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The Sabarimala Lord Ayyappa temple will reopen at 5 pm on 16 October for the 'Thula masam' poojas, said the Travancore Devaswom Board on Thursday. 

Further, the board said that the melshantis (head priests) for Sabarimala and Malikappuram temples would be selected via draw of lots on 17 October after the 'Ushapoojas' get over.

The lots would be drawn by two boys above 10 years of age from the Pandalam Palace. Both melshantis would continue as such for the next one year.

The board said that the lamps would be lit by the present melshanti VK Jayaraj Potti in the presence of the Thanthri Kandararu Mahesh upon the reopening of the temples.

Subsequently, the Upadevata temple would be opened. A fire would also be lit in front of the 18th step of the path leading to the shrine, it said. 

There would be no poojas on the day the temple is opened. 

As per a release by the board, devotees will be allowed to enter Sabarimala from 17 to 21 October and entry would be permitted only through virtual queue booking. 

Devotees arriving at the temple must have a two-dose Covid vaccine certificate or an RT-PCR negative report with them, it said, adding that 'Neyyabhishekam', 'Udayasthamana Pooja', 'Kalabhabhishekam', 'Padipooja' and 'Pushpabhishekam' would be the rituals performed during this period. 

The temple would be closed on 21 October and then reopen on 2 November as part of the 'Chithira Attavishesham'. Thereafter, on 3 November the temple would be closed again and reopen on 15 November for the annual Mandalam-Makaravilakku festival. 

Makaravilakku season

State Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan recently said that 25,000 devotees would be permitted entry daily during the initial days of the Mandala-Makaravilakku.

If the number of devotees needs to be changed, it would be discussed later and necessary steps would be taken, the CM said in a state government release.

Further, it was decided that the virtual queue system would continue, pilgrims below the age of 10 and above 65 will also be allowed entry and only those who have taken two vaccine doses or have a negative RTPCR report would be permitted to enter the shrine.

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