SABARIMALA: The gold-plated flag mast at the famed Lord Ayyappa Temple here, which was found damaged soon after it was installed yesterday, has been repaired and restored to its old glory.
In view of the incident, the Travancore Devaswom Board, which manages the hill shrine, has decided to strengthen the security from the downhill Nilackal to the 'sannidhanam', the temple premises, a top official said.
"We are planning to install a new security system that will enable us to scan and monitor pilgrims as well as vehicles from Nilackal onwards," TDB President Prayar Gopalakrishnan told PTI.
The 'panchavargathara', the square base, of the flag mast at the Lord Ayyappa temple was found damaged by using some chemical, suspected to be mercury, yesterday afternoon.
According to police, as many as five persons, hailing from Vijayawada in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, were taken into custody in connection with the incident.
Gopalakrishnan said the damage was rectified in the night itself.
"We could rectify the damage of the mast in the night itself," he told PTI.
He said those taken into custody had claimed that they sprayed mercury along with some other substance as part of a custom prevailing in their home state.
"They said that there is a custom in their state to pour a drop of mercury at the bottom of the mast. But we do not know whether what they said was true or not," he said.
The Andhra natives had been taken into custody soon after the incident based on CCTV visuals at the temple premises.
Range IG Manoj Abraham today held a review meeting in Pathanamthitta district to take stock of the situation in the wake of the development.
Police are looking into all aspects, including whether there was any larger conspiracy behind the incident.
The teakwood mast, covered using 9.16 kg of gold, 300 kg of copper and 17 kg of silver, was ceremonially installed by the head priest Kandararu Rajeevararu after performing purification rituals yesterday morning.
The damage was noticed in the afternoon after the rituals were over.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran had directed police to carry out a detailed enquiry into the incident and apprehend the culprits.
Sabarimala, dedicated to Lord Ayyappa, attracts millions of devotees across the country and abroad during the three month annual pilgrimage season from November-January.