COVID-19 negative certificate, Health Insurance card, and registering on the virtual queue portal have been made mandatory for undertaking the pilgrimage during the two-month Mandalam-Makaravilakku pilgrimage season of the Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala from November 16.
The test should be taken by pilgrims 24 hours before reaching the base camp at Nilackal and arrangements will be made at Nilackal, Pampa, and en-route places for the devotees to undergo the test. The COVID-19 negative certificate will be mandatory for those coming for duties from various departments at Pampa and the temple.
A maximum of 1,000 devotees will be allowed to have darshan during the first five days of the week, 2,000 on Saturdays and Sundays, and 5,000 on the days of Mandala puja and Makaravilakku, Travancore Devaswom Board president N. Vasu told a press conference here on Thursday.
The pilgrims will have to follow the COVID-19 guidelines and wear gloves and masks and ensure social distancing. The base camp will be at Nilackal. Light motor vehicles will be allowed to drop pilgrims at Pampa and return to Nilackal.
Bathing not allowed
Bathing in the Pampa river will not be allowed. Instead, showers will be installed by the Irrigation Department and the Kerala Water Authority will supply water.
Paper plates will be made available for Annadanam at Nilackal, Pampa, and Sannidanam adhering to the COVID-19 guidelines. Steel water bottles will be made available for ₹100, which will be refunded on the return of the bottle after use by the pilgrims.
Trekking to the temple will be allowed only through the Swami Ayyappan road. Emergency medical centres and oxygen parlours will be set up en route.
Pilgrims will not be allowed to rest along with others (‘viri’) on the premises of the temple and stay at the guest houses and other dwelling units at Sannidanam. However, Mr. Vasu said viri would be allowed at Nilackal in a restricted way.
The ghee being brought by the pilgrims in coconuts for Abhishekam will be collected by the TDB staff through special counters. The sanctified ghee will be returned to the pilgrims through counters. Arrangements had been worked out for the pilgrims to purchase Prasadam while returning to Pampa after having darshan.
The Mandala puja is on December 26 and the temple will close on December 27 after the 41-day pilgrimage season. The temple will open on December 30 for the Makaravilakku pilgrimage. The Makaravilakku is on January 14, 2021, and the temple will close on January 20, 2021.