Sabarimala temple's total revenue dropped by almost Rs 100 crore as compared to last year after the hill shrine saw a steep dip in pilgrim footfall during the 60 days of the Mandala Makaravilaku season, according to Devaswom Minister Kadakkampally Surendran. The poor sales of Aravana payasam, the prasadam sold at Sabarimala, also contributed to the loss.
For the season, beginning November 16 and ending January 20, Sabarimala's revenue was Rs 180.18 crore, the minister said at the state assembly session held last week. That number is significantly lower than collections recorded in the previous year -- in 2017-18, Rs 279.43 crores was collected as revenue from the temple. The total difference in revenue is recorded at Rs 99.25 crores.
As per a break up of the collections made at the temple this year, sale of Aravana payasam, the prasadam sold at Sabarimala, was the worst hit. Revenue from Aravana payasam sales was recorded at Rs 111.3 crores last year. This year, the collection has dipped to Rs 74 crores. Sale of appam, which was recorded at Rs 18.33 crores in 2017-18, has come down to Rs 7.40 crores this year. Apart from appam and Aravana, dip in collections were recorded in other areas such as Abhishekam token, room rent, RTGS etc.
Speaking to TNM, Devaswom Commissioner N Vasu said, "This season, we have lesser footfall in the temple following the Supreme Court verdict and the controversy that ensued. I would say that every aspect of the temple, be it Abhishekam, Aravana and appam sales etc., has suffered in terms of revenue collection, which has led to the overall dip in collection. However, this is only a temporary setback and we will be able to make up for it in the coming seasons."
The Devaswom commissioner noted that the low footfall was due to fears of protests in and around the Sannidhanam as well as at Pamba, Nilakkal and other areas near the hill shrine. However, he claims that the temple was safe for pilgrims and that reports of a violent atmosphere were false propaganda.
Devaswom Minister Surendran further added that those who visited the temple during this season had a peaceful darshan. He also said that action was being taken against those people who started riots on the temple premises.
According to reports, the average pilgrim footfall per day during the Mandala season last year (2017-18) was 80,000 to 1 lakh. However, this season, the aggregate footfall during the first week of the temple reopening for the season (November 16 to Nov 22) was 1.5 lakh.