Pilgrimage season at Sabarimala to conclude tomorrow

Posted By: Pti
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Sabarimala (Ker),Jan 18 (PTI):The two-month long pilgrimageseason of the Sabarimala hill shrine, whose climatic phase wasmarred by the stampede that claimed 102 lives last week, willconclude tomorrow with the winding up rituals and ceremonies.

Devotees are still coming to the shrine in large numbersand initial estimates said over 30 million pigrims hadoffered worship at the Lord Ayyappa temple since the seasonbegan in mid-November.

The ''Makaravilakku'' season would conclude tomorrow eveningwith rituals like ''Guruthi'' in the presence of the seniormember of the Pandalam royal house, temple sources said.

Legend has it that Lord Ayyappa spent his childhood as theadopted son of the Pandalam king, a principality nearly 60 kmfrom the shrine.

The season''s last ''neyyabhishekam'', anointment of the idolwith ghee, was conducted today using pooja articles broughtfrom the Pandalam palace.

After tomorrow''s evening pooja, the royal representativewould descend the holy 18 steps leading to the sanctumsanctorum and set out for home without looking back.

The casket of the ''holy jewels'' brought from the palace foradorning the idol on ''makaravilakku'' day would be taken by theescorts accompanying the Pandalam Raja.

Temple sources said the flow of pilgrims was stillcontinuing after the initial shock left by the stampedetragedy at Pullumedu, the worst disaster ever to strike thepilgrimage, into which a judicial probe has been ordered.

Devotees will not be allowed to go up from the base campPampa from tomorrow evening.

The temple will be reopened for a few days on the first dayof ''Kumbham'' month of the Malayalam calendar.

The tragedy on the night of January 14 was blamed on poorcrowd management and policing, besides inadequateinfrastructure.

Taking suo motu notice of the tragedy at Pullumedu near theshrine, the Kerala High Court had yesterday pulled up thestate government for ignoring its warning on safety ofpilgrims and ordered authorities to explain by Thursday howthe stampede occured.

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