The parking lot of Attukal Bhagavathy Temple and the sprawling five-acre plot adjacent to World Market at Venpalavattom along the NH 47 bypass have been shortlisted as the parking areas for the 13,000-odd vehicles that are expected to bring Ayyappa devotees to the city daily for darshan at Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple from November 17.
The two parking lots were shortlisted at a high-level meeting chaired by K. Jayakumar, Additional Chief Secretary (Home), here on Wednesday. The meeting was attended by District Collector M. Nandakumar, City Police Commissioner Manoj Abraham and top officials from the traffic, Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC), and the Corporation. Official sources told The Hindu that a team led by Mr. Abraham would inspect the sites on Thursday and decide on whether to use both the grounds or to stick to one.
The city police are anticipating an unprecedented rush of Ayyappa devotees from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Maharashtra during the Mandalam-Makaravilakku season in the wake of the discovery of riches in the subterranean vaults of the temple.
Entry of vehicles through the main roads leading to the temple has been restricted as part of the Rs.41-crore five-tier security system. With restrictions in force around the temple, the number of vehicles that can be parked there has come down to below 500.
In the case of the parking lot at Attukal, the proposal is to take the buses through the side of the bund road from Killippalam via Padassery to the parking ground near the Bhagavathy temple.
It is estimated that 50,000 vehicles can be parked here. The devotees will be taken from here for worship to East Fort on buses that will be operated by the KSRTC. The city police officials will take into account the traffic problems that are to arise in the city as the buses of Ayyappa devotees will have to touch the arterial road for proceeding to the parking lot in Attukal.
If the parking lot at Venpalavattom is selected, the buses of the Ayyappa devotees coming via the NH and M.C. Road need not enter the city or arterial road. They can reach the parking lot from the M.C. Road through the new bypass from Thycaud near Venjaramoodu and via Kazhakuttom through the bypass. The five-acre plot, which is with the Department of Agriculture, has already been levelled and is ideal for setting up make-shift toilets for the devotees, the sources said.
The KSRTC has agreed to provide 10 buses for operating the chain services either from Attukal or Venpalavattom to the depot of the KSRTC behind Transport Bhavan, which will be the alighting and boarding area for the Ayyappa devotees. KSRTC buses will operate via Chakka, Eenchakkal, and through the newly developed road to Attakulangara to reach Fort.
The city police, with 750 personnel for general duty and another 300 exclusively for traffic duty, are to get another 200 personnel for regulating the traffic alone during the pilgrimage season, the sources said. At the meeting, it was announced that telecommunication system was also to be provided exclusively to regulate the additional traffic from November 17.
The Putharikandam Maidan (E.K. Nayanar Park) was also considered for the parking lot as it was estimated that 1,000 light motor vehicles could be accommodated here. But, the police are not keen on it as the entry of the vehicles to the park at East Fort will further aggravate traffic problems.