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Kerala Sabarimala Temple opens for Mandalakala-Makaravillakku festival: Click to book online tickets

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Sabarimala, Nov 17: The annual two-month-long pilgrimage to the hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa in Kerala's Sabarimala began on Monday amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Sabarimala

Though the Sabarimala temple was opened on Sunday for the annual pilgrimage season, devotees were only allowed to enter the temple on Monday morning with strict COVID-prevention measures in place.

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Pilgrims were allowed to start trekking at 3 am through a virtual queue system, temple officials said. Most pilgrims who reached were from neighbouring states, said the Travancore Devaswom Board which manages the hill shrine.

Employees of the temple board and police personnel kept vigil along the trekking route to ensure devotees follow all the COVID-19 protocols, which include a compulsory COVID-negative test, a fitness certificate and mask wearing.

Every year, lakhs of people visit the Sabarimala temple during the 62-day pilgrimage season. However, this year about 85,000 devotees would be allowed to offer prayers during the entire season, said the temple board to avoid crowding in view of the coronavirus pandemic.

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According to reports, only 1,000 pilgrims who have booked their "darshan" through the virtual queue system would be allowed to offer prayers each day. During Saturdays and Sundays, 2,000 people would be allowed "darshan".

To enter the Sabarimala temple, all pilgrims will have to carry a COVID-19-negative certificate taken 24 hours before they reach the base camps at Nilackkal and Pamba. COVID-19 kiosks have also been opened at the base camps for those who want to get tested.

Though wearing a mask is compulsory, pilgrims will be allowed to remove them while climbing up to the temple.

The devotees can also book their tickets through this link.

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