RAF, NDRF deployed for crowd control
A major stampede was averted with the collective effort by the Rapid Action Force, National Disaster Response Force, and the Kerala Police when the police barricade was broken in the rush of pilgrims entering the Lower Tirumuttom from the Valiya Nadappanthal around 9.40 pm on Monday.
Volunteers of the Akhila Bharatha Ayyappa Seva Sanghom and the staff on duty at the Sannidhanam too swung into action extending a helping hand to the crowd control agencies.
Few pilgrims were injured in the rush; however a major stampede tragedy was averted with the effective intervention of the well-trained crowd management forces attached to the Central Reserve Police Force.
The rush of pilgrims who reached the Sannidhanam from the northern side of the Lower Tirumuttom crossing the Bailey Bridge had turned the situation out of gear.
It took about 15 minutes for the Central Forces to bring the near-stampede situation under control.
With hardly 36 hours left for the Mandalapuja, the sacred grove of Sabarimala has been witnessing an unprecedented rush, forcing the police to block the flow of pilgrims periodically to the holy hillock from Pampa periodically from Sunday night.
The throng of pilgrims turned so heavy that the space between the U-Turn on the Saramkuthi path and the Valiyanadappanthal has been witnessing a near-stampede from Monday afternoon.
Rapid Action Force (RAF) and the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) have been controlling the crowd along this highly risky and difficult stretch to avert any untoward situation.
The vehicular traffic on the main trunk road leading to Pampa too has gone up and the police had to block the Pampa-bound vehicles at definite intervals at Plappally and Nilackal. The parking lots at the main base camp at Nilackal have turned full
Long wait for darshan
Pilgrims had to wait for hours together inside the crowded barricades to reach the Sannidhanam. Many pilgrims told The Hindu that it took 15 to 16 hours for them to reach the Ayyappa Temple premises owing to the slow pace of movement along the trekking path, especially between Sabaripeedhom and the Sannidhanam.
Travancore Devaswom Board president, M.P.Govindan Nair, and the Special Commissioner appointed by Kerala High Court, K.Babu, are camping at the Sannidhanam.
Devaswom Minister, V.S.Sivakumar; Chief Co-ordinator, K.Jayakumar; Subhash Vasu, TDB member, and Devaswom Commissioner, N.Vasu, will reach the Sannidhanam on Tuesday.
The ceremonial procession carrying Thanka Anki, (golden attire) of the presiding deity will reach Pampa on Tuesday forenoon and from there to the Sannidhanam, later, in the afternoon.
The presiding deity will be decorated with it prior to the Deeparadhana. The Mandalapuja will be held at 12.30 pm on Wednesday.
The temple will be closed after the Athazhapuja on Wednesday, marking the culmination of the Mandalapuja and will reopen for the Makaravilakku festival on December 30.