Sabarimala shrine reopens; Devotees to be allowed from Saturday

Sabarimala (file pic) | Photo: Mathrubhumi

Sabarimala: After over six months, devotees will be allowed entry into the hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa in Sabarimala for the first time since the March 24 national lockdown due to COVID-19, from Saturday early morning.

The temple reopened for the five-day monthly pujas at 5 pm on Friday. Melsanthi (head priest) AK Sudheer Namboodiri opened the shrine and lit lamp in presence of tantri (chief priest) Kandararu Rajeevaru.

Devotees would be allowed entry only from Saturday morning at 5 am, the first day of Malayalam month 'Thulam'. At 8 am the draw for new melsanthis at Sabarimala and Malikapuram temples will be held. The draw will be taken by children Kaushik K Varma and Rishikesh Varma, as decided by Pandalam palace.

Pilgrims will have to mandatorily carry COVID-19 negative certificates of tests conducted 48 hours prior to their visit and book darshan time and day through virtual queue system. They should also carry a medical certificate stating that they were fit to trek the holy hills.

Only 250 devotees will be allowed each day. Police personnel have been deployed in required numbers in and around the temple.

Only those between 10 and 60 years would be allowed to offer prayers and the pilgrims should carry masks, sanitisers, gloves and strictly follow COVID-19 protocol.

All other routes to Sabarimala, except through Vadasserikkara and Erumeli, have been closed. Medical and paramedical staff have been deployed at the hospitals in Nilakkal, Pamba and Sannidhanam.

Pilgrims are not permitted to stay at Sannidhanam, Nilakkal or Pamba in view of the COVID-19 situation.

The shrine will close at 7.30 pm on October 21, Wednesday.

(With inputs from PTI)

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