Makarasamkramam is the time when the sun moves from the dhanu rasi to the makaram rasi. The special pooja performed for Ayyappan at this moment is known as makarasamkrama pooja. Following the utcha pooja pilgrims will be allowed to climb the holy 18 steps only after deepaaradhana and jyothidarshan.
On January 19th the guruthi for the hill gods will take place after the shrines of Lord Ayyappan and Mallikappurathamma has closed. The Makaravilakku Maholsavam will come to an end with the darshan of the royal representative from Pandalam on the morning of January 20th.
Ayyappa devotees from different parts of the country throng the sacred grove of Lord Ayyappa situated in the Periyar Tiger Reserve in the mountain ranges of Western Ghats to witness the sighting of the Makarajyoti, a bright flame and a celestial star that appear on the eastern horizon of the Sabarimala Sannidhanam.
Devotees believe that the Makarajyoti darshan brings them good luck and divine blessings, and the pilgrim turnout to witness the auspicious event has been on the rise every year.
Pilgrims perching on tree tops and camping on the surrounding hills and grasslands even a few days prior to the Makaravilakku day (January 14) is common in Sabarimala. Almost all roof-tops and the entire Sannidhanam will be packed with devotees with the lone mantra ‘Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa.’
Selfless devotion, bakti, to the divine is the very soul and spirit of the Ayyappa cult. All are reverently being called ‘Ayyappa’ or ‘Swami’ and here in Sabarimala, each and everything belongs to the Lord.
There is no caste or creed in Sabarimala and all are equal at the holy hillock, making it the only one of its kind. The mutual respect among the congregation of pilgrims belonging to diverse cultural backgrounds and different socio-economic strata is a model.
Shedding their egos, pilgrims are found lying on the wayside, footpath and wait in the long-winding queues for hours together, braving the hot sun and the chilling cold, for the holy darshan. Away from the modern luxuries, they camp in the forests for days together to witness the Makarajyothi.
The Ayyappa idol will be decorated with the Thiruvabharanam, sacred ornaments, brought from the Pandalam Palace in a ceremonial procession, prior to the deeparadhana at the temple.
There will be silence at the holy hillock for a few minutes and first appear the bright star, Makarajyoti, followed by the flickering of a bright flame twice or thrice on the eastern horizon, raising the multitude of pilgrims to a state of divine ecstasy. The Makarajyoti appears on the eastern horizon as soon as the deeparadhana at the Ayyapa Temple takes place on January 14 evening.