The Kerala High Court on Monday held a special sitting and issued directions to the Travancore Devaswom Board to provide water, snacks and other facilities at ‘Edathavalams’ to devotees on the way to Lord Ayyappa shrine in Sabarimala for the annual Mandalam-Makaravilakku pilgrimage.
A bench of Justices Anil K Narendran and G Girish held the special sitting taking note of news reports claiming that devotees, including children, were stuck on the roads to Sabarimala for over 12 hours without food or water.
The bench directed the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) to ensure water, snacks and other facilities are provided at the ‘Edathavalams’, which are short-term resting places for pilgrims, a lawyer associated with the matter said.
The court also directed the State Police chief to overall supervise the crowd control operations in and around the shrine and to deploy additional police personnel if necessary, the lawyer said.
Reports also stated that pilgrims’ vehicles were stopped on the roads at various places for hours on end due to the huge rush at Sabarimala.
Devotees, from the neighbouring states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, were seen on TV channels claiming that they had been stopped at various places on the route to Sabarimala without any arrangements for food and water.
Even devotees at Sannidhanam in Sabarimala were seen complaining that they have been stuck in the queues for several hours.
According to TDB sources, around 1.2 lakh people arrived at the shrine on Sunday for darshan and close to these numbers were there on Monday as well.
The sources also said that this year there has been an unprecedented rise in the number of children coming for the pilgrimage.
Meanwhile, TDB president P S Prasanth told reporters that there is an issue of huge influx of devotees during Mandala puja.
Regarding the arrangements made to deal with the increase in numbers, he said that parking numbers were increased from 7,000 to 8,000 and gave strict instructions that vehicles be stopped in areas where water and food is available.
“Spoke to senior police officers of Pathanamthitta district and they informed me that vehicles were stopped in areas where water and food were available. We believe no one will have to go back without getting darshan of Lord Ayyappa,” he said.
Police told the media that 88,000 were booked through a virtual queue on Monday and people are also expected to turn up without any registration.
It also said that it has taken steps to ensure that pilgrims are not stopped along the pilgrimage route.