the Lord Ayyappa temple closed on Tuesday night after a two-day-long special 'pooja', but no girl or woman pilgrim in the traditionally barred age group of 10-50 could offer prayers at the shrine.

'Melshanthi' (chief priest) Unnikrishnan Namboothiri closed the portals of the sanctum sanctorum after rendering the 'Harivarasanam', the lullaby for Lord Ayyappa, the celibate deity.

Earlier, hundreds of devotees witnessed the 'padi pooja', an auspicious ritual, by standing below the sacred 18 steps, chanting Ayyappa 'mantras'.

The doors of the shrine will now open on November 17 for the three-month-long 'Mandalam Makaravilakku' celebrations when lakhs of devotees from the country and abroad visit the place every year.

The temple was opened on Monday for the annual 'Chitira Atta Thirunal puja' to celebrate the birth anniversary of Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma, the last king of Travancore.

It was the second time in the last three weeks that the doors of the hill temple opened after the Supreme Court had allowed entry of women of all age groups into Sabarimala.

Though the CPI(M)-led LDF government put in place high security arrangements to implement the verdict, protests by devotees, who gathered in huge numbers ignoring prohibitory orders, kept young women away from the temple complex.