Aravana distribution stalled again at Sabarimala

via Pioneer News Service | Pathanamthitta published on December 5, 2007

The distribution of Aravana, the main prasadam at Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala, was again disrupted in the wee hours of Wednesday leading to protests and despair among pilgrims who had stood for hours in long queues before the counters.

Though the authorities of the Travancore Devaswom Board were able to restore the distribution on a meagre level by 7.00 am, several devotees complained they had to wait for over five to eight hours to get the prasadam.

Even when the distribution was restored, the authorities could give only two cans of prasadam each to one devotee, leading to despair among pilgrims from outside the State. Though the actual reason for the disruption was shortage of containers for filling the Aravana and their flip lids, the TDB version was that it was due to mechanical problems in the filling plant.

The Travancore Devaswom Board held an emergency meeting in the context of the disruption of distribution.

The Aravana distribution had been a continuous problem since the very first day of the pilgrim season on November 17. The TDB had, with immediate effect, cancelled the contract given to Elite Food Products for Aravana manufacture in the wake of the problem.

The distribution of Aravana for the past two days was two containers per devotee, and the sudden stalling of the distribution on Wednesday morning complicated the problem. Somaji Reddy, a devotee from Andhra Pradesh said, “I have to take at least ten containers for my friends and relatives in the village. And all I have got is two cans. What am I going to tell them?”

In the afternoon, TDB officials said the problem would be solved by the evening as one lakh containers were expected to reach by then. Sources said the disruption was due to some problems with the contractors in Tamil Nadu who were to supply cans to Sabarimala. Though the contract had been awarded to two companies, only one company was supplying the cans presently, the source said. TDB sources said that the board would do everything possible to find a solution to the issue raised by devotees from outside the State.

The Aravana issue had shaken the entire administrative set-up of Sabarimala from the very first day of the Mandalavilakku pilgrimage season. The issue had even led to the worsening of relations between Left front partners CPI(M) and CPI.

As the Aravana issue snowballed into a controversy, Devaswom Minister G Sudhakaran ordered a Vigilance probe into the role played by TDB members P Narayanan and Sumathikkutti Amma, nominees of CPI and RSP respectively, exempting board president CK Guptan from it. This infuriated the CPI and RSP, and a clamour for including Guptan in the probe pursued in the LDF. CPI State secretary Veliyam Bhargavan and Sudhakaran had even exchanged hot words. In the end, the last LDF meet decided to have a broad Vigilance probe into matter including Guptan as well in its ambit. The LDF meet also witnessed an argument between CPI(M) State secretary Pinarayi Vijayan and Veliyam over the latter’s remarks against Sudhakaran.

Meanwhile, security at Sabarimala was stepped up on Wednesday noon in view of the anniversary of the Babri Mosque demolition on Thursday.

Police sources said no pilgrim would be allowed to stay at Sannidhanam after the sanctum sanctorum was closed. Security implements were set up at Sannidhanam and the Nadappanthal, the corridor leading to the holy eighteen steps. Commandos also were deployed to help the police personnel on duty at the temple.

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