The Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala has been witnessing a heavy flow of pilgrims since the beginning of the annual pilgrim season on November 17. Pilgrims from different parts of the country, mostly the south, trek the holy hills braving incessant rain and traffic bottlenecks along many stretches.
The heavy rain, quite unusual during this time of the year, has made the trek through the sacred grove of Lord Ayyappa, situated in the Periyar Tiger Reserve, an arduous task.
The water level in the Pampa river has gone up considerably following heavy inflow from catchments in interior forests. Strong currents in the bathing ghats at Pampa have been posing problems for pilgrims taking their customary holy dip in the river (Pampa snanom) prior to the holy trek.
Pilgrims have to wait for five to six hours in thickly packed long-winding iron barricades for the holy darshan. The main trunk road leading to the Pampa has been witnessing traffic congestions since Friday afternoon following an increase in the flow of pilgrims. Rain-ravaged parking lots at the Nilackal base camp added to the pilgrims' woes. Almost all parking lots at Nilackal, including those for heavy vehicles from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka, have been badly damaged.
Travancore Devaswom Board officials at Pampa say the incessant rain has affected maintenance of the approach roads to the parking lots.
The TDB works department has spread 5,600 cubic feet of granite chips and 2,500 cubic feet of quarry dust in an effort to repair the roads.
Many pilgrims now park their vehicles on waysides and haphazard parking of vehicles on either side of the road had resulted in traffic congestion along the Plappally-Chalakayam stretch of the Sabarimala road on Friday morning.
Superintendent of Police K. Sanjaykumar reached Nilackal in the afternoon to monitor traffic on the main trunk road to Sabarimala. He says adequate police personnel have been deployed on the Plappally-Pampa stretch, besides conducting patrol.