Sabarimala pilgrimage begins on a positive note

Pilgrims waiting in queue for darsan at the Nadapandal of the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple on  Monday.   | Photo Credit: TH

It may take a while for long queues and packed crowds to be back at Sabarimala, but the ongoing annual pilgrimage season at the Ayyappa temple has kicked off on a positive note for the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which now counts on offsetting a portion of the economic loss suffered the previous season.

As per estimates by the board, the number of pilgrims who visited the temple this season already crossed 58,000 in the first six days of the pilgrimage while the total income during the period stood around ₹4 crore. Of the total income received, revenue from the sale of offerings (appam, aravana) and the donation boxes stood around ₹1 crore while about ₹1.5 crore was generated through the auctioning of shops at Sannidhanam.

Major improvement

These numbers, though pale in comparison with the conventional estimates in the pre-pandemic days, still mark a major improvement over the scaled-down season last year. The overall income during that season, when the overall footfall had stood less than one lakh, had dropped sharply to ₹21 crore as against the ₹270 crore in 2019-20.

Meanwhile, the board officials are expecting a further rise in revenue with the launching of an e-donation system. “The footfalls too are expected to rise with the improving pandemic situation and weather conditions, and arrangements are being made in this direction,” said V. Krishnakumara Varrier, TDB Executive Officer, Sabarimala.

At the same time, the TDB has suffered a prospective loss of several crores on account of the near-zero demand for stalls in the pilgrimage zone. Of the 216 stalls available, only 77 have been auctioned off and that too at much lesser prices. The delay in auctioning off the stalls has affected the devotees who are left with fewer options for food and other necessary facilities.

Slots for darsan

Meanwhile, the board is exploring the possibility of raising the number of daily slots for darsan to 50,000 from the current ceiling of 30,000 in the later phase of the pilgrimage. “While the present situation warrants no hike in slots, those for special days like Mandala puja or Makaravilakku festival are in great demand,” said K. Ananthagopan, president, TDB.

The restrictions imposed on account of COVID-19 are having a drastic effect on the TDB’s revenue sources with the board suffering a loss of over ₹600 crore since March last year. Following this, the board had to approach the State Government seeking financial assistance to prepare for the pilgrimage season this year.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2022 6:12:40 PM |

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