Sabarimala: All arrangements have been made at the hill shrine for the auspicious Makaravilakku on Wednesday. Devotees from all over have flocked to the temple to seek darshan on the day of Makaravilakku. Traffic regulations have been brought in place and security has been beefed up on the temple premises with the conclusion of the over two-month-long annual pilgrim season.
In view of the continuing heavy rush, more personnel of police, NDRF and Rapid Response Force have been deployed in and around the shrine for crowd management and to ensure the safety of devotees, the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which manages the hill temple, said here.
"The rush of devotees has increased considerably since Sunday. So, 200 more police personnel of various ranks have been deployed in and around the shrine exclusively for crowd management," a TDB statement said.
Over 1,400 police personnel including 15 DySPs and 36 Circle Inspectors are on duty at Sannidhanam, the temple complex, alone.
A 70-member bomb squad and a 20-member telecommunication wing were also on alert at the shrine complex, the release said.
Police, NDRF, Rapid Response Team and the Fire Force personnel would jointly monitor and manage the devotees who climb down the holy hills in heavy numbers after the Makaravilakku darshan, it added.
Meanwhile, the shrine authorities here said a team, led by temple executive officer, would receive the procession carrying 'thiruvabharanam", the sacred ornaments to be adored by Lord Ayyappa, on Wednesday evening at Saramkuthi, a pilgrim spot on the way to the shrine.
The jewels are being brought from the Pandalam palace, where, according to legend, Lord Ayyappa had spent his childhood.
Later, the sacred jewel box would be handed over to the team comprising state Devaswom Minister, TDB president and special commissioner, they said.
The holy jewels would be adorned on Lord Ayyappa and the customary 'maaha deeparadhana' would be held at the shrine in the evening, they added.
Thousands of devotees are expected to throng the hill shrine and its premises to witness the auspicious 'makaravilakku', the ritualistic 'deeparadhana' (aarthi) held at Ponnambalamedu, the hill facing the shrine, as part of the annual festivities.
The lighting of the flame by the Kerala government, with the support of the Travancore Devaswom Board and the forest department, at Ponnamabalamedu, is a continuation of the practice followed by tribal families who live near the hilltop.
Devotees would occupy different points in and around Sabarimala, hours before the ceremony, to have a glance of the 'makaravilakku'.
The hill shrine, which draws devotees from various parts of the country, had witnessed unprecedented protests by right wing outfits and BJP workers last year after the CPI(M) led LDF government decided to implement the September 28, 2018 Supreme Court order lifting the traditional bar on women and girls in menstrual age from offering prayers.
However, this year in the backdrop of the top court's decision to refer a batch of review petitions against its earlier verdict to a larger bench, the state government had said those women desirous of visiting the hill temple should get a "court order" and it would not encourage activism.
During this season, some young women who came to Sabarimala were not allowed by authorities to trek to the Ayyappa temple.
Amid protests from right wing outfits, Bhumata brigade activist Trupti Desai and some other women in the 10-50 age group were sent back from Kochi.
With peace and tranquility returning to the Ayyappa shrine, there has been a sharp increase in the arrivals of pilgrims from various parts of the country, especially the southern states, and the revenue collections too rose during the season.
The shrine will close on January 21, bringing to end the pilgrim season.
(With PTI Inputs)