Pathanamthitta: Sabarimala will reopen for the Mandala-Makaravilakku (Makar Sankranti) festival which will last for two months and the newly elected head priests for Sabarimala and Malikappuram shrines will officially take charge at 6 pm on Monday. The ceremony will be held under Tantri Kandararu Maheshwaru Mohanaru.
The public will be allowed for obeisance from Tuesday. The temple will remain open till December 26 for Mandalapooja. The temple will again be opened on December 30 and darshan will be allowed till January 20 for the Makaravilakku festival.
The rain is expected to cause troubles in the initial days of the Sabarimala pilgrimage season. The water in the rivers turned cloudy due to heavy rains. There will be a scarcity of both drinking and bathing water. Thus, the meeting decided to impose restrictions on the number of pilgrims in the first 3-4 days.
Since the water level has risen dangerously due to rain, bathing in the Pamba river won’t be permitted. The pilgrims are also not allowed to step into any other open bathing spots such as ponds. Spot bookings are not allowed in the initial days. Those who have already booked through the virtual queue may be allowed to change the dates. However, the process is not finalised yet.
Kerala health minister Veena George said on Sunday that the department has assured elaborate arrangements for pilgrims in order to combat the possible spread of COVID-19.
"At the state level, special meetings were convened in Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha, Kottayam and Idukki districts to coordinate the activities. The health department officials are being deployed at treatment centres from Pamba to Sannidhanam. The services of expert doctors from medical colleges are ensured in Pamba and Sannidhanam. These centres will be operational from Monday," she said.
Veena George said that the emergency medical centres and oxygen parlours are being set up at five places along the journey from Pamba to Sannidhanam. COVID testing facility will be available at Nilakkal. The pilgrimage will be held strictly adhering to COVID-19 protocol with authorities insisting that two doses of covid vaccination certificate or RT-PCR negative certificate took within 72 hours is mandatory. Rs 500 will be charged for the test. RT-PCR testing facility will be available at railway stations in Kottayam, Chengannur and Thiruvalla and major midway shelters. The test results will be made available within 3 hours. The devotees should also produce any original ID proof like the Aadhaar card, Voters’ ID and passport.
"If pilgrims have any health problems such as excessive heartbeat, shortness of breath or chest pain during the journey to the temple, one should seek treatment at the nearest centre immediately. Trained staff nurses and other medical facilities are available at these centres 24 hours a day," she added.
The Health Minister said that specialised dispensaries have been set up at Sannidhanam, Pampa, Nilakkal, Charalmedu (Ayyappan Road) and Erumeli. "Medicines and safety equipment were provided. There will also be an emergency operation theatre at Sannidhanam. Ventilators were installed at Pampa and Sannidhanam. Apart from this, facilities have been provided at major government hospitals in Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha, Kottayam and Idukki districts. The mobile medical team was also set up. Free ambulance service is also available for patients in need of specialist medical care," she added.
Also, 231 KSRTC buses will ply exclusively starting Monday. 120 buses will conduct chain service to Pamba-Nilakkal.
(with inputs from ANI)