Devotees throng to Sabarimala, but not as usual

Thousands of devotees have been thronging the Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple in Kerala to witness the auspicious Makarajyothi which is set to happen on Monday evening. PTI file photo

Thousands of devotees have been thronging the Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple in Kerala to witness the auspicious Makarajyothi (holy lamp) which is set to happen on Monday evening.

However, compared to the previous years, the rush at the hill shrine was very low till Sunday afternoon.

The row over the entry of women in the 10-50 age group is considered to be the reason for the low turnout of pilgrims. The decline is mainly felt in the number of Malayali pilgrims, while there was a considerable rush of pilgrims from neighbouring states like Tamilnadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

According to a police officer who has been serving at Sabarimala over the last many seasons, the number of pilgrims on the Makarajyothi eve is very low compared to that during the previous years'. By afternoon, though the number slightly increased, it was no way near the rush during the previous years, says the officer.3

Also read: Security beefed up for Sabarimala Makaravilakku

There was no queue of devotees at the ‘Pathinettampadi’ (18-holy steps) or the queue complexes. Devotees could have a comfortable darshan owing to the thin crowd. Kerala State Road Transport Corporation’s (KSRTC) bus stand at Pathanamthitta, the major town close to Sabarimala, wore a deserted look on Sunday morning. KSRTC officials said that the whole pilgrimage season was very lean. “Usually all buses to Pamba used to be jam-packed during these days of the season. But this time there was hardly any rush in the buses,” a KSRTC bus conductor said.

According to the Pamba police control room officials, 53,700 pilgrims reached Pampa till 2 p.m on Sunday. Sources said during the previous years the number of pilgrims on the Makaravilakku eve were over two lakh.

Many pilgrims would be camping at Sannidhanam (temple) Pamba, and hilly regions near Erumeli to witness the Makarajyothi that would appear thrice on the Ponnambalamedu mountain by around 6.45 on Monday.

In view of the landslides during the recent natural calamities, the police have imposed strict restriction on devotees at various points like the Hill Top form where the pilgrims usually used to witness the Makarajyothi.

Also read: After Sabarimala, now women look to venture Agasthyamala

The ‘Thiruvabharanam’ (ornaments of the lord) from Pandalam Palace, about 80 kilometres from the hill shrines, is being taken to the Ayyappa temple. It will reach the Ayyappa temple by Monday evening. The idol of Lord Ayyappa will be adorned using the ornaments for the Makarasamkrama pooja. The procession carrying Thiruvabharanam is also under tight police vigil as the police anticipated chances of trouble-makers sneaking into the temple premises.

Senior police officers including ADGP Manoj Abraham and IG Balaram Kumar Upadhyay reviewed the security arrangements at Sabarimala. Till Sunday afternoon, no woman from the age group of 10-50 has visited the temple. However, the police do not rule out the chances of women devotees attempting to trek to Sannidhanam on Monday.

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