Sabarimala: Tight security cover as season begins

via Pioneer News Service | Pathanamathitta published on November 16, 2006

With the hill shrine opening on Thursday evening, the 41-day Mandalam pilgrimage at the Lord Ayyappa Temple began with expectations of an increased flow of pilgrims despite the various controversies that have been dogging the hill shrine for the past many months.



The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which is in charge of the administration of the temple, and the Government are expecting more than four crore pilgrims to visit the shrine during the Mandalam and the following Makaravilakku seasons. TDB assessments show that three crore pilgrims had visited the shrine in the last pilgrimage season. The Mandalam season will conclude with the Mandalavilakku festival on December 26.


Authorities said arrangements had been completed to receive the pilgrims. More effective arrangements for security and crowd-management had been made, they claimed. Controlling pollution has become a serious concern after reports about high presence of bacteria in the Pampa river waters.


Authorities have stepped up security cover at the temple based on the advices from Central and State experts in context of extremist threats faced by various parts of the country.


Hundreds of police personnel have been deployed at Sannidahaan – the temple premises – and the base camp at Pampa and also on the trek-trail in between. Besides this, monitoring will be done using state-of-the-art security implements. Random checking of the Irumudi bundle carried by the devotees would also be done, sources said. Cellphone-jamming devices, close circuit television system, security scanners, binoculars and electric batons costing millions of rupees would be used as part of security arrangements at various points at Sabarimala.


The security team at the pilgrimage centre will be headed by Additional Director General of Police Pulikesi, who has worked out a three-phased deployment plan.


Keeping unharmed the ecologically-fragile Periyar Reserve region where the temple is located is a major task of the TDB and voluntary outfits like the Ayyappa Seva Sangham.


“The cooperation of the pilgrims is essential in keeping the environs clean and stress-free. We will be making appeals through signboards, leaflets and media campaign not to pollute the area, revered traditionally as poonkavanam of Lord Ayappa,” TDB president G Raman Nair said.


The pilgrims will be asked not to carry pollutants like plastics while coming to the shrine and avoid throwing waste in the Pampa river, the sole source of water in the area.


Studies had shown that the content of pollutants in the Pampa waters is far beyond the permissible limits. Hotels and shops had been asked to strictly follow the waste collection and disposal guidelines.


The Kerala State Transport Corporation (KSRTC) will operate round-the-clock services from Pampa to different parts of the State and, as in previous years, the Railways would operate additional trains to Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore at the peak of the season.


Damage to the roads caused by heavy rains is a cause of concern, especially to pilgrims coming through the hill-route from Tamil Nadu.


Meanwhile, reports spoke of complaints from places like Lhaha and Vadasseikkara, on-way camps for the pilgrims to Sabarimala, that the authorities have not completed arrangements for the season.




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