Cash-strapped Sabarimala to start express ‘prasad’ delivery
Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which runs Kerala’s Sabarimala Temple, has said devotees can book the shrine’s prasad online beginning Friday for home deliveries by post. The prasad will be priced Rs450 and include aravan payasam (pudding), holy ash, sandal paste, turmeric powder, and flowers. The deliveries will begin from November 16 when the temple will open for its three-month-long seasonal pilgrimage.
TDB officials said through home delivery of prasad, they expect to make up for the financial losses the temple has suffered due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
An India Post official said prasad packets will be given special preference and will be delivered through speed post.
The government has allowed 1,000 pilgrims to visit the shrine daily during the pilgrimage season but TDB officials said they will not be enough to make up for the losses. It turned down TDB’s request to increase the number of pilgrims.
Kerala reported a high positivity rate of 11.11% as of Thursday against the national average of 6% and 84,087 active Covid-19 cases.
TDB chairman N Vasu said they hope the online delivery of prasad will help them tide over the financial crisis. “We have already made elaborate arrangements for packing...” He added the prasad will be delivered in Kerala in two days and in up to seven days elsewhere.
The shrine was opened for the monthly puja last month with strict restrictions in place. Though 250 pilgrims were allowed per day, the footfall was very low.
The temple was closed for devotees on March 18, a week before the first Covid-19 lockdown came into force.
The revenue generated from Sabarimala is used to fund smaller temples and to pay salaries of TDS’s 3500-odd employees.
During the last pilgrimage season from November 2019 to January, the temple earned Rs263. 57 crore. Aravana payasam, which is made of rice, jaggery, ghee and cardamom, accounts for the temple’s 60% revenue.
Pilgrims from five south Indian states mostly throng the temple nestled in Western Ghats in Pathanamitta district during the annual season. At the peak of season, at least 500,000 devotees would visit the shrine daily.
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- The Central government launched Aarogya Setu app last year in April in a bid to track Covid-19 infections and check its spread.