Thousands of pilgrims offered prayers amidst tight security at Lord Ayyappa Temple at Sabarimala on Sunday.
The flow of devotees was regulated through the compartmentalised iron barricades along the Marakkoottom-Saramkuthi-Sannidhanam path from the wee hours of Sunday as part of the special security system came into force from Saturday in the backdrop of the 17th anniversary of Babri Masjid demolition in Uttar Pradesh.
Rapid Action Force attached to CRPF, National Disaster Response Force and the State Police have conducted separate combing operations in and around Sabarimala Sannidhanam as part of the security arrangements during the past 24 hour.
Armed commandos and RAF personnel have taken their positions at the temple premises and before the gold-plated Holy Pathinettampady (18-Steps) from Saturday evening itself.
Specially trained unarmed NDRF men headed by Commander Deepak Dev Menon were stationed at the Valiyanadappanthal, Marakkoottom and on the trekking path, keeping high alert round-the-clock, to swing into action any moment in case of any eventuality.
Special Commissioner appointed by M.Rajendran Nair, Devaswom Commissiner, P.V.Nalinakshan Nair and Inspector General of Police, G.Baburaj, were camping at the Sannidhanam to monitor the special security arrangements.
Talking to The Hindu, many pilgrims have expressed satisfaction of having a soulful darshan, with out the otherwise `push and pull’ crowd control tactics by the cops at the temple sopanam, owing to the strictly regulated pilgrim flow.
However, the restrictions in force as part of the security arrangements have also posed a lot of inconvenience to the pilgrims at the Sannidhanam, especially in getting tickets for various rituals at the temple.
Pilgrims have to wait for hours together in the serpentine queue on the trekking path for the holy darshan on Sunday. A group of pilgrims from Changanacherry told The Hindu that they had to wait for about seven hours in the queue to reach the temple precincts for the holy darshan in the forenoon.
Only pilgrims carrying the Irumudikkettu (sacred bundle) were permitted to enter the temple precincts on Sunday and the small gate in front of the Holy 18-Steps was kept closed when the temple remained close after the puja time in the forenoon and afternoon.
The main Hundi at the sopanam was closed and the devotees were asked to put their offerings to the deity in two large vessels kept near the shrines dedicated to Lord Ganapati and Nagaraja at the temple premises itself.
Similarly, the devotees had to drain out the ghee from the ghee-filled coconuts brought for Neyyabhishekom in a few vessels kept at the fly-over leading to Malikappuram as the ghee collection tank at the northern mantapam too was closed as part of the new security system.
RAF Commandant, G.Vijayan, NDRF Commandant, Deepak Dev Menon, Police Special Officer, V.K.Girijanathan Nair and Assistant Special Officer, G.Haridas have led separate teams to conduct periodic inspections at Sabarimala Sannidhanam and along the trekking path.
No untoward incident was reported from any part of Sabarimala on Sunday.
The special security system will continue till Monday evening.