The Kerala High Court has ordered that up to 5,000 pilgrims shall be allowed at Sabarimala Ayyappa temple from December 20.
A Covid-19 negative certificate based on RTPCR test done within 48 hours ahead of reaching Nilakkal will be also mandatory from December 30, said the order issued on Friday considering a batch of petitions on the restrictions at Sabarimala.
The daily number of pilgrims allowed at Sabarimala was initially fixed at 1,000 for weekdays and 2,000 for weekends. It was later increased to 2,000 and 3,000, respectively, considering the plea of the Travancore Devaswom Board that manages temple citing the steep fall in revenue from the temple. The state government had also decided to insist on RTPCR test for all pilgrims and employees after the Mandala Pooja on December 26.
Over 300 persons, mainly staff and police personnel, were tested Covid-19 positive at Sabarimala after the pilgrimage season began on November 16. The pilgrimage season will end by the middle of January after the Makaravilakku.
The High Court decided to allow more pilgrims considering factors such as Sannidhanam cannot be said to be a closed place with poor airflow and a decline in registration of pilgrims. The Travancore Devaswom Board recommended that up to 10,000 pilgrims can be allowed daily by adhering to Covid-19 protocol.
Various Hindu outfits had earlier raised concerns over allowing more pilgrims citing that in case Covid-19 spreads among temple priests, it may affect the routine rituals also.