ALUVA: Even with a record turnout of devotees at Sivarathri Manappuram, the programme went off without a hitch. The ‘balitharppanam’ stalls attracted crowds till 1 pm on Wednesday. “The function went of smoothly, without any reports of untoward incidences at any time. The crowd was a little bigger than the previous year since Wednesday was the New Moon day and it is considered auspicious to perform ‘balitharppanam’ on the day. The ceremony extended late into the day, due to the rush,” said Devaswom official Ajith S I. According official estimates almost 5 lakh devotees had arrived to perform the ‘tharppanam’.
Manappuram witnessed a surge in the crowd even in the wee hours of Wednesday. Manappuram turned into a world within itself. On one side hawkers and wayside traders called out to the visitors offering everything from refreshments, halwa and popcorn to plants with medicinal values. While on the other hand giant wheels and other amusement mechanisms were conspicuous amongst the milling crowd of devotees all coming to pay obeisance to their ancestors. On the opposite end, lined up along the Periyar banks were almost 200 separate ‘balitharas’ where devotees sat cross legged, straight from a dip in the river performing the rituals in accordance with the instructions of the poojaris. The Mahadeva temple was another hotspot of activity. It swarmed with devotees, all straining to catch a glimpse of Mahadeva’s idol inside.
The devotees expressed their contentment with the facilities arranged for them at Manappuram.
“We were all given free food, water and coffee. The law and order arrangements were the best of all. There was at least one police official at every corner and no one disturbed the women or children even at night,” said Ravindran from Pathanamthitta, who had arrived on Tuesday. The police officials had also spread out over to the nearby junctions and main roads to ensure that no bottlenecks were formed by the inflow of traffic at Manappuram.
Balitharppanam officially commenced with the lighting of the lamp at Mahadeva temple at the stroke of midnight on Tuesday.