With just over a month to go for the Sabarimala annual pilgrimage to begin, the Kerala government is considering the recommendations made by an expert committee that was constituted to set guidelines in compliance with the Covid-19 protocols.
The expert committee has made a set of suggestions, including the possibility of online darshan, and recommended that the number of devotees must be restricted and regulated through registration.
Speaking to media in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala minister for tourism and devaswom Kadakampally Surendran said that the recommendations have come for consideration of the state government and a final decision will be taken soon.
“The expert committee held a meeting and looked into all aspects. We have got many suggestions from the committee, one such suggestion is to explore the possibility of online darshan that needs to be discussed with the temple priest and other authorities. We will explore its possibilities and see whether it can be done,” said Surendran.
Considering the Covid-19 protocol, the committee has recommended banning the age-old practice of bathing in the holy Pamba River. Devotees who wish to come to Sabarimala will have to register in the Covid-19 Jagratha portal. They will also have to upload the Covid-19 negative certificate obtained 48 hours before reaching the temple. There will be a testing facility at entry points which the devotees will be able to avail on payment.
The traditional forest trekking path will be closed this year and devotees will be allowed to trek to the temple only through Pamba. Only devotees between the age of 10 and 60 will be allowed to offer prayers. Devotees between the age of 60 and 65 will be allowed on producing a medical certificate which testifies that the person does not have any serious illness.
The expert committee has also recommended a cap on the number of devotees to be allowed in the temple. As per the recommendation, only 1,000 devotees will be allowed in a day during the initial period. On weekends, it can be extended to 2,000 devotees. On Mandala Pooja and Makaravilakku days, up to 5,000 people can be allowed with restrictions.
Covid-19 tests will be done at Nilakkal. Pamba will be the only entry point to Sabarimala, no other alternate routes will be allowed. There is also a suggestion that during the monthly pilgrimage, the temple should be open for more than five days.
The government is likely to take a call on the recommendations without much delay as the temple is set to open in mid-October for 5-day monthly prayers. The 41-day annual pilgrimage to Sabarimala Lord Ayyappa, which begins in mid-November, usually sees a large influx of devotees from across the country.