Mandala Pooja/ Makaravilakku
Pilgrimage to Sabarimala begins from the 1st of Vrichikam, a Malayalam month coming in the middle of November (probably between 14 and 17). The most important day for Ayyappan is Makarasankranti Day, which is the 1st of Makara (a month of the Malayalam calendar). This day will fall between January 14 and 16.
On Makarasankranti every year without fail, miraculous events occur. Firstly as the jewels (Thiruvabharanam) of the Lord are transported from the Old Pandalam Palace to Sabarimala, a Krishnaparunth (holy Garuda - an eagle - the vehicle of Lord Vishnu), circles above the precious jewels (in fact guarding them), like a protector. This rare eagle is rarely seen in the midst of people for a long period of time, yet the auspicious bird follows the Thiruvabharanam procession, finally circling above Sannidhanam at Sabarimala nine times as it pays its respects to Lord Ayyappan. During this time, there is not a single star in the sky except for a Special Star (Nakshatram)- Makara Jyothi. As the beautiful jewels are placed on the golden body of the Lord within the temple, the several hundred thousand devotees outside, crammed into any available free space, chant "Swamiye Saranam Ayyappa". When the jewels are finally all adorned on the Lord, the Star (Nakshatram) in the sky miraculously disappears. Within moments after the Lord being adorned with the Thiruvabharanam, an effulgence (Makaravilakku) appears in the opposite hills of Sabarimala, shining 3 times. This hill is called Ponnambalamedu.
Devotees can view the Makaravilakku from 9 places in and around Sannidhanam. They are Sannidhanam, Paandithavalam, Pulmedu, Saramkuthi, Neelimala, Marakootam, Hilltop, Chalakayam, and Attathodu.