No hurdles on the path of devotion

Strong Belief

The Sabarimala Temple pilgrimage season will come to an end on Makara Sankranti day when the celestial lamp will glow from the skies above the shrine.

committed A large number of pilgrims are going from the City to Sabarimala this year as well.

To witness this spectacle and offer prayers to Lord Ayyappa, millions of devotees will be gathering at Sabarimala like every other year. But considering what had happened last year — a
stampede that killed hundreds of devotees returning from the shrine after the Makara Sankranti puja — and the subsequent row over Makarajyoti, one wonders whether these issues have affected the devotees. While this year also, many from the City are going on the pilgrimage, they say these
issues can’t deter their devotion.

According to L Muraleedharan, spokesperson of Sabarimala Dharmasastha Temple, there has been a
moderate rush from January 10. “Usually, we witness a huge rush from January 10 every year. This year, the rush is comparatively less. It might be due to last year’s tragic incident or due to the Makarajyoti controversy. But a mammoth crowd might turn out on Makara Sankranti day.

So, we can’t draw any conclusion now,” he says.

He says, last year, roughly 3 to 3.5 crore people visited the shrine during the pilgrimage season spanning over two months. Each year, the footfall increases by 20 per cent. “We are yet to see whether the trend continues this year too. We are quite hopeful of having more devotees than last year,” says L Muraleedharan.

On the part of devotees, it seems, neither the fear of stampede nor the Makarajyoti issue has had any impact. Thiyagarajan Thanikasalam, an employee with the Indian Railways, visited the temple recently. He says, even though the Makarajyoti is man-made, it can’t shake his belief.

“We have so many temples in India. Still, people take all the trouble for this pilgrimage to see their favourite deity. There is no armour against fate. You cannot expect people to go on a pilgrimage on the basis of the infrastructure available at the place. No devotee who goes to Sabarimala will be worried about the facilities there. His aim is to have a darshan.

But this time, the security has been beefed up. The police officials were giving clear instructions to the visitors. I saw a lot of improvement with regard to crowd-handling,” says Thiyagarajan. Devanama, another devotee, who is on his way to the temple, says though it has been revealed that Makarajyoti is a man-made phenomenon, he is as much excited to see it this year as he was last year.

“In Hindu tradition, light has a divine significance. Some people welcome the New Year with parties. For me, the New Year starts by offering ‘puja’ to the Lord and witnessing the Makarajyoti. But, I’d like to tell people who visit the shrine to follow the instructions of their team leader and stick to the team. They should remain calm and let others also have a good darshan,” adds Devanama, who is a businessman.

He also welcomes the temple board’s decision to extend the darshan time by three-and-a-half hours during this time.

“It will lessen the rush. And they have opened more prasadam counters. Along with the police, the temple authorities have also taken many measures to ensure a smooth pilgrimage. So, I have no fear,” he says.   

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