Lord Ayyappa Temple at Sabarimala continued to witness heavy pilgrim inflow as thousands of Ayyappa devotees thronged the holy hillock on their annual pilgrimage, braving the heavy downpour in the forests, on Saturday.

Rituals in connection with the annual Makaravilakku pilgrimage season began with the Tantri, Kandararu Maheswararu, performing the Ashtadravya Maha Ganapati homom in the morning followed by Ashtabhishekom and Neyyabhishekom.

Police have regulated the inflow of pilgrims by blocking them at different points from Pampa and releasing them periodically as part of the crowd management.

Pilgrims were left with little option other than waiting for hours together inside the thickly packed iron barricades and that too, braving the rains.

The police too were put to task in managing the mammoth crowd that had turned up to Sabarimala during the past 48 hours.

Travancore Devaswom Board officials at Sabarimala told The Hindu that the pilgrim turn out would be much high in the coming days as a large number of devotees from different parts of Tamil Nadu could not undertake their pilgrimage during the last lap of the Mandalam season owing to the road blockades and other protests as part of the Mulapperiyar agitation.

Aravana stock

The Devaswom Executive Officer, M.Sathishkumar, told The Hindu that the TDB has ensured sufficient stock of Appam and Aravana the most sought-after prasadom at Sabarimala to meet the pilgrims’ need during the Makaravilaku festival.

According to him, the temple administration has maintained a buffer stock of eight lakh cans (250 ml each) of Aravana and four lakh packets of Appam as on Saturday afternoon. There was no shortage of workers at the Aravana and Appam plants, he said.

Mr Sathishkumar said the TDB has also made elaborate arrangements for the Makaravilakku festival to be held on January 15.

2050 cops deployed at Sannidhanam

As many as 2050 civil police officers have been deployed at the Sannidhanam from Friday afternoon, said Mr K.K.Chellappan, Policde Special Officer at Sabarimala.

As many as 16 Deputy Superintendents of Police, 40 Circle Inspectors and 175 Sub Inspectors have also been posted at Sabarimala as supervisory staff, he said.

Central Forces

A company each of National Disaster Response Force and Rapid Action Force attached to Central Reserve Police Force have been deployed at Sabarimala right from the beginning of the annual pilgrim season in mid-November.

Bomb Detection and Deffusal Squad and Commandos of the State Police have also been deployed at the Sannidhanam.

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