Less rush in Sabarimala, devotees upset over curbs

Less rush in Sabarimala, devotees upset over curbs

Police standing guard as devotees trek to the Sabarimala temple in Kerala. AFP

Blame it on the unprecedented restrictions and the fear of protests due to the Supreme Court verdict on allowing women of all ages into the temple, the annual Mandala Pooja-Makaravilakku pilgrim season in Sabarimala is devoid of the usual fervour and revelry attached to it.

Though thousands of devotees continued to throng the temple every day, the rush of pilgrims this year is much less when compared to previous years, according to sources in Pamba.

Even pilgrims who trekked the 4-km long mountain path to reach the Sannidhanam, the sanctum sanctorum, expressed surprise at being able to pay their obeisance in no time.

Sources said only a little over 45,000 people visited the temple when it opened its doors for the 64-day annual pilgrimage on Friday — which according to the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) is much less when compared to the previous years.

Also, the lack of rush in Sabarimala has come as a major disappointment for the TDB which is staring at a reduction in revenue in the form of sales of prasadams.

Sabarimala is under a thick blanket of security since Friday and no private vehicles, including that of the media, are allowed beyond Nilakkal, the new base camp for the pilgrims, 18 km away from Pamba. Pilgrims are asked to park their vehicles and take the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) buses to reach Pamba.

“We were surprised to find less rush in Sabarimala on Sunday morning. We reached Pamba early on Sunday from Chennai and trekked the hills to reach Sannidhanam at noon. The queue was not long, and we had a peaceful darshan,” Karunakaran, a devotee from Tamil Nadu, told DH.

“But the security was unprecedented, and I have never seen so many policemen in Sabarimala in the past decade,” he added.

Devotees are upset with a few restrictions like not being allowed to stay at the Sannidhanam due to security concerns.

“I have been staying outside the Sannidhanam every time I come to Sabarimala. But this time they did not allow us to stay there. Why impose unnecessary restrictions on the pilgrims for the mistake of some protesters?” a pilgrim asked.

Around 70,000 people visit Sabarimala every day during the pilgrim season and majority of the revenue for the TDB comes during this season.