Sabarimala: Thousands of devotees on Wednesday witnessed the 'arattu' ceremony (ritualistic bath) at the famous Lord Ayyappa temple here.
The idol of Lord Ayyappa was removed from the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine and given a holy dip at the 'arattukadavu' on the Pampa river, as part of the ritual, led by Thantri (head priest) of the shrine, Kandararu Mahesh Mohanaru.
The Tranvancore Devaswom Board, which manages the shrine, had recently resolved to keep women devotees away from Pampa, especially from 'aarattukadavu' during the time of the ritual.
The decision was taken in view of increasing presence of women during the ritual in the last few years, against the conventional customs and traditions of the hillock shrine.
The Board also claimed that it was found in the 'devaprashnam' (astrological consultation) that Lord Ayyappa, who is considered to be "perennial celibate" (Naishtika Brahmachari) "does not like the increasing presence of women" during the sacred ritual.
TDB president Prayar Gopalakrishnan said the number of women was very nominal this year.
Women of menstrual age are barred from entering the historic temple.