A mega rehabilitation project for tribal children and pilgrim amenity centre is coming up at Koonamkara on the Perinad-Pampa main trunk road leading to Sabarimala under the auspices of the Sabari Saranashramam Trust attached to Sabarimala Ayyappa Seva Samajom (SASS).
The multi crore tribal upliftment and rehabilitation project is part of the welfare project planned for the tribals wandering in the sacred grove (Poonkavanam) of Lord Ayyappa, says Mr Kummanam Rajashekharan, SASS general secretary.
Talking to The Hindu, Mr Rajashekharan said official records show that as many as 3,650 tribal people belonging to nearly 350 families were residing in the tribal hamlets of Sayippinkudi, Chalakkayam, Siffan, Attathode, Perumbanmoozhi, Vimmaram and Gavi. SASS project is aimed at providing better healthcare, food, education and social status to the tribal children, thereby bringing them to the social mainstream in a systematic manner, he said.
He said these tribal people were quite unfamiliar with the modern educated community, Anganwady, balavady, ration shops, medical centres, electricity, etc. SASS has prepared a mega Sabari Saranashram project for tribal upliftment in the Poonkavanam area.
The Rs 30-crore Sabari Saranashram is a well-planned centre coming up on an 18-acre hill on the boundaries of the Sabarimala Poonkavanam.
The design has been prepared by Manoj S. Nair, renowned Vasthu expert; Karinkunnam Ramachandran Nair, engineer, and Ernakulam-based architect, Gopakumar.
“The tribal people in the Sabarimala Poonkavanam are decendants of Sabari Mata, the mythical saint who lived in the sacred grove. It is also a fact that now these tribal people live in utter misery, despite various welfare schemes launched by the Government. Upliftment of these hapless tribal brethren is the duty of every Ayyappa devotee and hence SASS has given top priority to the Manikanta Gurukulam project, ’’ says Mr Rajashekharan.
Mr Rajashekharan said the proposed Gurukulam would provide proper accommodation, food and education facilities for tribal children.
Infusing national spirit and native culture among tribal children was the need of the hour in order to bring the tribal folk to the national and social mainstream, he added.
Children will be taught the needs, means and importance of environment conservation, protection of forests and wild life, while providing them with primary education in science, technology, climatology, hydrology, livelihood, sheltering, empowerment of women and youngsters, childcare, food security rules and regulations, empowerment of women, cultural heritage and national resurgence, says Mr Rajashekharan.
Initially, the Gurukulam would house a play school and a primary school and SASS would also establish a Sabari Institute of Higher Learning, later, he said. Empowerment of women and adults too has been envisaged as a key project.
SASS has been carrying out free feeding (Annadanam) of Ayyappa devotees at its Annadana Kendra set up at the Sabari Saranashramam since the past two years.
As many as 3,000 to 5,000 people attend the Annadanam on a daily basis during the two-month long Mandalam-Makaravilakku pilgrimage season, says Mr Rajashekharan.
A hospital, an Ayyappa museum, Gosaala for rearing of cows, and a temple atop the hill were the other major projects planned at the Sabari Saranashram, he said.
Mr Rajashekharan said many cows offered by devotees to the Lord Ayyappa Temple were found to have been stranded in the forests and they would be protected at the proposed Gosaala.
A pharmacy to produce medicines from Panchagavya (urine, dung, milk, ghee and butter) obtained from cow would also be attached to the proposed Gosaala, he added.
Construction of the Manikanda Gurukulam is fast progressing at Koonamkara so as to open it during the forthcoming Sabarimala pilgrim season itself, he said.