A maximum of 1000 devotees will be allowed entry into the Sabarimala hill shrine everyday from November 16, if the Kerala government accepts the recommendations of the expert committee. On Tuesday, the committee drafting COVID-19 safety rules for pilgrim entry into Sabarimala submitted their recommendations. The report states that pilgrims will be checked once again at the entry points in Nilakkal, even if they carry their COVID-19 negative certificates.
However the ultimate decision on allowing devotees will be taken by the government, Devaswom Minister Kadakkampally Surendran told media persons.
“Pilgrims who wish to do a Darshini at Sabarimala hill shrine should first register at the COVID-19 jagratha portal. At the entry points, pilgrims can get tested after paying the entry fee. The Pampa river will be closed to pilgrims as bathing in the river is prohibited. Stay at the sannidhanam and near the Ganapathi temple etc is also prohibited and all lodges will remain closed to pilgrims,” the Devaswom minister added.
Most importantly, the report also insists that only pilgrims between the ages of 10 and 60 should be admitted into the temple. Those above 60 and children below 10 years of age fall in the vulnerable category and hence should stay away from crowds according to Kerala’s COVID-19 protocol.
The Devaswom Minister added that the government will take a look at all the recommendations in the report and take an informed stance on the entry of pilgrims into Sabarimala.
A COVID-19 negative certificate is mandatory for pilgrims wishing to visit the hill shrine, which opens to devotees on November 16. The annual temple festival in Sabarimala will be held mid November and the temple will open to devotees then. The flow of pilgrims will be regulated by the Sabarimala VirtualQ system maintained by the Kerala police. The system was launched in the 2011-2012 pilgrimage season and allows devotees to book slots for darshan.
The Kerala government has not specified what type of COVID-19 test pilgrims have to take in order to secure an entry into the temple. If the pilgrims tested negative with an antigen test, they should reconfirm the test with an RT-PCR test. However experts have raised concerns that the state may not have adequate RT PCR test kits in order to test all pilgrims.