The famed Sabarimala pilgrimage's present season has seen unprecedented rush of pilgrims and with the entire focus of the police on the statewide trip of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, the otherwise properly organised pilgrimage has become a nightmare with pilgrims having to wait for more than 15 hours to get the temple 'darshan'.
Every day on an average around 75,000 pilgrims are visiting the temple, but there are no arrangements to check the rush and maintain order. The authorities are woefully falling short in making proper arrangements and are now running for cover. This has given enough ammunition to the opposition who are now slamming CM Pinarayi Vijayan for faulty organisation.
Leader of Opposition V.D. Satheesan has written to CM Vijayan to ramp up the facilities for pilgrims.
"The average time for a pilgrim to have the darshan has now gone up to as high as 20 hours causing innumerable hardships. The Kerala High Court directive to the government to ensure hassle free pilgrimage has fallen on deaf ears and the biggest problem now raised by pilgrims is unlike the previous season, the police force which controls the queue has dwindled and is the biggest cause of this fracas," says Satheesan.
"The entire focus of the police is to ensure the statewide trip of Vijayan and there has been no coordination between the various departments especially the police and the Devasom authorities. The facilities at the temple town are appallingly poor with even drinking water becoming a scarce commodity. There has to be a very urgent intervention at the top most level to bring solace to the pilgrims," added Satheesan.
The first phase of the present two-month long season ends on December 27 and reopens again on December 30 for the second phase.
Situated on the mountain ranges of the Western Ghats at an altitude of 914 meters above sea level, Sabarimala temple is four kilometers uphill from Pamba in Pathanamthitta district, which is around 100 kms from the capital city.
The temple, which bars the entry of women who have attained puberty, is accessible only on foot from Pamba.
Every pilgrim carries with him a kit -- 'lrumudi', which contains coconuts that are broken just before climbing the 18 steps. A pilgrim carries 'lrumudi' on his head during the pilgrimage and without it, none is allowed to step onto the holy 18 steps at the Sannidhanam.
State BJP president K. Surendran said the Vijayan government has totally ignored the Sabarimala pilgrimage for its own vested interests as the pilgrims are having a very tough time with facilities appallingly poor.
"The scene is such that the Vijayan government is only interested in the huge revenue being generated from the temple town and leaving the pilgrims in disarray. Another feature is the pilgrims from other states coming under duress from the police force. The Vijayan government is now showing its anger towards the believers for their combined efforts to ensure all the religious protocols in place in Sabarimala are intact, which they got from the court. Vijayan government has to change its attitude and ensure all facilities are there for the pilgrims," said Surendran.
Angry pilgrims also expressed their ire on the miserable arrangements. "Even at the peak timings in the past the maximum time one had to wait in queue for a darshan was six hours, but now it has gone up to as high as 20 hours and we had a torrid time," said a group of pilgrims.
Minister K. Radhakrishnan, State Minister of Devasom (the department which looks after temples in the state) said even though there are facilities to book 'darshan', there are many who come without doing it and hence there is a rush.
(With inputs from IANS)