Sabarimala issue
The Sabarimala temple in Kerala will see a limited number of pilgrims this season. Image Credit: Agencies

Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala government has decided to conduct the forthcoming Mandala Makaravilakku pilgrimage season in Sabarimala for a limited number of pilgrims by following the COVID-19 norms, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said.

The pilgrimage season is from November 15, 2020 to January 20, 2021.

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Addressing the media, the Chief Minister said, “Sabarimala is the most important pilgrimage centre in our state, but in the wake of COVID pandemic, it has been decided to hold this year’s Mandala Makaravilakku pilgrimage with a limited number of pilgrims without symbolically reducing any rituals.” A committee consisting of the Chief Secretary, the Chief of the State Police, and the Principal Secretaries of the Home, Devaswom, Forest and Health Departments shall examine and report on all matters relating to this, including the number of pilgrims per day from each States.

The Chief Secretary will also decide on the inclusion of more departmental secretaries in the committee if required. These officials will also discuss the arrangements with their counterparts in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Pondicherry, from where the maximum pilgrims come to Sabarimala. The chief minister informed that the admission to Sabarimala this year will be strictly regulated through the virtual queue system of Kerala Police to a limited number of pilgrims.

“Arrangements will be made for the pilgrims who register through the virtual queue system. Those above the age of 65 years and below 10 years will not be allowed. Pilgrims should come with COVID negative certificate. To ensure that COVID-19 patients do not reach for pilgrimage, antigen tests will also be conducted at various centres with the help of the health department,” he said.

Further giving details about the steps taken he said, “Pilgrims will have to start their return journey immediately after performing the darshan at Sabarimala. They will not be allowed to stay back in Pampa and Sannidhanam. Drinking water will be provided in steel containers for a refundable cost of Rs 100, on the return of the container. Annadanam will be only for limited pilgrims and will be served on paper plates.”

Consumerfed and Supplyco will set up shops for selling essential items. Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) will run special services and deploy more buses to maintain social distancing norms. Special arrangements will be made to collect ghee for anointing at a place designated by the Devaswom Board. “The health department will examine the health aspect of making the mask mandatory when devotees climb the mountain. As public bathing in the river cannot be allowed, sprinkler or shower system will be installed for bathing at Pampa and Erumeli. The Thiruvabharana procession in connection with the Makaravilakku will be conducted in full compliance with the COVID protocol,” he added.