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Sabarimala Makaravilakku and Makarajyothi Festival

Makaravilaku – Makara Jyothi is an important festival at the famous Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple in Kerala. Legend has it that after defeating demon Mahishasura, Lord Ayyappa merged with the Dharma Shastha idol on the Makarajyothi day. It is also the most important and the last festival in the two-month Mandala Pooja – Makaravilakku Kalam at the temple. In 2018, the date of Sabarimala Makaravilakku and Makarajyothi Festival is January 14.

Sabarimala Makaravilakku and Makarajyothi Festival is witnessed by thousands of Ayyappa devotees. The evening deeparadhana is the most important event on the day. On the day for deeparadhana, Lord Ayyappa appears before the devotees fully attired in the Thrivaabharanam – gold ornaments – which is specially brought from the Pandalam Palace.

Before the evening deeparadhana, an eagle hovers over the Sabarimala Temple. Next the Makara Star appears on the sky – Makarajyothi is the star that appears on the sky on the day in the evening. Next is the appearance of Makaravilakku – it is the light that appears three times in the distant hill at Ponnambala Medu.

Legend has it that Lord Parashurama first lit the Makaravilakku after installing the idol of Lord Ayyappa. It is also believed that the tribals who were harassed by the demon Mahishasura first lit the light to celebrate the slaying of their tormentor by Ayyappa.

The lighting of Sabarimala Makaravilakku is a major controversy and is a pet theme of atheists and Christian missionaries to attack Hinduism and its rituals.

But last year the during a major controversy regarding Makaravilakku, the chief priest or Tantri of Sabarimala in a press release stated that the Makaravilakku was a fire lit by human hand on the hill neighboring Sabarimala while the Makarajyothi was a star that appeared in the evening sky on the day marking the culmination of the annual festival.

It is the star that is worshiped as a celestial light. The Makaravilakku is merely a ritual involving the lighting of a fire as a symbolic act.

On the same day, Makar Sankranti and Uttarayan are observed throughout India.