Even as a debate is raging on the management of the annual Sabarimala pilgrimage in the wake of the deadly stampede, a pictorial report prepared by eminent architect, late Laurie Baker, on creating essential amenities for devotees without harming nature has been gathering dust for the past 15 years.
The British born humanist and advocate of low cost buildings, who spent much of his later life in Kerala and acquired Indian citizenship, took a trip to Sabarimala in 1995, on request from the state government, to provide inputs for plans to improve facilities for pilgrims without causing stress to the delicate environment.
Baker was 79 when he undertook the arduous trek from Pampa to Sabarimala, enjoying the natural settings of the area but feeling deeply concerned over the ecologically hostile constructions that had come up over the years. The 36 page hand written report, full of Baker’s own drawings and illustrations, has proved prophetic now, as it had sufficiently warned that unless the roads leading to the base camp at Pampa were developed into four lanes the pilgrimage could turn nightmarish any time.
Much of the emphasis of Baker, however, has been on meeting basic needs of millions of pilgrims coming to Sabarimala, like drinking water, sanitation and cool and shady trees along the lines to provide relief to devotees who undertake the steep trek to the temple atop.
"As a nature lover I have always been fascinated by forests and mountains. My pilgrimage to Sabarimala gave me the maximum enjoyment and pleasure as I first drove to Pampa and then walked to Sabarimala," he wrote.
But in the same breath, Baker said, "I am sad to say the world famous temple and its immediate environment was a very great disappointment...I have always felt that the peace and simplicity of religious buildings are incomplete unless they are able to blend with the beauty and perfection of nature.”