Pilgrims at Nilakkal rush to catch the bus to Pampa on Tuesday | SHAJI VETTIPURAM
Pilgrims at Nilakkal rush to catch the bus to Pampa on Tuesday | SHAJI VETTIPURAM

Deterred by rush, Sabarimala pilgrims halt at Nilakkal

This is not the plight of Omana alone. Hundreds of pilgrims returned home without visiting Sabarimala temple on Tuesday.

PATHANAMTHITTA: Owing to the heavy footfall, several devotees, including from AP, TN, Thrissur, Kozhikode and Malappuram, called off the trip to Sabarimala, and returned home. Visitors were made to wait for hours after police blocked vehicles. Women, children and the elderly hit the worst.

“I came to Sabarimala when I was a child with my father decades ago. Still, I clearly remember the picturesque route. This is the first time I left my house for the hill shrine with my family after I became an elderly woman. I was anxious to see the present status of the trekking route from Pampa to Sannidhanam and Sabarimala. Unfortunately, we were forced to cut short our journey at Nilakkal today (Tuesday). The situation at Nilakkal instilled fear in us. We are now returning from Pandalam,” said Omana, 60, a pilgrim from Arimpur in Thrissur.

This is not the plight of Omana alone. Hundreds of pilgrims returned home without visiting the Sabarimala temple on Tuesday. Pandalam Valiya Koyikkal Sree Dharma Sastha Temple advisory committee vice-president Rajeev Raveendran said around 500 pilgrims returned from Pandalam on Tuesday. “They performed rituals like ‘neyyabhishekam’ at Pandalam. We arranged food and water at the temple here. Though they were happy with the arrangements at Panadalam, it was sad to see them returning without having the darshan of Lord Ayyappa. Many pilgrims, mainly from Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Thrissur, Kozhikode and Malappuram in the state called off the Sabarimala trip owing to the heavy rush,” he said.

As many as 62,094 pilgrims visited Sabarimala through a virtual queue until 8 pm on Tuesday. Ashok Kumar, a pilgrim from Puranattukara in Thrissur, and 33 members of his team started from their village at 3 am on Monday. The team comprised four children and four senior women. They reached Erumely at 11.30 am and Nilakkal at 9 pm on Tuesday. 

As the police blocked the vehicles, it took them over eight hours to reach Nilakkal from Erumely. They could not go to Pampa as all buses were jampacked. “We were afraid for the safety of the children and elderly. So we ended our pilgrimage at Nilakkal and returned by 6 am. We reached Pandalam temple and performed the rituals,” he said. 

“I have been visiting Sabarimala temple for the past 43 years. But this is the first time I am facing so much hardship. The situation at Nilakkal is beyond words. When we reached, we saw 200 to 300 people stacked inside a KSRTC bus. The condition of the children and elderly inside the bus was pathetic. The bus started its journey six hours after the pilgrims boarded. I think at least 3,400 pilgrims returned from Nilakkal without going to Sabarimala after seeing the rush,” Ashok said. 

“The apathy of the authorities is the main cause for the current plight of the pilgrims. If there were sufficient policemen at Nilakkal, they could have easily managed the entry of pilgrims to buses,” he said.

Devotee dies

Pathanamthitta: A 52-year-old pilgrim from Tamil Nadu collapsed and died while waiting in the queue for darshan on the Pathanamthitta-Pampa road within Perunad police station limits on Monday night. The deceased is Periya Swami of Perambalur. He came with his team members on a bus from TN. He, along with other pilgrims, was forced to wait for hours as vehicular movements were restricted on the Pathanamthitta-Pampa stretch. Periya Swami was rushed to the Perunad Government Hospital, but could not be saved.

Govt, TDB failed says D Satheesan

Kochi: Alleging that the state government and the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) failed to provide adequate facilities to pilgrims, Leader of Opposition V D Satheesan said neither the government nor the board is showing any responsibility to address the devotees’ plight. “Many pilgrims are ending their pilgrimage abruptly due to the rush. The devaswom minister is on a 44-day tour. The CM convened an online meeting five days after the situation went out of control,” he told reporters in Kochi on Tuesday.

Slight relief

Pathanamthitta: There was a slight relief for pilgrims reaching Sabarimala on Tuesday as the police and TDB officials took measures for crowd control and ensured a smooth flow of vehicles. TDB authorities said 62,094 pilgrims visited Sabarimala through a virtual queue until 8 pm on Tuesday. Over 1.2 lakh pilgrims visit the temple daily. Of them, about 20,000 are coming via spot booking and around 5,000 are arriving through the trekking path via Pulmedu, the TDB said.

Reports on issues at Sabarimala fabricated: CM

IDUKKI: Coming down heavily on reports about inadequate facilities at Sabarimala, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Tuesday said intolerance borne out of political resentment was behind the fake news being spread about the hill shrine. He was speaking at a public meeting held at Vandiperiyar panchayat mini stadium in Idukki’s Peermade taluk as part of Nava Kerala Sadas. Terming the reports fabricated, Pinarayi said the government had arranged all necessary facilities for pilgrims at Sannidhanam to ensure hassle-free darshan. Slamming UDF MPs, he said MPs from Kerala who do not utter a single word in the Parliament for the state’s betterment never miss the opportunity to degrade their state. “They are alleging that the government has not made any arrangement at the pilgrim centre and are demanding the Union government’s intervention. They distort facts and spread fake news to create panic,” he said. 

Authorities failed miserably, allege pilgrims

PATHANAMTHITTA: As Nilakkal, the base camp of Sabarimala temple, saw a heavy rush on Tuesday, the pilgrims alleged that the police and TDB failed miserably to manage the situation on the ground. Many devotees protested at Nilakkal after they could not find enough buses to travel to Pampa. When a bus arrived from Pampa on Tuesday, the waiting devotees tried to enter it without allowing the people inside to get down. Buses packed beyond capacity were seen moving to Pampa. Aided by relatives, children entered the buses through the windows. Several children even got separated from their families after entering the buses. The absence of enough policemen to manage the crowd worsened the situation.

Operating 150 buses from Nilakkal to Pampa: KSRTC

KSRTC officials said this time they have brought 150 buses (105 non-AC and 45 AC buses) for conducting chain service from Nilakkal to Pampa. “Last year this time, we had only 100 buses for conducting the chain service. “Though this time we have sufficient buses, we could not operate them according to the demand of the pilgrims due to restrictions imposed by the police” said a KSRTC official. They alleged the police miserably failed to control the crowd.

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