Pilgrims travelling to Sabarimala by train cannot bathe inside the compartments as part of their daily ritual, the Southern Railway said on Tuesday.
“The water provided in coaches is meant for hand wash and toilet use only…Therefore, Sabarimala devotees should ... understand that the water supply provided in coaches is not for bathing purpose at all,” a press statement issued by the Southern Railway Salem Division Manager said.
The statement comes in the backdrop of Monday’s protest by Sabarimala pilgrims on board Tatanagar-Alleppey Express at Erode. The pilgrims, who were upset over non-availability of water on the coach, had pulled the chain and staged a protest.
Denying that the situation was caused by mismanagement, the Railway pointed out that such problems did not arise during peak festive seasons like Deepavali, New Year or Pongal. “Every rail coach consists of four water tanks of 400 litres capacity each. This level of water is more than sufficient to take care of (hand wash and toilet) needs. However, this water is used for bathing by the Ayyappa devotees and the tanks tend to empty within the shortest time,” the statement said.
The Railway also said that a large number of pilgrims tend to take bath at the waiting rooms as well. Frequent power cuts have made it difficult to pump water for use in waiting halls.
The statement said some devotees light camphor in the compartments during their morning prayers risking passengers’ lives.
Coimbatore-based Ayyappa devotee Manikandan, a Gurusamy who has undertaken 22 annual pilgrimages, suggested a way out. “It is not necessary for devotees to take bath daily when they are travelling. It is enough to do ‘prokshanam’ (sprinkle water on self) and then offer ‘sharanam’ (prayers).”
He added that camphor can be lit on the station platform and immediately doused. “The practicalities also have to be considered as God Himself does not warrant any inconvenience to anybody under the pretext of devotion,” he said.