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Melshanthi is the chief priest who performs day to day poojas in the Sabarimala Ayyappan temple.

The Thantris come from a specific family called the Thazhamon family. The Tantris of this family reside at Thazhamon Madom. This madom is in Chengannur of central Kerala. Apart from Sabarimala, the family presides over the poojas at Aryankavu, Achankoil and Kulathupuzha. The Padi Pooja, Udayasthamana Pooja and Kalasa Poojas cannot be conducted unless the Thantri is present during the ceremony.

Mode of selectionEdit

The term of Melshanthi lasts for one year from mid October to the next mid October. The Devosom board[dead link]publishes notifications in the end of July or the first of August in leading newspapers for applications from eminent priests, well versed in Vedas and experienced in mantra and tantra. Those who have served already a term as Melshanthi cannot reapply.

The applicants are short listed by a preliminary interview by the members of the Devasom board. Out of the short listed candidates, one is selected by Lord's grace by a method which is just like a lucky dip. In this process the names of each shortlisted candidate is written on a piece of paper and folded and deposited in a pot. Another ten pieces of paper are taken and on one paper the word 'Melshanthi' is written and the remaining 9 papers are folded blank and dropped in another pot.

Both the pots are taken inside the shrine by Tantri and offered a special pooja. Later a child is made to take the papers from both the pots one by one. The child takes a paper each from both the pots. When a name and a blank paper match the candidate is rejected. When a name and the word 'melshanthi' matches the candidate is selected. This is the way a Melshanthi is selected for the poojas.

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