Sabarimala: Thousands of pilgrims, mostly from Kerala and the other southern states, converged at the famous Sabarimala temple to pay obeisance to Lord Ayyappa as its doors were opened on Friday, commencing a two-month-long pilgrimage to the hill shrine.
Devotees from the states, including Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, formed long queues at the Sannidhanam as the temple doors were opened by priests at 3 am on Friday, the first day of the auspicious Malayalam month of Vrichikam, for the annual pilgrimage.
Present during the auspicious opening ceremony were prominent figures such as Kerala Devaswom Minister K Radhakrishnan, along with MLAs Pramod Narayan and K U Jineesh Kumar.
The newly-appointed president of the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), P S Prasanth, also offered prayers at the temple in the early hours of Friday.
Later, minister Radhakrishnan inaugurated the free food distribution at the Annadana Mandapam located at the Sannidhanam.
Talking to reporters after chairing a review meeting, he assured devotees that basic facilities would be meticulously arranged in a time-bound manner, ensuring a seamless and comfortable Sabarimala pilgrimage experience for all.
The sanctum sanctorum was opened on the eve of the pilgrim season on Thursday under the aegis of temple 'tantri' (head priest) Mahesh Mohanaru.
New 'melshanthis' (chief priests) of the Sabarimala and Malikappuram temples -- P N Mahesh and P G Murali respectively -- have assumed charge for conducting rituals at the shrine for next one year.