Doubts cast over shortage of Aravana

via Pioneer News Service | Thiruvananthapuram published on December 7, 2007

As the shortage of Aravana prasadam at Sabarimala and the subsequent scuffle between the pilgrims and the men in uniform continue, Aravana is being produced more than the recorded capacity, it is said.

Sources in the Travancore Dewaswom Board, while speaking to The Pioneer, said, “While certain problems regarding the production of Aravana is true and there has indeed been shortage of flip bottles. This is really sad to note that still more Aravana is produced than what is recorded officially.”

This startling revelation by a senior official of the TDB who is on duty at the Sannidhanam will bring several skeletons out of the cupboard.

With the shortage of Aravana turning into a major issue with the State administration red-faced and the board not having any clues to settle the issue, sources said that some people and groups who are connected with the temple is garnering most of what is produced and the product is sold in the black market.

Some travel operators who have close links in the hill shrine are behind this move.

A top TDB source said that there are indeed a clear modus operandi and game plan in selling the prasadam in the black market.

Aravana is a product which has jaggery and rice as its main ingredients and this mixture is heated at 240 degree centigrade and then cooled to a temperature of around 80 degrees for getting the perfect semi gel combination.

According to official estimate one such mixture can produce 960 bottles of Aravana, each of which is packed and sold in 250 ml bottles priced at Rs 50. An estimated total of around one lakh bottles are made a day according to official records and this means that a huge amount is being siphoned off from this hill shrine on a daily basis.

Sources said that on diluting the mixture and by maintaining the temperature the total quantity can be hiked up to 1300 bottles. This means an increase of around 340 bottles and sources told The Pioneer that these bottles are sold through the black market bringing in a whooping profit for these operators.

While 1300 bottles are produced the records shows a production of 960 bottles and this pegs the loss of 340 bottles. Correspondingly, the quality of the material is also lowered which proves why the Aravana is loosing its taste and aroma.

Sources in the TDB told The Pioneer that this is a clear case of cheating in Sabarimala and those pilgrims who comes from far and wide considers the Aravana prasadam as a divine memory from Sabarimala. The shortage of such a product would naturally create problems bringing disrepute to the institution of the temple.

Even while the scarcity of Aravana is hotting up in Sabarimala a section of those in power is minting money using the same Aravana and sources revealed that this is only a tip of the ice berg at the lack of co-ordination and centralisation in Sabarimala.

It may be recalled that the Amul group had given an offer for packaging and producing the Aravana at Sabarimala with all sanctity but sources said that some higher ups in the board were not willing to give the contract. The Amul had not put any conditions except for the logo of the company.

Being a noted national co-operative group credited with developing the living condition of milkmen across Western India , there was nothing wrong in awarding the contact to the company .

With the present development of under valuing of the Aravana prasadam it is clear as to why the board higher ups have denied permission for Amul to operate in Sabarimala.

Another interesting point to note is that Sabarimala which has a huge presence of devotees during the season and corresponding revenue has not done anything in the temple complex to provide clean food and water to the pilgrims.

Several leading groups including national level co-operatives were waiting to get and entry to Sabarimala not on profit motivation but on the publicity the company would get.

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