Various Hindu organisations have said the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) should explore the possibility of extending the annual pilgrimage season at Sabarimala by one month owing to the increasing influx of pilgrims to the forest shrine.

Hindu Aikyavedi general secretary Kummanam Rajashekharan and the Akhila Bharatha Ayyappa Seva Sanghom national vice-president D. Vijayakumar told TheHindu that Sabarimala was witnessing a manifold increase in the number of devotees from different parts of the country every year since the last decade.

The TDB and the Kerala government have failed to ensure basic facilities at the pilgrim centre, leaving pilgrims at the receiving end.

Mr. Rajashekharan, who is also the general secretary of the Sabarimala Ayyappa Samajom, alleged that pilgrims coming from distant places, after observing strict penance, were put to untold hardship at Sabarimala and on the main trunk road leading to Pampa due to ineffective crowd management system adopted by the police.

“Blocking the pilgrims at Pampa or on the roads in the forests would be of little help in addressing the real problem. The temple authorities as well as the police should try to understand the actual problems facing the pilgrim centre before introducing reforms or crowd management schemes,” he said.

Both leaders strongly opposed the proposal to widen the holy 18 steps (pathinettampady), saying it would hurt devotees' sentiments.

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