Sabarimala: M S Parameswaran Namboodiri on Saturday took charge as priest of the Malikappuram temple, located near the Ayyappa temple, here.
He was unable to take charge on November 17 as was scheduled, but did not due to death in his family.
Tantric Kandararu Mahesh Mohanararu performed rituals for the anointment of the new priest for Malikappuram Devi temple, a press release issued by Devaswom Board said.
Meanwhile, police officials told PTI that there was a footfall of over 3.5 lakh till Saturday since the temple opened on the evening of November 16. "The shrine is witnessing a huge crowd of devotees. Around 3.5 lakh devotees have visited the shrine so far," a control room official said.
The authorities are expecting more crowd as the government has decided to allow vehicles with carrying capacity upto 12 people till Pamba.
Earlier, the private vehicles were allowed only till Nilackal base camp. From there, the KSRTC buses used to ply the devotees to Pamba.
The authorities have also opened more ATM counters for the devotees at Nilackal. The Lord Ayyappa temple had opened on November 16 for the two-month-long Mandala-Makaravillakku pilgrimage season.
Unlike last year when the temple complex witnessed violent protests after the Kerala government decided to implement the September 28, 2018 verdict of the apex court allowing women of all ages to enter the shrine, this year the devotees expressed happiness as there were no restrictions.
Though the apex court did not stay its September 2018 order allowing entry of women into the Ayyappa temple, the LDF government in Kerala this time said the shrine was not a ground for activism and made it clear it would not encourage women who want to visit the temple for publicity.
A five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court had on November 14, in a 3:2 verdict, decided to refer to a larger bench to re-examine religious issues including those arising out of its 2018 verdict lifting a centuries-old ban on women of menstruating age visiting the shrine.