Kochi: Culminating the first leg of the two-month-long annual Sabarimala pilgrimage season, Mandala Puja will be held at the Lord Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala on Friday noon. The puja will come after adorning the presiding deity with sacred golden attire Thanka Anki.
The Sabarimala Sannidhanam has been witnessing a massive rush of pilgrims in the past couple of days, forcing the cops on the back foot. It is the highest turnout in the season. Pilgrims take up to 15 hours to reach Sannidhanam from Pamba, which is five kilometres away. Police are struggling to apply crowd control measures even at Pamba base camp and Nilackal. The latter is over 20 km away from the pilgrims’ final destination, where private vehicles await after dropping pilgrims at Pamba.
However, the measures have not gone down well with the Travancore Devaswom Board, which is the controlling authority over the Sabarimala temple. The board cited the plight of pilgrims who are forced to wait for over 15 hours to have darshan. TDB chief N Vasu reportedly asked police to effect better vehicle regulation from Nilackal and better control of pilgrims from Pamba. It is to reduce rush and waiting-time for pilgrims for darshan considerably. Mr Vasu told media, at Sabarimala on Thursday, that the police have agreed to probe issues including highhandedness of some of its officials in tackling pilgrims and take suitable action.
The TDB president also said that the season so far has registered record revenue of Rs 156.60 crore with two more days remaining for the Mandala season to conclude. Last season, it was Rs 105 crore.
On Thursday, the queue of pilgrims extended beyond Saramkutti when the temple was closed early at 7.30 am because of the solar eclipse. It was reopened at 11.30 am for regular pujas and closed again by 1 pm after performing afternoon puja. Pilgrims who flocked the shrine mainly comprised those from southern states and native Kerala.
Meanwhile, the procession carrying Thanka Anki reached Pamba from Aranmula temple by Thursday noon. A special reception, as part of the traditional custom, was accorded by the TDB officials at Saramkutti, en route from Pamba to Sabarimala. Later, the box carrying the Anki will be taken to Sannidhanam and adorned on the deity by Deeparadhana on Thursday evening. Mandala Pooja will be performed on Friday noon.
The late Chitra Tirunal Balarama Varma of Travancore dynasty had offered the Anki weighing 420 sovereigns to Lord Ayyappa in 1973. Every pilgrimage season, a procession is held and the Thanka Anki is taken to Sabarimala.