Online booking system at Sabarimala impractical: TDB

Online booking system at Sabarimala impractical: TDB

The Travancore Devaswom Board Monday dismissed as "impractical" the proposal to regulate the flow of devotees at the famed Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala by implementing mandatory online booking.

A suggestion was made to intervene into the age-old customs and rituals of the hill shrine and the TDB, which manages the temple, will not allow that at any cost, a top official said.

Pampa, the base station from where pilgrims trek to the temple atop Sabarimala, had suffered massive destruction in the deluge.

There were reports that the police department had recently submitted a proposal to the state government to implement the virtual queue system, in view of the post-flood situation in Pampa.

TDB president A Padmakumar said efforts are being made on a war-footing to restore the basic infrastructure on the banks of Pampa, which had been washed away in the floods, but there was no need to regulate the flow of pilgrims.

The TDB has decided to go for complete eco-friendly development, sans any concrete structures on the banks of the River Pampa, in view of the devastation.

"There are proposals to make online booking mandatory for Ayyappa devotees in Sabarimala on the lines of Tirumala shrine in Tirupati," Padmakumar told PTI.

But that Tirupati model is difficult and impractical to implement in Sabarimala because of its peculiarities and unique circumstances, he said.

Padmakumar said he was also against charging money for the darshan under the online system to regulate the high inflow of pilgrims.

"The suggestion is to regulate the number of pilgrims to 20,000 to 30,000 a day. Over 4 lakh people visited Sabarimala on a single day during the last Makaravilakku season. How can the so-called restriction be practical in our temple?" the official asked.

Padmakumar also made it clear that TDB is the final authority in taking decisions regarding Sabarimala temple.

"We will not let others to intervene in the temple affairs. But, the Board is ready to cooperate with any practical suggestions to make the darshan more smooth without hurting the sentiments of pilgrims," the TDB head added.

He also said the police could regulate the number of pilgrims at the Pampa and Nilackal, the base stations on the foothills, during the peak days of pilgrimage and ensure better crowd monitoring.

Meanwhile, the TDB recently constructed a temporary footbridge 'Ayyappa Sethu,' across river Pampa by placing stones and sand sacks.

The Pampa-Triveni bridge-over-river, which got submerged in the floods was restored yesterday.

The Pampa river had breached its banks at several places, submerging many shops, damaging buildings, flooding pathways and uprooting electricity posts.

The toilet complex and parking facilities were washed away. A pump house and hospital building were also damaged.

The state government had decided to appoint a senior IAS official as special officer to coordinate infrastructure development works at Pampa.

It has also decided to rope in an expert agency to carry out a study on infrastructure development to be taken up in the region and to start construction work on a war-footing.

The objective was to reinstate basic infrastructure facilities before the beginning of the three-month-long annual pilgrimage season beginning this November.

The government had already decided to entrust with the Army construction of three bailey bridges at Pampa before the pilgrimage season.

The total loss and damage caused by the floods in Pampa was estimated to be Rs 100 crore.

The Lord Ayyappa shrine attracts lakhs of devotees from across the country and abroad during the annual Mandalam-Makaravillaku pilgrimage season in November-January.

Over 480 people lost lives in the state since the onset of the monsoon on May 28 apart from massive damage to property and infrastructure.

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