When the pilgrimage season at the famous Lord Ayyappa hill shrine in Sabarimala commences with the Mandala-Makaravilakku from November 16, 25,000 devotees would be permitted entry daily during the initial days, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on Thursday. If the number of devotees needs to be changed, it would be discussed later and necessary steps would be taken, the CM said in a state government release.
The decision was taken in a meeting held to review the entry situation before the pilgrimage season begins and it was attended by the state ministers of Devasom, Transport, Forest, Health and Water resources as well as the State Police Chief.
The other guidelines, for regulating the Sabarimala pilgrimage amidst the ongoing pandemic, which were formulated in the meeting were that the virtual queue system would continue, pilgrims below the age of 10 and above 65 will also be allowed entry and only those who have taken two vaccine doses or have a negative RTPCR report would be permitted to enter the shrine, the release said.
In the meeting it was also decided that the Devaswom Board should make arrangements to give 'Neyyabhishekam' (the anointed ghee) to all and devotees would not be allowed to stay at the Sannidhanam after the darshan.
The same practice as last year will continue in this regard and the pilgrims will not be allowed on the forest path via Erumeli or on the traditional route to Sannidhanam via Pulmedu, it was decided in the meeting, the release said.
Besides these restrictions, vehicles would only be allowed upto Nilackal and from there KSRTC buses should be used to reach Pampa river where permission for bathing has been granted, the release said.
The CM has directed the authorities to provide necessary facilities for this and KSRTC has been asked to provide adequate toilets at its bus stops.
In the meeting it was also decided to hike the salaries of the cleaning staff and to install smoke detectors in buildings where fire safety systems are not present.
The CM has also suggested that devotees who are not COVID-19 positive, but suffer from comorbidities should come for the pilgrimage only after a health check-up.