Pilgrims trek up Sabarimala after COVID-19 induced break

Devaswom Minister K. Radhakrishnan, along with top officials of the Travancore Devaswom Board, visited the temple late on Friday and reviewed the arrangements in place

Devotees have begun trekking up the Sabarimala hill once again after a brief gap as the Lord Ayyappa temple opened in Pathanamathitta on July 17 morning for the five-day-long Pooja to mark the onset of Karkidakam.

The authorities have made elaborate arrangements for regulating the movement of pilgrims inline with the COVID-19 protocol. As per estimates, just over 16,000 pilgrims have booked slots for darsan through the virtual queue till Friday evening.

According to officials, only those producing COVID- 19 negative certificates after undergoing the RT-PCR test within 48 hours or those completed two shots of vaccine have been permitted to trek up the hillock. Earlier in May, the board imposed a ban on the entry of pilgrims to the hill shrine in view of the worsening pandemic situation.

Hours before the entry of devotees, Devaswom Minister K. Radhakrishnan, along with top officials of the Travancore Devaswom Board, visited the temple late on Friday and reviewed the arrangements in place.

Speaking on the occasion, the Minister said steps would be taken to augment the facilities for devotees to the hill shrine ahead of the upcoming annual pilgrimage season. “A preliminary meeting of various departments has already been convened to discuss on the project to be implemented under the Sabarimala master plan while efforts are now being made to raise funds for agencies to raise funds,” he said.

Official sources, however, said the uncertainty over the length of the pandemic-induced disruptions had only exacerbated the fears of next season also becoming a financial disaster. The income from Sabarimala, which used to be the board’s main stay for long fell to ₹21 crore during the last pilgrimage season as against ₹270 in the previous year.

Following the meeting , Mr. Radhakrishnan also held a meeting with B. Sreeramulu, Minister of State for Social Welfare Department of Karnataka, who reached the temple for a darsan.

Meanwhile, the Pathanamathitta District Administration has permitted the shops at different locations along the Sabarimala route such as Vadasserikkara , Pampa and Nilackal to function during the period. A decision to this effect was arrived at a meeting of the District disaster management Authority, chaired by the District Collector Divya S. Iyer.

In view of the COVID-19 situation, police personnel have been deployed at different points to monitor the movement of devotees and ensure strict adherence to the COVID-19 guidelines.

The temple will close after completion of the monthly poojas by July 21 night.

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