Makaravilakku is an important annual festival held at the Sabarimala temple in Kerala on Makar Sankranti. Every year lakhs of devotees from different parts of the country arrive at the temple to participate in the religious event and seek blessings from Lord Ayyappa. This year Makaravilakku will be held on January 14, 2019, and preparations are in full swing.

Makaravilakku is light that appears on Ponnambalamedu, a summit in the Western Ghat mountain ranges of Pathanamthitta District, visible from Sabarimala. Makara Jyothi is Sirius star that is visible on 1st of Malayalam month Makaram. After Deeparadhana (evening prayers) devotees bow down to the star which becomes visible in the sky after sunset. This year, the transit of Sun into Makara (Capricorn) is expected to take place at 7: 52 pm on Monday. Chants of Sharanam reverberate the whole place as the star and light become evident in the dark sky. History of Sabarimala: Why Women Weren't Allowed Into The Lord Ayyappa Shrine.

Ahead of Makaravilakku, the deity of Lord Ayyapan is adorned with gold jewellery called Thiruvabharanam which is stored at the Pandalam place. The transit of Thiruvabharanam from the Pandalam Valiyakoickal Sree Dharma Sastha temple to Sabarimala and back is conducted amidst heavily armed security. This year, following the controversy, the Kerala government informed the High Court that police protection would be granted for the three-day-long procession. Police force headed by the assistant commandant of Armed Reserve Police led the security force.

The Thiruvabharana procession left Pandalam Palace on January 12th following special prayers and various religious and cultural performances. The ornaments will be returned in similar police protection on January 23rd. The three sandalwood boxes containing gold jewellery are taken by head priests and are given a reception at various temples on the way.

On the last day when the procession reaches Sabarimala, special evening prayers are done before adorning the gold on the idol of Lord Ayyappa at 6:30 pm. The two-month-long annual pilgrim season at Sabarimala which was marred in controversies will culminate with the Makaravilakku on January 14.

Around 18 lakh pilgrims are expected to arrive at Sabarimala for the festival. Various transport and parking services have been made available for the event. Around 6,000 police officers have been deployed to manage the crowd and traffic at Sabarimala.

The Travancore Devaswom Board, which manages sanctum sanctorum, said it is all set for the "Makaravilakku" festival on Monday.

"Thiruvabharanam (sacred jewels of the deity) will reach "pathinettampadi" (holy 18 steps) at 6 pm on January 14. At 6.30 pm, the "deeparadhana" (worship with lamps) will take place with the Lord adorning the jewels. All facilities for the devotees to witness the "Makaravilakku" and "Makarajyothi" are in place," A Padmakumar, TDB president said to media on Sunday quoted PTI.

"Makarajyothi" is a star, Sirius located in Canis Major constellation, which is worshipped by devotees on Makara Sankranti on January 14 every year. According to beliefs, Lord Ayyappa affirms himself as Makarajyothi to bless his followers.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Jan 13, 2019 02:44 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website