The famous Lord Ayyappa Temple opened for the famous annual Mandala-Makaravilakku pilgrimage season. Sabarimala Tempe is all set to receive more pilgrims now with the Kerala government deciding to allow more devotees for darshan by adhering to COVID-19 protocols. According to the new decision, a maximum of 2000 devotees would be allowed at the hill shrine on weekdays and 3000 on weekends, the state Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran said.
"It has been decided to allow more pilgrims at the Sabarimala temple. The entire booking will be done online," he said in a statement. Pilgrims can book darshan on the website from today, the minister added. Noting that the entire pilgrimage would be incompliance with the COVID-19 guidelines, Mr Surendran said all devotees are required to produce a Covid negative certificate within 24 hours before reaching Nilakkal, the base camp.
Arrangements have been made at Nilakkal for devotees to undergo tests. Pilgrims can also check at any authorised Covid kiosk run by the government or private agencies anywhere en route Sabarimala, the minister added. Meanwhile, the state Health Department has intensified antigen testing in Sabarimala and its base camps to check the possible spread of the infection in view of the increase in the number of pilgrims at the hill shrine.
The department, on Monday, began testing at Sannidhanam (temple complex) and Pamba, the base camp, for all categories of employees and volunteers at the shrine for more than 14 days, official sources said. A total of 200 people are examined daily at the health centre in Pamba.
Of the 200 cleaning staff, four tested positive. They have been shifted to the Covid treatment centre at Erumeli. The antigen testing would begin at 3 pm at the health centre in Pamba, they added. Till November 27, a total of 39 people including pilgrims, police personnel and temple employees, had tested positive in Sabarimala since the temple was opened for the annual pilgrimage season on November 16.
The auspicious Mandala pooja would be held on December 26. After the Makaravilakku ritual on January 14, the temple would be closed on January 20, marking the end of the auspicious season.