Swamiyae Saranamayyappa

published on November 16, 2011

Sabarimala shrine to open today
PNS | Pathanamthitta

The Lord Ayyappa shrine at Sabarimala, Kerala’s famous mountainous Hindu pilgrim centre, will open on Wednesday evening for the annual Mandalam-Makaravilakku pilgrimage season amidst the painful memories of the gruesome stampede of January 14 at Pullumedu on the way to the temple, in which 102 devotees were killed.

The newly selected Melshanti (chief priest) for the next one year would start performing the Poojas of the 41-day Mandalam pilgrimage season on Thursday morning at the sanctum sanctorum of the temple. The shrine will close for a recess after the Mandalam Pooja on December 27 to reopen for the Makaravilakku pilgrimage later.

The annual pilgrimage season starts at Sabarimala on the first day of Vrishchikam month of the Malayalam calendar and comes to a close with the sighting of the Makara Jyoti on the eve of the Makaram month, usually falling on January 14. Over three crore pilgrims are expected to have darshan at the shrine this season which would end by January 20.

Officials of the police and Travancore Devaswom Board, in charge of the temple’s administration, said every possible measure had been taken to make this season’s pilgrimage a safe affair 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 have decided not to 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.

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.

Sivakumar said that the State Government had accepted the interim report of the Justice MR Hariharan Nair Commission which enquired into the Pullumedu tragedy and had suggested 30 steps that had to be implemented to make the pilgrimage safe and peaceful this year.

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 the pilgrims to set up camps. Improvements to facilities had been made at Pampa, the base camp for Sabarimala.

Tight security arrangements have been put in place at Sabarimala and Pampa. Thrissur City Police Commissioner P Vijayan will head the security team in the first phase of the pilgrimage. The team will have 15 DySPs, 28 circle inspectors, 100 sub-inspectors and assistant sub-inspectors and 900 constables till December 1.

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