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Dip in Sabarimala footfall, revenue as annual pilgrimage season ends

The Sabarimala revenue decreased by Rs 98.35 crore, compared to the previous year, according to the Travancore Devaswom Board

Statesman News Service | Thiruvananthapuram |

The doors of the Sabarimala temple closed on Sunday morning after the annual two-month-long Mandalam Makaravilakku festival, which was marked by raging protests and violent clashes across Kerala. The tense situation resulted in a dip in the number of pilgrims during this pilgrimage season. This also affected the revenue earned by the Travancore Devaswom Board this year. The Sabarimala revenue decreased by Rs 98.35 crore, compared to the previous year, according to the board.

The temple was closed on Sunday at 6.45 am after the Pandalam Palace representative P Raghava Varma offered prayers at the shrine. The palace representative descended the 18 steps to escort the Thiruvabharanam back to the Pandalam Palace in a ceremonial procession.

Sunday’s darshan was exclusively for the palace representative. Darshan for pilgrims ended on Saturday evening after the Guruti ritual at Malikappuram.
The temple had opened for the pilgrimage season on 15 November, 2018. The government, through the Pathanamthitta district collectorate, had imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the IPC, in and around Sabarimala hill ever since 14 November, and extended it every three to four days until after the Makaravilaku puja on 14 January, 2019.

For the first time in the history of the temple, lathi-wielding police patrolled the
temple premises and several persons, including BJP state general secretary K Surendran, had been arrested from Sabarimala for violating prohibitory orders issued there over the two-month period.

READ | Ensure full security to two women who entered Sabarimala: SC to Kerala govt

The two-month Mandalam-Makaravilakku pilgrimage season saw several  failed and successful attempts by women below the age of 50 years to enter the shrine, most notably by Kanaka Durga and Bindu Ammini, who offered prayers on 2 January, 2019. This attempt led to the call for a statewide hartal in Kerala by Sabarimala Karma samithy and BJP on 3 January, which saw widespread violence across the state.

Because of the tense situation, there was a dip in number of pilgrims during this pilgrimage season. This affected the revenue of the Travancore Devaswom Board, which decreased by 98.35 crore, compared to the previous year.

In December, the board had said the aggregate revenue during the 39 days of the pilgrimage season had showed a fall of Rs 60 crore.

The BJP had called a relay hunger strike outside the government Secretariat in Thiruvananthapuram, to protest against the imposition of prohiobitory orders at Sabarimala, and also against the alleged arbitrary arrests of its workers. The party called off the strike on Sunday morning.

To mark the culmination of the strike, Gandhian Gopinathan Nair gave lemon juice to BJP national executive committee member PK Krishnadas who was sitting on a hunger strike at the protest venue. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan however alleged that the Sabarimala protests were led by those who upheld casteism.

Meanwhile, the Sabarimala Karma Samithi has organised an ‘Ayyappa Bhakta Sangamam’ (meeting of Ayyappa devotees), at Puthirikandam Maidani for protecting the customs and rituals at shrine. Spiritual leader Mata Amritanandamayi inaugurated the Sangamam. Amrithanandamayi underlined the necessity to protect the temple traditions.