Makaravilakku is an annual festival held on 14 January (Makar Sankranti) in Kerala, India at the shrine of Sabarimala. The festival includes the Thiruvabharanam (sacred ornaments of Ayyappan) procession and a congregation at the hill shrine of Sabarimala. An estimated half a million devotees flow to Sabarimala every year to have a darshan (vision) of this ritual.
Lord Sri Rama and his brother Lakshmana met Sabari, a tribal devotee, at Sabarimala. Sabari offered the Lord fruits after tasting them. But the Lord accepted them gladly and whole-heartedly. The Lord then turned and saw a divine person doing tapas. He asked Sabari who it was. Sabari said it was Sasta. Rama walked towards Sasta and the latter stood up to welcome Rama. The anniversary of this incident is celebrated on Makara Vilakku day.
Makaravilakku, is a part of a religious ritual that is practiced in the past by the tribes in the forest of Ponnambalamedu(the place where Makaravilakku appears) and then later secretly continued by The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB). There is nothing supernatural in the Makaravilakku, no God or goddess is performing this. It has been a practiced for more than hundreds of years by the tribes. It was only in January, 2011 that the TDB admitted in the high court for the first time in history that Makaravilakku is man made. Actually there is a temple in the Ponnambalamedu, the place is not open to the public it is under the control of Forest department of Kerala. When the Sirius star appears in the sky on Makaram 1st, these tribes too perform their rituals in that temple. Like in the temple of Sabarimala they also perform Arathi encircling the fire around the Idol. It is performed by lighting camphor and ghee in a vessel and is circled around the idol 3 times. This lamp or fire is what we see from the Sabarimalai temple and call it Makara Jyothi but the fire in the Ponnabalamedu is the actual Makaravilakku. The holy Light... "The Jyothi is a star that appears on the skies on the Makarasamkrama day above the Ponnambalamedu towards the eastern direction of Sabarimala. The lamp lighted during the time of Deeparadhana (arati) in the temple is known as Makara Vilakku," .
Makarajyothi: The Sirius Star
Makaravilakku: The Arathi that performed by The tribes and later continued by The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB)
The name refers to the lighting of a bright "vilakku" (lamp) three times atop Ponnambalamedu the sanctum sanctorum of Sabarimala, which were used to communicated the completion of Deeparadhana in Ponnampalamedu (and compare Makara Jyothi).