SABARIMALA: With less than three months left for the beginning of the annual Sabarimala pilgrimage season, inadequate basic facilities await thousands of pilgrims who visit Valiyakoickal Sree Dharma Sastha temple at Pandalam.
Pandalam pilgrim transit camp lacks basic facilities, including medicated water, resting place, bathing ghats and toilets. The temple, located on the banks of the Achankovil river, attracts thousands of pilgrims during the two-month-long pilgrimage season. Pilgrims visit Pandalam, known for the bringing up of Lord Ayyappa during childhood days, and the temple to have a glimpse of ‘thiruvabharanam’, the attire in gold to be adorned on the idol of Ayyappa on Makaravilakku day. The Travancore Devaswom Board, which administers the Valiyakoickal temple, failed to launch schemes to improve basic facilities for the past three decades, said C S Sanalkumar of Sabarimala Ayyappa Seva Samajam, which offers free food for pilgrims during the pilgrimage season.
Dilapidated bathing ghat, inadequate number of toilets, lack of medicated potable water, inadequate resting place and insufficient parking facilities await pilgrims in the coming pilgrimage season beginning in the early third week of November, said Sanalkumar.
“Though TDB earns crores of rupees from Valiyakoickal temple annually, the only development project which it had undertaken during the past three decades was a three-storey building complex with the purpose of offering resting place for a few hundred pilgrims, a free food distribution facility and half a dozen of toilets,” he said.
“The bathing ghat, on the side of the temple, is in a dilapidated condition and hardly any project was prepared for renovating it till date,” he said.Half a dozen toilets, built about 15 years ago, lying without proper maintenance, are the only facility for thousands of pilgrims, said Sanalkumar.As the TDB free food facility which has a ceiling of 5,000 pilgrims a day is insufficient, pilgrims are relying on SASS and other volunteer organisations during the season, he said.
Though the government, including the TDB, convene annual review meetings at Pandalam to discuss the preparations for basic facilities for the past two decades, hardly any project was implemented till date to solve the problems related to basic facilities, Sanalkumar said.