Heavy rush in Sabarimala; Revenue goes up to ₹125 cr
The Kerala high court has directed the Sabarimala temple board and the Pathnamthitta district collector to suggest ways to control the rush
A day after a few pilgrims and policemen got injured due to heavy rush on the way to the hilltop temple in Sabarimala in Kerala, the high court on Sunday held an emergency sitting and directed the temple board and the Pathnamthitta district collector to suggest ways to control the rush. Meanwhile, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan has called a meeting on Monday to take stock of the situation.
The court also sought a report from the Devasom commissioner about the minor stampede in Marakootam on Saturday that injured a couple of pilgrims and cops. After the high court’s directive, the temple board extended “darshan” timings to one more hour and decided to limit the virtual queue booking to 80,000-one lakh pilgrims a day. There is a separate bench for Sabarimala that monitors development at the shrine on a regular basis.
On Saturday, 1.20 lakh pilgrims trekked to the temple and the police later suspended spot booking in view of the heavy rush, a temple official said adding that the shrine was witnessing unprecedented rush in the last few days. Some of the pilgrims said they stood more than 10 hours in queue to reach 18 holy steps that lead to the sanctum sanctorum.
“After the court directive we have sought the ‘tantri’s (head priest) advice and extended pilgrimage to one hour to have a hassle-free darshan. Due to upcoming holidays, we are expecting a huge rush and we will take all precautions in view of this,” said Travancore Dewasom Board (TDB) president K Ananthagopan. TDB manages the day-to-day affairs of the temple while Tantri is the last word in temple customs.
The TDB chief also said that the revenue of the temple has gone up exponentially. “The gross revenue of the temple has crossed ₹125 crore so far. As usual, the main revenue is from the sale of “aravana payasam,” main prasad of the temple,” said Ananthagopan. Aravana payasam, a black kheer made of rice, jaggery, ghee and cardamom, forms 60 per cent revenue of the temple. Usually the temple produces 50,000 to 75,000 cans a day and keeps enough buffer stock.
Last week, the high court directed TDB to ensure that no pilgrims get preferential treatment and said all pilgrims to the temple were equal. It was hearing a petition against some advertisements offering helicopter services and VIP darshan at the temple.
The hill-top shrine is situated in a forest in Western Ghats mountain ranges in Pathanamthitta district, about 3,000 feet above the sea level. Pilgrims from across the country throng the shrine during the annual festival season between November and January. According to TDB, around 3 crore pilgrims visit the temple during the season. Besides Kerala, pilgrims from Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra swarm the temple.
The pilgrimage to Sabarimala is unique in many ways. A pilgrim has to undertake 41 days’ fast abstaining from all worldly pleasures and dons black clothes before undertaking the trek through forests. The distance from base camp Pampa to the hilltop shrine is 5.5 km.