About 20,000 people thronged the sand banks of the Periyar and paid respects to departed souls by performing the balitharpanam at Aluva Manappuram.

The Travancore Devaswom Board had arranged 186 balitharas at the venue. “The number of balitharas was reduced this year, from 400, after unscrupulous, unqualified people helped people offer prayers for the dead,” said Mahadeva Temple devaswom manager Hari Kumar.

This year, those who helped people with bali rituals were given certificates by the temple tantri. The police also verified the identity of the person. The people were happy to find that no toll fee was charged to use the temporary bridge to reach the sand banks.

Temple priest Pangode Chennas Parameswaran Namboothiri and melsanthi Mullapally Subramanian Namboothiri led the Sivarathri celebrations. Balitharpanam usually begins after midnight after the abhishekam is offered to the deity at the temple, but many people perform the rituals early to avoid the crowded wee hours.

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