Pilgrimage concludes; stock-taking time at Sabarimala

via Pioneer News Service | Pathanmthitta published on January 20, 2008

It is stock-taking time for the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) now as the sanctum sanctorum of the Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala has closed after the more-than-two-month Mandalam and Makaravilakku pilgrimage. According to sources in the TDB and Devaswom Department, review meetings to be held now will see heated discussions on the various issues that had marred the just-concluded pilgrimage season.

The sanctum sanctorum of the hill shrine was closed practically for the season on Saturday night after the chanting of Harivarasanam, the favourite lullaby of Lord Ayyappa, at 11.00 pm. In the morning on Sunday, representative of the King of Pandalm, Thiruvathira Thirunnal Raghava Varma Raja received the keys of the shrine after offering worship at the temple.

The Raja returned the keys to the Melshanti (head priest) for the monthly poojas. He also gave a pouch containing the symbolic funds for the expenses of poojas every month till the next Mandalam pilgrimage season. The Thiruvabharanam (holy ornaments) which the deity had worn for the Makara Samkra Pooja started its return journey to the Valiyakoyikkal Dharma Sastha Temple at Pandalamfrom where it was brought to Sabarimala by a group of 18 devotees through the traditional jungle route.

With the rush of devotees and the hassled of daily administration over, time has come for the TDB, police and the 22 departments concerned with the conduct of the pilgrimage at Sabarimala. The “post-mortem examination” might lead to shocking developments, say sources.

They said that there was every possibility of dissolution of the present three-member Devaswom Board headed by president CK Guptan, a nominee of the CPI(M). Guptan and the two members — P Narayanan, nominee of the CPI and Sumathikkutty Amma from the RSP — had been on perpetual clash through the pilgrimage season. The Government will review the situation seriously and take remedial measures.

Dissolution of the board is possible as a proposal on these lines had come up after the conclusion of the 41-day Mandala Vilakku season. There is a reading in the LDF that the entire board has been totally unprofessional and inefficient in handling the complex matters related to Sabarimala.

The pilgrimage season this time had been marred right from the start of the Mandalam season when on the very first day, the distribution of Aravana, the main prasadam of the temple, went haywire. Problem cropped up on the occasion of the conclusion of the Makara Vilakku season when Devaswom Minister G Sudhakaran and TDB member Narayanan clashed on the issue of appointment of a Vigilance Sub-Inspector.

Immediately after the problem in Aravana distribution broke out, the TDB had cancelled the permit given to Elite Foods Group for manufacture of the prasadam and had taken over production. This led to various controversies including court cases. Sudhakaran immediately ordered a Vigilance probe against Narayanan and Sumathikkutty Amma, exempting Gutan from its purview enraging the LDF constituents CPI and RSP. The LDF was later forced to make the probe applicable to all persons and matters applicable to TDB.

The Aravana distribution issue, which had even led to law-and-order problems at Sabarimala as disappointed pilgrims dared to hold protest at the hill shrine, could not be settled till the appointment of K Jayakumar IAS as Special Officer at Sabarimala on the particular instructions of Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan, who even visited the shrine along with Health Minister PK Sreemathi to learn the problems first-hand.

In the meantime, the problems had infuriated Hindu organisations who had staged various protest programmes at Sabarimala, the Travancore Devaswom Board headquarters at Thiruvananthapuram and all he district headquarters.

The Opposition UDF, Hindu organisations and a large section of the Ayyappa devotees are of the view that the present board should be dissolved and a new and efficient board should be constituted. There is also a feeling that persons like Minister Sudhakaran, “who have never learnt to rein in their tongues”, should not be allowed to meddle in the Sabarimala affairs. Sources said that reconstitution of the board was now almost sure.

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