Kerala govt eases curbs on trekking through forest path to Sabarimala temple

The severe restrictions imposed by the forest department on the forest route in recent years had invited pilgrims’ wrath.
Sabarimala temple
Sabarimala temple

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM:  The state government has extended the timings for travel on the traditional forest route to the Sabarimala temple. Entry to the route from Azhuthakkadavu will be allowed from 7 am to 4 pm and at Mukkuzhi from 7 am to 4.30 pm. Earlier, entry at these points was restricted to 2.30 pm and 3.30 pm, respectively.     

An order issued by the Idukki district collector said the relaxation was in the wake of the increase in the number of pilgrims opting for the forest route. TNIE had earlier reported about the Mala Araya Maha Sabha’s demand to the forest department and the government to extend the time. The Sabha came up with the demand after a joint meeting with its feeder organisations, including the Sree Ayyappa Dharma Sangham. The severe restrictions imposed by the forest department on the forest route in recent years had invited pilgrims’ wrath.

Last year, the route was opened only after the Sabha organised a protest at Kalaketti. According to the Sabha, the restrictions violate the pilgrims’ rights. Sabha state general secretary P K Sajeev said that he had raised the issue with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan at the morning meeting as part of the Nava Kerala Sadas in Kottayam.

“Several tribal families earn income by selling food and water to the pilgrims on the forest route. The arrival of pilgrims also helps businesses in Koruthode, Erumely and Mundakkayam panchayats. We welcome the government’s decision to extend the time,” he said. The Sabha has announced a celebration at Moozhikkal on December 25.

Sajeev said around 1,000 tribal families get income from the forest route during the pilgrimage season. The number of pilgrims using the route witnessed a steady decline – from 11 lakh to 4.5 lakh – following the forest department’s restrictions during the pandemic, he said.

Traditional forest route

It is an eight-hour trek from Erumely to Pampa through the forest route. Pilgrims start their trek from Erumely Peroorthode and pass through the Koyikkal Kavu and the Kalaketti Siva temple. 

The latter is an ancient shrine belonging to the Mala Araya community. They then head to the Azhutha River, pick a stone from the river bed and continue the walk. This stone would be left at the Inchipparakkotta tribal shrine at Kallidamkunnu.

The journey then progresses through the Devi Temple, Mukkuzhi. On top of the Karimala hill is a pond and shrine dedicated to the Karimala Moorthi. The next stations are Cheriyanavattam and Valiyanavattam and the trek ends at Pampa. From there, pilgrims travel through the normal route to the shrine.

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