Sabarimala spruced up for pilgrims

PATHANAMTHITTA Nov. 13. With only three days left for the 61-day annual Mandalam-Makaravilakku pilgrim season at Sabarimala, the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) and the various departments of the State Government have reportedly made elaborate arrangements for the smooth conduct of the annual festival.

The work on various projects, aimed at providing basic facilities to the scores of pilgrims coming from different parts of the country, at the holy hillock and at various base camps is said to be in its last phase.

The Clean Pampa Manalppuram-drive launched by the TDB on the directions of the Special Commissioner appointed by the Kerala High Court, D. Sreevallabhan, is under way. The project involves the spreading of fine sand on the banks of the Pampa.

The Special Commissioner has directed the TDB not to permit any shops or stalls to be erected on the riverbank along the eastern side of the Manalppuram Road in order to provide enough open space for the pilgrims to take rest and perform Pithru Tharpanam.

Talking to The Hindu, Mr. Sreevallabhan said that he has been inspecting the roads leading to Sabarimala in the districts of Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha, Kottayam and Kollam for the past two weeks and the repair and maintenance work on a majority of these roads were progressing and would be completed by November 15.

However, the Punalur-Kottavasal Road was still in a bad shape and the Special Commissioner has already intimated the matter to the High Court and the authorities concerned.

Mr. Sreevallabhan said that he would inspect the roads in Alappuzha, Pathanamthitta and Kottayam districts again in the next two days before submitting an interim report to the High Court.

He also directed the TDB to pave granite slabs on the platform along the eastern side of the Valiyanadappandal so as to provide a clean and hygienic halting place for the pilgrims. The Rs.20-lakh project will be completed in the next three days, he added.

K. Ravikumar, the chief engineer of the TDB, said that the paving of rubble on the Pampa-Marakkottom Swami Ayyappan Road, to make it slush-free during the rainy days, has been completed. The repair and maintenance of the TDB buildings and donor houses estimated at Rs.75 lakhs have also been completed, Mr. Ravikumar said. He said that the TDB has provided a total of 1,912 toilets at Sannidhanam and 600 toilets at Pampa.

Mr. Ravikumar said that the repairing of the Chalakkayam-Pampa Road will be completed in the next two days and the Saramkuthi trekking path has already been cleared of bushes.

The Special Commissioner has said that the one-way system through the fly-over near the Kopra yard would be strictly enforced for those who return after the holy darshan at the temple in order to ease congestion in the Valiyanadappandal and at the Lower Thirumuttom.

The Special Commissioner has said that the Lower Thirumuttom would be cleared of all stalls in order to provide more space for the pilgrims to take rest. Meanwhile, the preparation of the Aravana payasam began at Sannidhanam on Wednesday with the outgoing Melsanthi, Perikamana Sankaranarayanan Nampoothiri, performing special poojas at the Prasadam preparation unit.According to the Sabarimala Executive Officer, R. Krishnan Nair, the TDB will stock five-lakh containers of Aravana and 2.5-lakh packets of Appam in view of the great demand for the same once the temple opens on November 16 afternoon for the annual Mandalam season that begins the next day.

The Executive Officer said that as part of its `Annadaanam' scheme, the TDB has also made arrangements to supply breakfast for 2,000 pilgrims at Pampa, mid-day meals for 5,000 pilgrims at Sannidhanam and supper for 1,000 pilgrims at Erumeli on a daily basis through out the Mandalam-Makaravilakku season.

The Annadaanam would begin at all the designated places on November 17 itself, he added.