Sabarimala pilgrims. Photo: PTI
Pathanamthitta: With an increase in footfall at the famed Lord Ayyappa shrine in Sabarimala here during this year's Mandalam-Makaravilakku pilgrimage, in the absence of the COVID-19 restrictions, the temple authorities decided to "advance" the timing when darshan begins in the second half of the day.
A temple official on Tuesday said that the earlier darshan timings were 3 AM to 1 PM and 4 PM to midnight, but due to the huge influx of devotees at the temple, it was decided to change the timings of the second half to 3 PM-11 PM.
Since November 16, when the doors of the temple were opened for devotees, over 3 lakh pilgrims have arrived for darshan till Monday evening, the official said.
"Yesterday (Monday) there were 70,000 devotees. For today there are 60,000 bookings via virtual queue and in addition there would be spot bookings also," he told PTI.
"Therefore, we decided to advance the timings in the second half of the day," he added.
On the eve of the 41-day long annual Mandala puja festival, Kerala Devaswom Minister K Radhakrishnan had said unlike the last two years, when due to strict COVID-19 guidelines the devotees were limited to around 30,000 each day, this year there were no limits on the number of pilgrims who can come for darshan.
Therefore, an increase of 40 to 50 per cent in the number of devotees was expected this year, he had said.
The 41-day long Mandala puja festival began on November 17 and will conclude on December 27.
The temple will be opened again on December 30 for the Makaravilakku pilgrimage, which will end on January 14, 2023. The shrine will be closed on January 20, 2023 concluding the pilgrim season.