Kochi: Sabarimala is back to its old glory with a large number of devotees streaming in ever since the Lord Ayyappa temple was opened for the pilgrimage season on Sunday. The police are also in a spiritual mood and have eased several restrictions in the absence of any protests or violent incidents.
The revenue on Sunday touched Rs 3.32 crore, an increase of Rs 1.28 crore compared to the first day of the last pilgrimage season. The opening day collection also increased by Rs 25 lakh compared to last year, as over 50,000 pilgrims offered prayers.
“The row over the entry of women of all ages to the temple had affected the pilgrimage flow last year. However, this year there is a heavy rush right from the opening day itself. A corresponding increase is also being witnessed in the sale of appam and aravana. The atmosphere is peaceful and we’re confident of ensuring a smooth pilgrimage throughout the entire season,” Travancore Devaswom Board president N. Vasu told reporters.
Last season, a prohibitory order was in place after protests erupted at Sabarimala when the state government tried to implement the September 28 verdict of the Supreme Court. The cops had then closed down ‘Valiyana-dapandal’ and didn’t allow pilgrims to rest anywhere at Sannidhanam.
However, the strict crowd control measures at Sannidhanam were taken away this time as long queues were witnessed for the second day on Monday. The police, though, are vigilant against women in the age-group of 10 to 50 arriving at Pampa. Women cops are deployed in strength at Nilackal and Pampa and every vehicle is being checked.
A woman devotee from Andhra Pradesh was stopped at Pampa on Monday and sent back after her documents showed her to be below 50. The police had prevented three other women from proceeding to the hill shrine on Saturday too.
With the apex court last week referring the review petitions against its earlier order to a larger bench, the state government too has changed its stance and decided against giving police protection to young women wishing to enter the shrine.