Sabarimala shrine opens for annual pilgrimage

via PNS | Pathanamthitta published on November 16, 2011

The Lord Ayyappa shrine at Sabarimala, Kerala’s famous mountainous Hindu pilgrim centre, opened on Wednesday evening for the annual Mandalam-Makaravilakku pilgrimage amidst tight security measures adopted in the context of the gruesome stampede of January 14 at Pullumedu on the way to the temple, in which 102 devotees were killed.

The 66-day pilgrimage season starting on the morning of Thursday, the first day of Vrischikam month of the Malayalam calendar, will conclude on January 20 after the sighting of the holy Makara Jyoti on the eve of the Makaram month, usually falling on January 14. There will be six-day recess after the Mandalam Pooja on December 27.

Officials of Kerala Police, Travancore Devaswom Board, in charge of the temple’s administration, and various Government departments concerned with the pilgrimage have taken all possible measures to make the event safe keeping in mind the stampede that occurred on the night of January 14 when pilgrims were returning after sighting the Makara Jyoti.

In the context of last season’s tragedy, the authorities would not allow vehicular traffic into Pullumedu, a high-altitude grassy summit coming under the Periyar Tiger Reserve en route to the Sabarimala shrine. Uncontrolled vehicular traffic and parking were seen as one of the major factors that had led to the tragedy.

Director General of Police Jacob Punnoose said that special crowd-control measures had been put in place as per a new security manual in all places at Sabarimala to avoid heavy crowding of devotees at any one spot, which was seen as a major reason for the Pullumedu stampede.

A huge police team under Additional DGP Chandrasekharan has been deployed in Sabarimala, its base camp Pampa and all other related places. Thrissur City Police Commissioner P Vijayan is heading the security team in the first phase of the pilgrimage. The team has 15 DySPs, 28 circle inspectors, 100 sub-inspectors and assistant sub-inspectors and 900 constables.

The Kerala Government has opened a new footpath and a Bailey bridge and adopted other measures to decongest the route leading to the shrine. Devaswom Minister VS Sivakumar claimed that a new security manual was in place from this pilgrimage. A sanitation drive had been launched in and around the pilgrimage centre to keep the environment clean and hygienic.

Devaswom Board authorities said that steps had been taken to provide better facilities for the pilgrims at Sannidhanam, the abode of Lord Ayyappa at the temple. They said several shops had been dismantled to provide more space for pilgrims to set up camps. Improvements to facilities had been made at Pampa also.

The Devaswom has extended the time for having Darshan of Lord Ayyappa at the sanctum sanctorum. As per the new system, the sanctum sanctorum will open at 3.00 am every day instead of 4.00 am and would close at 1.00 pm instead of 12.00 noon. After opening again at 3.00 pm, the shrine will close only at 11.45 pm instead of the earlier 11.00 pm.

The Kerala Police have launched an innovative e-queue system for reducing the waiting time for pilgrims to have Darshan at the temple. A pilgrim who registers through website need not wait for long hours for Darshan as the online advance queue placement coupon entitles the devotee to join the queue.

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