Sabarimala experiences heavy rush, pilgrims protest after police block vehicles

As per official estimate, more than 25 lakh pilgrims visited Sabarimala temple till December 23 during the current pilgrim season.
Sabarimala pilgrims protesting against lack of facilities after their vehicles were blocked by police at Ponkunnam
Sabarimala pilgrims protesting against lack of facilities after their vehicles were blocked by police at PonkunnamScreengrab/Asianet News
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The Sabarimala temple in Kerala’s Pathanamthitta district is again witnessing heavy rush of pilgrims. On Monday, December 25, pilgrims on their way to Sabarimala complained about the lack of facilities including food, water and toilets after police blocked the vehicles in different places in Pathanamthitta and Kottayam. Some devotees sat on the road and protested against the police action at Ponkunnam in Kottayam district. 

Police imposed restrictions on entry of vehicles in Pamba and Erumely due to the heavy rush and blocked the vehicles on the Pala-Ponkunnam route. This created a huge traffic block and several devotees, including women and children, from different states had to wait for several hours. Most of them reached on Sunday night and got stuck in the traffic. 

Sabarimala had been experiencing heavy rush of pilgrims during weekends and holidays. While drinking water, food and toilet facilities are available at edathavalams (designated pilgrim stops) blocking of vehicles in places with no such facilities have caused trouble for pilgrims, reports said, “I am from Kozhikode and reached here around 8 pm last night. We are a group of 49 people including women and children. There are no basic facilities including washrooms,” said a devotee while speaking to the media at Ponkunnam. Many pilgrims from Chennai, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh raised similar complaints.

“We came here out of devotion but there are no facilities. We arrived early in the morning but we didn’t get any food or water till now,” said another pilgrim. The Kerala High Court had recently directed temple authorities and the police to ensure pilgrims are served snacks and drinking water.

On Sunday around 100,969 devotees visited the hill shrine and had to wait in queue for around 16 long hours. As per the official estimate, 25,67,691 devotees visited the temple till December 23 after the start of the current pilgrim season known as Mandalakalam.

The Mandala pooja will be held on December 27 and after that, the temple will close for three days and open on the fourth day.

A similar situation last week in Sabarimala had become a political controversy after many devotees had to spend long hours in queue and some of them had to return without having darshan. The Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party alleged the government failed in crowd management at the hill shrine and ensuring basic facilities.

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