SABARIMALA: THE traditional forest trekking route to Lord Ayyappa temple in Kerala’s Sabarimala has been witnessing a heavy flow of pilgrims for the past one week.Even as the revenue of the temple this year has been far beyond than the revenue during the corresponding period last year, pilgrims taking the Erumeli-to-Pampa-through-Azhutha-and-Karimala route has not been provided basic facilities.
Thousands of pilgrims, a majority of them from the southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, set on pilgrimage from the Erumeli Sree Dharma Sastha temple after the pettathullal ritualistic dance. They take to the strenuous trekking after crossing Azhutha river through the Kallidamkunnu hill, where they are bereft of basic facilities including free medicated water, free food and even latrines. Though the need for basic facilities was brought to the attention of the respective governments, including during review meetings chaired by the chief minister, hardly any follow-up has been done at the district administration-level or the forest department-level in last several years.
Even voluntary organisations in the pilgrims’ service have not been given the helping hand to run free service facilities at the camp centres at Mukkuzhi, Kariyilamthodu, Karimala and Cheriyanavattom. The forest department, which oversees working of the 500-odd hotels and shops run by the eco-development committees on the trekking path between Azhuthakadavu and Cheriyananavattom passing through Kariyilamthodu and Karimala, does not control the price of food and soft drinks sold by them.
The total revenue at the Sabarimala temple till December 18 of this year’s pilgrim season stands at `132.96 crore as against `115.60 crore during the corresponding period during the last season. The income from sale of aravana prasadam of the temple alone stands at `58.13 crore.