Thousands of people from Kerala and Tamil Nadu thronged the Mangaladevi temple inside the Periyar Tiger Reserve near Kumily for the Chitrapourami festival on Wednesday.

The temple, which was believed to have been built over a thousand years ago, opens only once in a year on Chitrapournami and the travel to the temple from Kumily, a 15 km stretch inside the forest, is arranged on jeeps and taxis. The temple opened at 6 a.m. and closed at 5 p.m, after pujas.

Devotees thronged the temple from early morning till the entry was closed at 3.30 p.m. The police, forest and revenue officials of both the States in association with Hindu organisations had made elaborate arrangements for the pilgrims and a medical unit was stationed on the temple premises. There were 200 police officials on duty at different locations en route to the temple. The District Collector from Tamil Nadu and Sub-Collector of Idukki reached early in the morning to oversee the arrangements made for the devotees.

Some devotees from distant parts of Tamil Nadu had reached Kumily a day before to get a glimpse of the presiding deity early in the morning. Devotees also walked the forest stretch and drinking water was supplied by the forest department. Mike announcements had been arranged at Kumily to guide tourists and for the journey inside the forest.

Compared to last year, there was an increase in the number of devotees and the conveyance charges had also increased.

A metal detector was installed to search the pilgrims before allowing entry. Photography was banned as also plastic inside the forest.

Though there was no rainfall, the atmosphere was thick with lightning reported in the area. Two policemen from the Idukki Armed Reserved camp, on duty received shock when lightning struck on them. They were provided preliminary treatment at the primary health centre in Kumily, the police said.

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