The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), the apex temple body in Kerala, is mulling to rope in celebrities including film stars for advertisements to woo devotees to the Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala.
The plan is in consideration in view of the comparatively poor turnout of devotees even over two weeks after the temple opened up for the annual pilgrim season.
The advertisements are envisaged to alleviate fear among devotees in and outside Kerala regarding the recent developments in Sabarimala and woo them to the shrine during the two-month-long Mandalam-Makaravilakku season, which used to be marked by the heavy rush and long queues in Sannidhanam, the temple complex.
A TDB official, who does not want to be quoted, however, said a final decision in this regard would be taken on December 3.
"We are considering a plan to bring out advertisements with celebrities. But a final decision in this will be taken only on December 3," he told PTI.
Prohibitory orders and restrictions imposed in and around the hilltop shrine in the wake of intense protests by devotees and right-wing groups have largely affected the two-month-long pilgrim season, which began on November 17.
The shrine had been witnessing protests against the implementation of the September 28 Supreme Court verdict permitting entry of women of all age groups into the temple.
The official, however, said the pilgrim inflow is steadily catching up in the recent days as police had eased the curbs.
"The number of pilgrims has registered a remarkable increase in the last few days. With this, the sale of appam and aravana (temple prasadam), which was comparatively dull in the initial week, has also increased," he said.
"Over 75,000 pilgrims have visited the shrine on Saturday till evening. The footfall was 61,000 on Friday. That means, the number of pilgrims is steadily increasing," he said.
However, the official admitted that more than native people, devotees from neighbouring states like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh are trekking the hill shrine in large numbers.