The Kerala Government has decided to allow more devotees daily to visit the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple. The number of devotees has been increased from the present 1,000 to 2,000 on week days and from 2,000 to 3,000 on weekends and holidays. In the virtual queue website, it is also made clear that the admission for ladies under the age of 50 is restricted in Sabarimala.
The Kerala government has not officially announced the decision of restricting women in Sabarimala, though the court has directed that the Supreme Court verdict and related issues related to the admission of Sabarimala women be referred to a wider bench for detailed examination. This is the first time that the ban on entry of women has been included in the official order of the police.
In view of the COVID-19 pandemic situation, the daily number of pilgrims to the temple has been fixed at 1,000 on weekdays and 2,000 on holidays. The recommendation to raise the daily limit also stems from the sagging finances of the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which has been in a crisis following the locking down of temples. “Right from the testing centres at Nilackal to the sanitisation system at the Sannidhanam, elaborate arrangements are in place to prevent a potential surge in COVID-19,” pointed out an official.
The Sabarimala temple used to receive between 80,000 to a lakh pilgrims a day during the season and it clocked a revenue of ₹263 crore during the last pilgrim season alone. But with the restrictions in place, traders have refused to participate in the tendering of shops while the revenue through sale of offerings and collection boxes too is slated to record a sharp drop this time. Pilgrims will be allowed to book tickets, starting from Wednesday morning through the virtual queue system, to visit the hill temple. It is mandatory for devotees to carry coronavirus negative certificates taken 24 hours before they get to Nilackkal and Pamba base camps, where Covid-19 centres have been set up for testing. The devotees will not be allowed to stay at the temple premises. Meanwhile, several people including pilgrims, police personnel and temple employees, have tested positive for coronavirus in Sabarimala so far since the Lord Ayyappa temple was opened for the annual pilgrimage season on November 16.