With chants of "Swamiye Ayyapa", the two-month-long famed Sabarimala pilgrimage season opened in the wee hours of Thursday as thousands stood in queue to have the first darshan.
At 3 am, the temple tantri, other priests and the temple authorities were present when the sanctum sanctorum was opened.
After the initial prayers, the hallowed 18 steps that leads to the sanctum sanctorum was thrown open to the crowding pilgrims, who loudly chanted in fervour "Swamiye Ayyapa".
Chief priest (Tantri), Kandararu Rajeevararu, opened the temple rituals by performing the Ashtadravya Maha Ganapathi homom followed by Ashtabhishekom, Neyyabhishekom and Ushapuja.
The opening of doors of the sanctum sanctorum coincides with the first day of the Malayalam month of 'Vrishickam', which falls on Thursday. The festival season's most awaited moment falls on the first day of the Malayalam month, the day of the Makaravilaku -- sighting of the celestial light on the horizon -- which takes place on January 14, 2018.
Situated on the mountain ranges of the Western Ghats, at an altitude of 914 metres above sea level, the Sabarimala temple is four km uphill from Pamba in Pathanamthitta district, which is around 100 km from the capital city.
The temple, which bars the entry of women who have attained puberty, is accessible only on foot from Pamba.
Every pilgrim carries with him/her a kit (which contains coconuts which are broken just before climbing the 18 steps) on their head during the pilgrimage. Without it no one is allowed to go up the holy 18 steps at the Sannidhanam.
Like in the previous season, pilgrims can book their darshan online through the temple website.
With the culmination of the 41-day day Mandalam pilgrim season on December 26, the temple will be closed for three days, before reopening for the Makaravilakkku festival on December 30 afternoon.
This time Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has asked his counterparts in the southern states to ensure that pilgrims from their states should carry their identity cards when they come for the pilgrimage.
(With IANS inputs)