With just hours left for the Makaravilakku festival to begin at Sabarimala, all arrangements have been completed for the smooth conduct of the event amidst COVID-19 restrictions.
As part of it, purification rituals, including the Bimbasudhi, were performed at the temple under the leadership of Tantri Kandararu Rajeevaru. Thiruvabharanam, the sacred ornaments of the presiding deity, will be brought to the temple in a procession by Thursday evening, which will be followed by Deeparadhana, sighting of the Makarajyothi, and the Makarasamkrama Puja.
As against the annual average of three lakh devotees only 5,000 devotees will be permitted to the temple for the festival this time, said N.Vasu, Travancore Devaswom Board president. A strict ban has been imposed on the stay of pilgrims and open cooking of food across the region.
The temple and its premises have been brought under a thick blanket of security. Devaswom Minister Kadakampilly Surendran will be present at the Sannidhanam during the day.
Barricades have been erected at various points to regulate the devotees and ambulance have been arranged to face any emergency situations.
According to Mr. Vasu, the Board has ensured adequate stock of the temple offerings, including Appam and Aravana for the devotees. The facility for offering Neyyabhishekom will close on January 18.
The Pathanamthitta police have rolled out a traffic plan for the devotees’ vehicles by dividing the district into 13 different zones. Vehicles returning from Nilackal will have to take the Elavunkal-Kanamala-Palappalli-Laha-Perunad-Vadasserikkara route. Those proceeding from Erumeli to Nilackal will have to take the Mandirampadi-Vadasserikkara route.
Further, policemen have been deployed in six divisions across the region, including at the various vantage points, where people are expected to converge to witness the Makarajyothi.
In view of the Makaravilakku celebrations, the State government has declared a local holiday for the Pathanamthitta district on January 14.
As many as 1.32 lakh devotees visited the Sabarimala temple in the first 54 days of the ongoing annual pilgrimage season, generating a revenue of ₹16.30 crore. The income during the Makaravilakku season till January 12 was ₹6.33 crore while the revenue during the entire Makaravilakku season last year was ₹60.26 crore.
The income during the previous mandalam season was ₹166 crore. The income during the same period this year was just 6% of it.
In view of the severe financial crunch, the board will be seeking an assistance of ₹100 crore from the State government, over and above the current allotment of ₹70 crores, Mr. Vasu said. He also spoke of the plans to raise the number of days for monthly puja at Sabarimala from the present schedule of five days.