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Sunday, Dec 15, 2019

As peace returns to Sabarimala, temple rakes in over Rs 3 cr on opening day

The first day of the pilgrimage season on Sunday brought in revenue of Rs 3.3 crore which was an increase of Rs 1.28 crore in earnings compared to the same day last year.

india Updated: Nov 19, 2019 01:24 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram
Pilgrims wait their turn at Sabarimala temple in Kerala.
Pilgrims wait their turn at Sabarimala temple in Kerala.(Viivek Nair/HT Photo)

After the Supreme Court’s decision last week to refer the contentious issue of the entry of women at Kerala’s Sabarimala temple to a larger, seven-member bench, peace has returned to the hilltop shrine, where cash registers are ringing along with temple bells.

According to the Travancore Devasom Board (TDB) which runs the temple, the first day of the pilgrimage season as per the Malayalam calendar that fell on Sunday, brought in revenue of Rs 3.3 crore which was an increase of Rs 1.28 crore in earnings as compared to the same day last year.

“We are happy that the temple’s income is on a steady rise. The temple earns mainly from the sale of the ‘aravana payasam (‘prasad’ or devotional offering) and the auctioning of stalls at the base camps and along the trekking path. We hope we can compensate for last year’s losses,” said TDB chairman N Vasu.

Violent protests in 2018 had affected footfalls and caused a loss of Rs 180 crore. Protesters had urged devotees to desist from dropping money in the temple’s ‘hundis’ (collection boxes) and buying ‘aravana payasam’. When temple authorities opened the ‘hundis, they found more sheets of paper with ‘Save Sabarimala’ scrawled on them inside and fewer currency notes. The temple’s routine production of 48,000 cans of ‘payasam’ per day was cut down to 10,000 cans per day due to poor demand.

When shops lining two base camps and the hill top temple were auctioned last month, worried traders asked the State Dewasom (temple affairs) minister, Kadakampally Surendran for an assurance that the police will not escort women up to the temple again. The angry minister had told them not to intimidate the government. Later, at least 60 per cent of traders kept away from the auction. The state was forced to launch an advertising campaign in major dailies to assure pilgrims that Sabarimala was safe.

This year though, the sale of aravana payasam, a black kheer made of rice, jaggery, ghee and cardamom - which accounts for 60 per cent of the temple revenue – is brisk and the hundis, too, are filling up rapidly.

“We are happy with the pilgrims’ response. Peace will ensure a steady flow of pilgrims. The temple is now witnessing a heavy rush. We hope we can overcome last year’s deficit,” said Vasu.

The TDB chairman estimated the number of pilgrims during the first two days at more than 70,000. Many bidders had also returned to take back stalls they had earlier held. There are winding queues to be seen at the Pambha base camp and on the hilltop, and the sacred grove of the temple located in the midst of the Periyar Tiger Reserve, has begun to reverberate with “Swami Saranam,” the chant of devotees eager for Lord Ayappa’s blessings.