: There was heavy rush of pilgrims to the Lord Ayyappa Temple at Sabarimala on Thursday even as security was intensified in view of the 20th anniversary of the Babri Masjid demolition in Ayodhya.
Armed commandos of the Rapid Action Force of the Central Reserve Police Force, the State Police as well as police teams from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka were posted at key points along the forests path. Pilgrim flow to the temple was strictly regulated.
Only pilgrims carrying the ‘Irumudikkettu’ (sacred bundle) were permitted to enter the temple precincts. The gates of ‘Pathinettampady’ (18-steps) remained shut when the temple closed after the rituals in the forenoon and afternoon. Pilgrims were subjected to security check-up at different points before ascending the holy 18-steps.
The staff and workers on duty too were permitted to enter the security zone only on producing their photo identity card issued by either the TDB or by the department concerned.
Pilgrims were screened at Neelimala, Marakkoottom, Valiyanadappanthal and at the Lower Thirumuttom. Devotees were instructed to empty the ghee brought for ‘Neyyabhishekom’ in a few vessels kept at the flyover leading to Malikappuram as the ghee collection tank at the northern mandapam too was closed as part of the security arrangements.
The main `hundi’ at the sopanam was closed and the pilgrims were told to put their offerings to the deity in a large vessel kept near the shrine dedicated to Nagaraja on the temple premises.
The queue for holy darshan extended even beyond Marakkoottom at a certain point of time owing to the slow pilgrim movement in the wake of the security check-up.