New chief priest for Sabarimala

Sabarimala: Ahead of the pilgrim season set to start in mid-November, Balamurali Namboodiri of Edamana Illam was today selected as the `melsanthi` (head priest) of the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple.

T K Eswaran Namboodiri of Attukal was selected as the head priest of the adjoining Malikappuram Devi temple. Both the priests would continue for one year after taking over on November 16, when the two-month long pilgrim season of the hillshrine begins.

The priests, who will have to stay at the hillshrine for the entire year, were chosen by drawing lot from a list of candidates shortlisted by the Travancore Deveswom Board (TDB). The list was prepared by interviewing the applicants by TDB in the presence of scholars including the traditional high priest of the temple.

Additional Chief Secretary and Sabarimala co-ordinator K Jayakumar, TDB president M Rajagopalan Nair and high priest Kantararu Maheswaru were among those present for the selection of priests. Over 30 million devotees visit the shrine a year during the pilgrimage season that will last till mid-January.