Pathanamthitta, Nov 16: Hundreds of devotees today began their trek of the holy hills of Sabarimala here as the Lord Ayyappa Temple opened for the annual 66-day pilgrimage on the eve of the auspicious Malayalam month of 'Vrishchikam'.
Devotees, especially from various South Indian states, thronged the premises of the hillock shrine when the traditional high priest Kantararu Mahesh Mohanaru opened the temple portals for the first phase of the pilgrimage, the 41-day "mandala" season.
The temple will be closed on December 27 after the 'mandala pooja' and re-opened on December 30 for the second leg of the season -- 'makaravillaku' pilrimage.
It will culminate with 'makara jyoti' (celestial light) darshan on January 15. One of the most-visited pilgrimage centres in this part of the country, Sabarimala Lord Ayyappa Temple attracts crores of pilgrims, including foreigners, every year.
Hundreds of police personnel have been deployed in and around the temple complex for security, crowd management and traffic control.
Devaswom Minister VS Sivakumar said here in a release that the government and Travancore Devaswom Board, the temple management body, are geared up to ensure a smooth pilgrimage season for devotees from within and outside the country.