Covid effect on Sabarimala: Pilgrims footfall dips from 3L to 9K. Image Source: IANS News

Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 23 : Given the strict Covid protocols, at the end of the first week after the annual two-month-long Sabarimala season began, only around 9,000 pilgrims visited the famed Lord Ayyappa shrine.

This is in comparison to the three lakh pilgrims, who visited the hilltop temple in Pamba during the same period in the last season, according to figures provided by the temple authorities.

The Travancore Devasom Board -- the agency overseeing the affairs of the shrine -- opened the temple doors to pilgrims on November 16.

The temple authorities pointed out that ever since the Covid regulations came into use, eight months back, the daily maximum number of pilgrims have dwindled.

According to the present day Covid norms, it was decided that during the ongoing festival season, on working days (Monday to Friday) only 1,000 pilgrims would be allowed while on Saturdays and Sundays it would be 2,000 allowed.

It also pointed out that while in the previous seasons when the daily collections touched Rs 3 crore, this time the daily collections has come down to Rs 10 lakh.

The two-month long annual festival began last week and the most important Makarvilaku day will be held on January 14, 2021.

All pilgrims will have to register in the virtual queue system. This time all pilgrims who arrive for the pilgrimage will have to carry with them a Covid negative certificate and the test should have been done within 24 hours of their arrival.

One major change this time is that the popular holy dip in river Pamba will not be allowed instead a shower system will be provided where all pilgrims can undertake, before they begin their climb to the temple.

Situated on the mountain ranges of the Western Ghats at an altitude of 914 metres above sea level, Sabarimala temple is four km uphill from Pamba in Pathanamthitta district, which is around 100 km from the capital city here.

The temple, which has been at the centre of a controversy and legal battle for its bar on the entry of women who have attained puberty, is accessible only on foot from Pamba.

Every pilgrim carries with him/her a kit (which contains coconuts which are broken just before climbing the 18 steps) on their head during the pilgrimage. Without it no one is allowed to go up the holy 18 steps at the Sannidhanam.

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-- The story has been published from a wire feed without any modifications to the text

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