The astrological consultation, ‘raasi-vaickal', allegedly organised without authorisation by Devaswom administrative officer K. Rajan and a private construction company, at Lord Ayyappa Temple at Sabarimala on Wednesday has opened a Pandora's box, exposing the lapses in the functioning of the temple administrative body, Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB).

The consultation was conducted by renowned astrologers Padmanabha Sarma and Kanippayur Krishnan Namboodiripad at the Namaskara Mandapam of the temple.

High power panel

The government had constituted a High Power Committee (HPC) chaired by Chief Secretary K. Jayakumar for the implementation of the Sabarimala master plan on the directions of the Kerala High Court four years ago. The court direction and the Government Order had made it amply clear that the HPC was the sole agency responsible for the implementation of various projects proposed in the master plan and that no other project would be permitted at Sabarimala, Pampa or Nilackal.

Talking to The Hindu on Thursday, Mr Jayakumar said TDB president M. Rajagopalan Nair had sought clearance from the High Court for the construction of a three-storey Annadana Mandapam at Sabarimala, utilising the TDB Annadanam funds of Rs.6 crore at the committee meeting held in Thiruvananthapuram on March 30. Mr. Jayakumar had questioned the propriety of using the fund collected from devotees in the name of Annadanam for constructing the proposed Mandapam. However, the committee gave an in-principle nod for the TDB chief's proposal, he said.

He said the TDB had not informed the HPC that it had entrusted a Kochi-based private company with the task of preparing the design and estimate of the proposed Mandapam.

Mr Jayakumar said the HPC had already appointed the Chennai-based Pithavadiyan and Partners Ltd. as consultants to prepare the detailed layout plan of various projects at Sabarimala with due approval of the High Court in October, 2010. The Chennai-based consultants had already prepared the design and estimate for the proposed double-storey Valiyanadappanthal, multi-tier Virippanthal (pilgrim shelter), Pradakshinappatha, sewage treatment plant and an exit bridge at the Sannidhanam, he said.

He said neither the Devaswom Commissioner, who is the administrative head of the board, nor the TDB Works Department was informed about engaging a private company for preparing the design and estimate of the proposed Annadana Mandapam. N. Vasu, Devaswom Commissioner, and K. Ravikumar, TDB Chief Engineer, said the administrative officer had not even consulted them on the matter. Even the devaswom executive officer at Sabarimala, who was present at the Sannidhanam, remained a mute spectator to the unauthorised act. The Tantri and Melsanthi too attended the astrological consultation reportedly on the request of the administrative officer.

TDB members K.V. Padmanabhan and K. Cicily have strongly condemned the administrative officer's act. However, TDB president said the board was yet to approve the design of the mandapam prepared by the private company. He said the ‘raasi-vaickal' was organised by the private company and the TDB had no role in it.

But, the situation took a new turn leading to the suspension of the administrative officer late on Wednesday following the intervention of the Kerala High Court through the Commissioner.

Hindu Aikyavedi leader Kummanam Rajashekharan alleged that Wednesday's incident was yet another instance of the temple administration serving the interests of certain commercial parties.

D. Vijayakumar, Akhila Bharatha Ayyappa Seva Sanghom national vice-president, has called for stern action against all those involved in the act. He said the TDB authorities could not wash of their hands by feigning innocence about the matter, adding that the board was solely responsible for whatever administrative lacunae found at Sabarimala.