Accessing Sabarimala's famed Appam and Aravana payasam has now become easier for devotees, thanks to Travancore Devaswom Board's counter selling these tokens at the Cochin International Airport. Inaugurated by the Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL) MD, VJ Kurian, the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) counter aims to facilitate pilgrims flying into Kerala by offering them tokens, using which they can collect the appam and aravana payasam when they reach the hill shrine.
"We set up the counter every year during the Mandala-Makaravilakku season to help devotees. This year too we have set up the counter and this will be open through the season, till January - when Sabarimala closes. We only sell tokens and not the appam and payasam at the airport counter," CIAL airport PRO Jayan told TNM.
According to reports, the counter, which will operated 24x7, is set up near the domestic arrivals terminal of the airport in Nedumbassery. Dhanalakshmi Bank will be operating the counter on behalf of the TDB. Apart from Appam and Aravana tokens, Neyyabhishekam coupons too will be available at the counter and pilgrims can also receive detailed information about their trip from the counter.
For the inauguration of the counter, those in attendance included CIAL Executive Director AM Shabeer, CISF senior commandant M Sasikanth, CIAL Chief financial officer Sunil Chacko, Dhanalakshmi Bank regional head S Ramakrishnan and Devaswom board asst. engineer VK Shaji, according to a Mathrubhumi news report.
The Appam and Aravana sales at Sabarimala this season have significantly dropped due to lesser number of devotees visiting the hill shrine. This comes following massive protests at the temple over the SC verdict which allowed entry of young women to pray.
According to sources, most appam contractors at the temple are facing losses, while the Aravana production has been cut down by 80% by the TDB. The temple usually sees close to 2 lakh devotees per day during its peak season and an average of 48,000 tins of Aravana payasam are produced every day. However, the low pilgrim numbers this Mandala season has forced authorities to reduce production to 9,600 tins per day.