He has spent much time in water, having stirred the Olympics pools at Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008. Now he is wading in the Pampa engaged in a task which, for him, is as important as cracking gold in the pool.
“We will not have organised such a massive cleaning drive in the river had the devotees visiting this beautiful land were made properly aware of the importance of keeping the holy river Pampa and its surroundings clean and serene,” says Matti Rajakyla, 27, aka Akhilesh, from Finland, a volunteer of the Mata Amritanandamayi Math.
A band of Mata Amritanandamayi's foreign devotees had been engaged in the two-day intensive cleaning drive at Pampa that came to a close on Monday.
Mr. Rajakyla says a true devotee of Lord Ayyappa can never think of throwing clothes or other waste into the holy river in which scores of pilgrims take a customary holy dip. What is needed is making the pilgrims aware of the importance of keeping the river clean and serene.
For him, it has been a matter of pride to join the “Amala Bharathom” cleaning drive at a place like Sabarimala during his second visit to Amritapuri.
Many foreign volunteers from the math, accompanied by Gurudas Chaitanya, Yogamrita Chaitanya, and Sreevalsan, have stressed the need to post pilgrim-friendly guards at Pampa to check throwing of clothes into the river.
Mayu Suzuki, 31, aka Bhavya, a Japanese researcher in agriculture and environment studies, and Andreas Hirsch, alias Nath, a social worker from Germany, say they have never came across such a massive load of clothes in a day in their lifetime.
Most of the clothes removed from the riverbed were undergarments abandoned by pilgrims, Mr. Sreevalsan says.
Mr. Sreevalsan and two foreigners rushed to the river bank at the sight of a pilgrim throwing clothes into the river. Offering “Pranam” and touching the feet of the pilgrim in reverence, Mr. Sreevalsan made him remove the garment from the riverbed and deposit it in a bin kept on the banks.
Mathias Schneiderhan, aka Akshay, from Germany, who has been a full-time volunteer with the math for the past 14 years, was the team leader of the foreign volunteers in the cleaning drive.
Thirty of the 175 volunteers from the math were foreigners. They removed 98 tractor-loads of waste, mainly clothes and plastics, to the dumping yard of the incinerator at Cheriyanavattom in Pampa. The Travancore Devaswom Board has to take immediate steps for the safe disposal of the waste so that it will not flow into the river with the summer showers.