''Makara Jyothi'' is man-lit, TDB says

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Thiruvananthapuram, Jan 31 (PTI) Seeking to downplaythe debate over the ''Makara Jyothi'' of Sabarimala temple, theTravancore Devaswom Board today said it will not run acampaign to declare it to be a man made one as there is strongreligious belief behind it.

"It is known to everybody that Makara Jyothi is a firelit by men at Ponnabalamedu and TDB also recognises this. TheBoard will however not run a campaign to propagate it asman-made as there is a religious belief behind it into whichthe temple board does not intend to interfere," TDB presidentM Rajagopalan Nair told reporters here.

The Kerala High Court had recently asked TDB (whichadministers the hill temple) to clarify if Makara Jyothi isman lit or a celestial phenomenon, in the wake of thePullumedu stampede in which 102 devotees died on January 14while returning after witnessing the jyothi.

Nair was briefing the media after discussions TDB hadwith high priests, members of the Travancore and PandalamRoyal Houses and authorities on temple rituals andarchitecture.

He said the Makara Jyothi issue was not the main topicof discussion, but others like whether the temple should beopened for prayers throughout the year to avoid huge rush inthe two-month pilgrimage season, starting mid-November.

The unanimous opinion was that keeping the temple openall through the year was against the unique traditions andcustoms of the hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa, he said.

The authorities concerned were also against a proposalto broaden the "holy 18 steps" leading to the shrine sincedoing so was against principles of temple design. They were ofthe opinion that the steps have some divinity attached to itand making any alteration would not be right.

Nair said the views of the meeting would be discussedand finalised by the Board, based on which a report would besubmitted to the high court.

The court had also sought TDB''s opinion on whether thetemple could be opened throughout the year to reduce the rush.

According to custom, the shrine is opened only fivedays every month of the Malayalam calendar, besides theNovember-January ''mandala pooja'' and ''makaravilakku''pilgrimage season.

Temple high priest Kandararu Rajivaru and VasuthuExpert Kannipayur Narayanan Namboothri were among thosepresent at the meeting.

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