Kochi: Most of the temples along the Sabarimala pilgrim route in Ernakulam district have witnessed a sharp dip in the number of devotees following the row at the hill shrine. At Kalady, a major short stay venue en route to Sabarimala, the Adi Sankara Keerthi Sthamba Mandapam registered 90 per cent dip. Similar is the situation at Chottanikkara, Tripunithura and other major temples.
"Last year, on an average 2,500 Sabari pilgrims visited the Adi Sankara Mandapam per day. This year, the number dropped to mere 250, just 10 per cent of what we normally had," said K. Jamshy, the person in charge of the ticket counter at the monument.
"The majority of Sabari pilgrims are from other states. Whereas 250 to 300 pilgrims from Kerala used to visit the Sankara shrine, only 12 Malayali devotees visited it on Monday. But there is no dip in the number of normal tourists," he added.
During the Sabarimala season, the Adi Sankara shrine will be open till 9 at night. But this year, it is being closed by 6 p.m. as the revenue from ticket sale is not adequate to meet even the electricity bill.
The traders and business establishments in the area suffered huge losses. The areas for setting up temporary shops were auctioned at rates ranging from Rs. 30,000 to Rs. 40,000 per plot. But due to the absence of pilgrims, no one risked putting up shops.
"There has been a decline in the number of Ayyappa devotees visiting the Chottanikkara temple, especially Malayali pilgrims," said P.V. Maya, Chottanikarra Devaswom assistant commissioner.
For the traders, the revenue from the Sabarimala season forms the major chunk of the entire year's total business. They are bound to suffer badly this time....