In the absence of a parking lot, tourist buses occupy the bylanes of Srirangam

The temple town of Srirangam witnesses a sharp increase in the volume of devotees during December and January, thanks to the Sabarimala pilgrimage season.

A large number of Ayyappa devotees, a majority of them from Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, on their annual pilgrimage to Sabarimala, arrive at Srirangam in buses, cars, vans and so on round the clock to worship in Sri Renganathaswami Temple.

In the absence of a proper parking lot, drivers of these buses occupy every inch of space available on the narrow lanes around the temple and on Ammamandapam Road. The stretch between the Ammamandapam bathing ghat and the bus stop near the police station virtually becomes a parking lot for these tourist buses.

The inadequacy in the facility for parking the vehicles has been a problem both to the pilgrims and the local residents.

A good number of devotees complain that although the Tiruchirapalli City Corporation collects Rs. 100 at the toll gate at the entrance to the Ammamandapam Road, no facility has been provided for parking the vehicles. The traffic police directed the vehicles to Ragavendrapuram where too the parking facility was not adequate.

“This parking lot is in a residential area and those in need of attending nature’s call are put to a great hardship,” says S. Amresh, a pilgrim from Hosur.

M. Sathishkumar (29), another pilgrim from Periyapalayam near Chennai, says the Tiruchirapalli City Corporation should emulate the example of the Madurai Corporation which collects a nominal toll of Rs. 50 and provides good amenities, including toilets and bathrooms, near Sri Meenakshi Temple.

The local body could press into service mobile toilets during this season, he says.

Devotees hail the Samayapuram Sri Mariamman Temple management for providing basic amenities to devotees and for parking of vehicles. The temple has earmarked a separate sprawling ground for the parking of vehicles and a similar facility should be created in Srirangam too, they say.

For the residents of Srirangam, haphazard parking of vehicles on Ammamandapam Road causes more traffic snarls.

J. Anantha Padmnabhan of Seshadripuram says that although there has been a growing increase in the number of tourist vehicles at Srirangam during the Sabarimala season, there is hardly any planning for parking them. This is a regular phenomenon every season.

Traffic snarls has been a problem at Ammamandapam Road, bus terminus and Gandhi Road. He suggests a comprehensive and permanent plan be evolved as a permanent measure.

More often, Ammamandapam Road turns into a open air makeshift kitchen, with the Ayyappa devotees preparing their meal and refreshments.

“This is our seventh annual pilgrimage to Sabarimala and we always carry the LPG cylinder, other utensils, and provisions with us. At Srirangam, we cook food on the pavements,” says K. Annamalai of Ezhusembun village near Villupuram. He says a team of 50 people, all of them agricultural labourers, contribute a monthly savings towards the pilgrimage.

P. Nagappan, Arumugam and Karthikeyan, the other pilgrims from the village, say although it is unsafe to take a cooking gas cylinder by a bus, they have been adopting the practice for the past seven years.

“We ensure quality and hygiene in our dishes and thereby bring about economy in our tour but escape any food-related health disorder,” they say.

He says it is difficult for them to get potable water for consumption and cooking. He has brought all provisions, including oil tins and flour for the week-long pilgrimage. “We need water for cooking,” he says.

The problem of traffic snarls because of parking of buses cropped at an official meeting convened by the district administration for discussing arrangements for the Vaikunta Ekadasi festival recently.

Jayashree Muralidaran, Collector, who presided over the meeting, advised the police to identify a temporary site in consultation with the corporation authorities for parking the vehicles.