With hardly 36 hours left for the annual Mandalam-Makaravilakku festival, the holy hillock of Sabarimala has become a beehive of activity.
The Travancore Devaswom Board as well as various government departments and agencies have made elaborate arrangements for the smooth conduct of the annual festival at Sabarimala where as many as five crore pilgrims are expected to visit in a span of two months.
The TDB works department is busy with the last-minute finishing touches at various work sites in Sabarimala, Pampa and Nilackal.
Additional chief Secretary, K. Jayakumar who is also the TDB Chief Commissioner is camping in Sabarimala to oversee the preparations for the annual Sabarimala festival.
19 crore cans of Aravana buffer stock
Mr. Jayakumar told The Hindu that the Aravana production was progressing smooth at the fully mechanised plant at the Sannidhanam. He said a buffer stock of 19 lakh cans of Aravana (250 ml each) have been produced as on Saturday. He said the Aravana production could be doubled in the next few days, with the commissioning of the jaggery melting unit.
Similarly, the production of Appam too was started on Thursday. The Dhanalaskhmi Bank will be operating the prasadom counters, besides selling prasadom tickets through the counters set up at Sabarimala as well as various bank branches across the country.
Mr. Jayakumar said roofing work of the Nadappanthal on the northern side of the Sannidhanam has been completed for providing more resting facility for devotees during the pilgrim season.
The Devaswom Executive Officer, V.S. Jayakumar said paving of cement blocks too was progressing fast at the Ayyappa Temple premises. He said every possible step has been taken to ensure the quality of materials used for Aravana and Appam preparation.
The TDB works department has completed the concreting work of the Marakkoottom-Sannidhanam Chandranandan Road.
Mr. K. Ravikumar, TDB chief engineer, told The Hindu that steel urinals have also been provided at different points along the Chandranandan Road as part of an initiative to ensure better hygiene and cleanliness on the trekking path.
He said self-contained toilet blocks have been provided at different points along the Pampa-Marakkoottom trekking path, besides resting bays at Appachimedu and Sabaripeetom.
Mr. Ravikumar said more accommodation facility has been provided for policemen on duty at Sabarimala, Pampa and Nilackal. Two more incinerators have also been installed at the Sannidhanam.
The number of shops and hotels at Pampa and Sannidhanam have been reduced by 30 per cent so as to provide more open space for the pilgrims to take rest, said Mr. Jayakumar.
Renovation of the Sabari Guest House and remodelling work on five pilgrim shelters at the Sannidhanam has been completed.
Scientific streamlining of the barricades on the Sabaripeetom-Sannidhanam path and the Valiyanadapanthal to regulate the pilgrim flow to the Sannidhanam during the rush days was major work undertaken by the TDB. Permanent iron barricades have been installed at Marakkoottom to avoid blocking of pilgrims with ropes stretched across the path during the rush days, said Mr. Jayakumar.
Health department has opened dispensaries at Pampa and Sannidhanam on November 1.
Health Minister, P.K. Sreemathy, will inaugurate the newly constructed cardiology centres at Appachimedu and Neelimala-Top on Sunday forenoon.
Dr. Dinesh Arora, National Rural Health Mission Director who is also the Chief Health Co-ordinator is camping at Sabarimala.
Dr. Arora said mobile dispensaries would be deployed on the main trunk road to Sabarimala. Health help desks for pilgrims and on-call ambulance service will also be provided at Pampa, he added.
The Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, Kochi, will run the Sree Ayyappa Medical Centre at Pampa.
According to Mr. K. Mohanachandran Nair, AIMS laison officer, the medical centre will have advanced healthcare facilities.
The AIMS will provide a very modern ambulance facility for free transportation of critically ill patients to the super-speciality hospital at Kochi, for free advanced medical care, he added. Devaswom Minister, Kadannappally Ramachandran, will inaugurate the hospital on Sunday, he said.