Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 10: Nearly 550 women in the age-group of 10-50 years have registered online so far for entry to the Sabarimala temple when it opens for the pilgrimage season on November 16.
They have sought entry into the shrine when it opens for the annual Mandalapuja-Makaravilakku festival later this month. The Mandalapuja marking the culmination of the 41-day Mandalam pilgrimage season at the Lord Ayyappa Temple will be performed at the Sabarimala Sannidhanam next week.
Over 3.5 lakh registered
Close to 3.5 lakh people have registered in the last few days alone through the virtual queue system, 40,000 of them have booked bus tickets of Ksrtc from Nilakkal to Pamba, the two base camps of the hill shrine.
The number is in stark contrast to the fewer than 10 women in the 10-50 age group who had made a vain bid to reach Sannidhanam earlier. The police still has no clear-cut strategy in ensuring the safety of young women, whose numbers might go up.
To regulate and streamline the devotees, the online registration designed and developed by the police was opened to weed out trouble makers who have created disturbances in the last two months in and around the temple.
The police are not sure about the identities of the 550 ‘women' who have registered through the facility. Since the website does not ask for an identification proof, it cannot be ascertained if these people are indeed who they claim to be.
Virtual queue to manage crowd
Sabarimala online queue booking is being offered by Kerala Police for the purpose of crowd management at Sabarimala. This system was put in place a few years ago to control and channel the huge crowds that stream into the temple especially during this period.
The opening of the virtual queue system this year comes barely two months after the Supreme Court lifted restrictions on the entry of women of all age groups at Sabarimala. Between October 17 and 22 and again in November when the temple opened for a day, women devotees faced stiff resistance at Sabarimala. Till date, no woman in the previously restricted age group has been able to climb the hill.
Ticket Booking details
The online booking for darshan at Sannidhanam started on October 30. Pilgrims can book darshan time and date as well as KSRTC bus tickets from Nilakkal through sabarimalaq.com
The portal is promoted on official websites of Andhra, Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry police.
The authorities expect to see massive rise in the number of pilgrims who opt for the virtual queue facility this year. Around 16 lakh people had visited Sabarimala in 2017.
Vehicle passes, ID cards made mandatory
The Kerala Police have directed that all vehicles arriving at Sabarimala should carry a 'police pass.' Vehicles without the pass will not be allowed parking in Sabarimala.
Meanwhile, identity cards have been made compulsory for all employees of shops and eateries functioning in Sabarimala and nearby places. These stringent measures are planned against the background of the violence witnessed at Sabarimala and its adjoining areas during the rituals held during the Malayalam month of Thulam and Chithira ‘Atta Thirunal' fete.
All eye on Nov 13
Ahead of the next pilgrimage, the Supreme Court on November 13 will hear a batch of petitions against its September verdict. The present government has made it clear that it will do everything possible to implement the ruling of the top court and ensure safety and security of women devotees. Both the opposition BJP and the Congress have set off street protests and agitations against the stand of the state government.
No going back, says CM Vijayan
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has said that there was no going back for the government in the case of entry of women of all ages at Sabarimala Lord Ayyappa temple.
"Opposition to changes in customs is quite natural. But there is no going back. Toilets, bathing facility and accommodation facility at Nilakkal will be set up for women devotees. The present crisis is temporary," he said at weekly media interaction programme.
Photo credit: PTI