Sabarimala has witnessed a lean crowd for the annual festival this time.
The Travancore Devaswom Board, which manages the temple shrine at Sabarimala in Kerala, said it was all set for the annual ''Makaravilakku'' festival on Monday.
TDB president A Padmakumar on Sunday met media after the evaluation meeting of the Board and said all arrangements for the festival have been completed at Sabarimala.
"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," he said.
''Makarajyothi'' is a star which is worshipped by pilgrims on Makara Sankranti on January 14 every year. It is the star Sirius located in Canis Major constellation.
It is believed that Lord Ayyappa asserts himself as the Makarajyothi to bless his devotees. The flame appears on the Ponnambalamedu hill which is around 8 km from the shrine.
The lighting of the lamp by the Kerala government with the support of the Travancore Devosom Board and forest department, at Ponnamabalamedu, is the continuation of the practice followed by tribal families who lived near the hilltop.
Mr Padmakumar also said the state health department and police at Sabarimala and nearby areas were ready to deal with any untoward incident.
"The temple will close on January 20. Only the members of the royal family of Pandalam are allowed on that day. The last day for other devotees is January 19," he said.
However, compared to last year, Sabarimala has witnessed a lean crowd for the annual festival this time.
Devotees are apprehensive over chances of violent protests in case any more women of menstrual age attempt to trek the hill during the festival.
Owing to the earlier violence witnessed at the hilltop shrine over the issue of entry of women, the police have strengthened security at Sabarimala, Pampa and its base camp at Nilakkal.
Meanwhile, the three-member monitoring committee appointed by the Kerala High Court, comprising former High Court Justices P R Raman, S Sirijagan and Additional Director General of Police A Hemachandran, inspected Nilackal, Pampa and Sannidhanam. They expressed satisfaction over the facilities arranged for the devotees.