KOCHI: The Kerala Police are planning to not allow pilgrims to stay at Sannidhanam for more than 24 hours during the coming season. However, pilgrims from other states point out they have to stay at Sannidhanam for at least three days to fulfil their vows. Often, they are made to wait in the queue for more than 10 hours to get darshan. After darshan, they collect token for performing ghee abhishekam on the deity. Some others perform ‘sayana pradakshinam’.
According to former TDB president Prayar Gopalakrishnan, around six crore pilgrims from 33 countries visited the hill shrine in 2017-18. The number has been swelling over the years and leaders of Akhila Bharata Ayyappa Seva Sangham opine tension over the entry of young women will not stop pilgrims from undertaking the annual pilgrimage.
“I’ve been undertaking Sabarimala pilgrimage since 1984 and I’m presently observing penance for my 35th trip. For us Ayyappa is a part of our life and we religiously follow the customs attached to Ayyappa Deeksha. The trek to the hill abode itself is strenuous and the devotee will be completely exhausted by the time he gets darshan after the day-long wait in the queue. Often we stand in the queue for the whole night to perform the ghee abhishekam. It will take two days to complete the rituals and we need some rest before returning,” said Giridhar Namila, a devotee from Hyderabad.
From businessmen to daily wagers, Ayyappa devotees in the Telugu states set aside a major chunk of their earnings for the pilgrimage. Around 80 per cent of the Sabarimala temple’s `250 crore income comes from other-state pilgrims.
“Lakhs of pilgrims will be queuing up for darshan during the season and we’ve to wait for hours together to get darshan. Often the queue starts from Marakkottam, which is 1.5 km away from the temple. After darshan, we’ve to complete other rituals. It’s not humanly possible to complete the rituals within a day. It’s difficult to get a room at Sannidhanam and we often sleep in the Nadappandal. We undertake this arduous rituals to complete the deeksha and if we don’t get enough time, it’ll be disappointing,” said Gowri Shankar, a devotee from Visakhapatnam, who has visited the shrine 13 times.
“Hundreds of pilgrims start their Sabarimala pilgrimage from our temple every day during the Mandala-Makaravilakku season. They stay for two days at Sannidhanam to get darshan and perform ghee abhishekam. Restricting their stay at the hill abode will deny them time to complete the rituals,” said P G Muraleedharan, president of Jalahalli Ayyappa Temple in Bengaluru.
Police to continue investigation against protesters
T’Puram: The high-level police meeting held here decided to conduct further probe into the cases registered against those who protested at Sabarimala against the entry of young women. The police have registered as many as 146 criminal cases. State police chief Loknath Behera has also recommended constituting special investigation teams led by the respective district police chiefs to examine the cases. He has given instruction to take stringent action against those who spread campaign inciting communal divide on social media.
The deployment of women personnel should not be increased and the current strength is capable of controlling the women crowd, the meeting decided. Earlier, Behera and ADGP (south zone) Anil Kant called on CM Pinarayi Vijayan and discussed the steps to be taken ahead of the pilgrimage season. The police will submit a report to the government and a final decision will be taken on October 29.