Nov 16 : The holy hillock of Sabarimala and surrounding valleys will reverberate with devotional chants for two months from Thursday with the annual pilgrimage to the forest shrine of Lord Ayyappa getting underway.
State agencies and Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which manages the temple located in the heart of Periyar Tiger Reserves, have made elaborate arrangements for the pilgrimage, which attracts over 30 million devotees a year from different parts of the country.
The pilgrims have to trek five kms from the base camp on the river Pampa to reach the Sannidhanam atop the hill where the temples of Ayyappa and Goddess Malikappurath Amma are located.
In view of the stampede in January this year, which claimed 102 lives of home-bound pilgrims, a scientific crowd management system based on specially saftey manual has been put in place this year, official sources said.
For the first time, a ‘virtual queue’ system will be tried this season under which the devotees could register the time of their preference to make worship through a website opened by the police department.
Those having made the registration in advance would be taken in batches of 1000 devotees each at the time specified so that they could avoid waiting inordinately in queue.
Keeping the ecologically sensitive area pollution-free and traffic management are also hard tasks connected with the event.
Over 5000 police personnel would be deployed at a time for security and crowd control at the temple complex, base camp and allied spots falling under the Sabarimala circuit.