Radhakrishnan Kuttoor

SABARIMALA: Thousands of pilgrims offered prayers amidst tight security at the Lord Ayyappa Temple in Sabarimala on Sunday.

The flow of devotees was regulated through iron barricades along the Marakkoottom-Saramkuthi-

Sannidhanam path from the early hours of Sunday as part of the special security system set in place from Saturday in the backdrop of the 17th anniversary of Babri Masjid demolition in Uttar Pradesh. The Rapid Action Force (RAF) attached to the Central Reserve Police Force, National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) and the State police conducted separate combing operations in and around the Sannidhanam in the past 24 hours. Armed commandos and RAF personnel took position on the temple premises and before the gold-plated 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.

Pilgrims expressed satisfaction at having a smooth darshan, without the usual hassles caused by the crowd control measures of the police at the temple sopanam. The pilgrim flow was strictly regulated. However, security restrictions posed inconvenience to pilgrims at the Sannidhanam in getting tickets for temple rituals. Pilgrims have to wait for hours in the queue on the trekking path for darshan.

Only pilgrims carrying the sacred bundle were permitted to enter the temple precincts on Sunday. The main ‘hundi’ at the sopanam was closed and the devotees were asked to put offerings in two large vessels kept near the temples dedicated to Lord Ganapati and Nagaraja.