Amid the ongoing agitation over the entry of women of menstruating age into the Sabarimala temple following the recent order of the Supreme Court has come the Makaravilakku festival, the most important event in the two-month-long annual festival season.
Makara jyothi is a star that appears in the sky on Makara Samkramam, when the Sun moves from dhanu rasi (Sagittarius) to Makaram rasi (Capricorn) on the first day of the Malayalam month of Makaram, which is today — January 14 (Makara Sankranti) — this year.
In the evening, the sacred ornaments of Lord Ayyappa, who is believed to have lived at Pandalam palace (some 80 km away), would be brought to Sabarimala shrine from the palace in a procession. The erstwhile royal family of Pandalam is the custodian of the ornaments.
Makara vilakku is a light lit at Ponnambalamedu, a plateau across the Sabarimala shrine. The light, believed to have celestial origins, is shown three times by the chief priest of Pamba temple. Pamba is the base station of Sabarimala.
The light is dubbed as Makara vilakku. This ritual is done after the Sirius star appears in the sky. This ritual had been done by Malaya araya tribals in the past. When the Travancore Devaswom Board took over the administration of the temple in the early 1950s, the tribal community lost that right.
The TDB expects two to three lakh pilgrims at the hill shrine to witness the most auspicious event in the festival calendar this evening.
The temple will be shut on January 20, two days before the Supreme Court hears in open court a clutch of review petitions against its September 28, 2018 order.
The Supreme Court had fixed this date on November 13, and had declined to stay until then its order allowing the entry of women of all ages into the temple.
Subsequently on January 3, the court had denied an urgent hearing to a contempt plea against the chief priest for temporarily closing the shrine after two women entered it before dawn on January 2. The court said the contempt plea would be heard along with the review petitions on January 22.