The Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB) decided to increase the 'darshan' timings at the Lord Ayyappa shrine in Sabarimala on Sunday. According to the realease, the darshan timings will be increased by an hour amid an influx of devorees.
The Board decided to modify the darshan timings in the second half of the day from 3 pm to 11 pm instead of from 4 pm to 11 pm, an official from the district administration said. The official also said that water and biscuits were being provided to devotees waiting in the queues for darshan.
Meanwhile, Leader of Opposition in the Assembly V D Sathessan alleged the facilities for devotees were inadequate with pilgrims having to wait 15 to 20 hours for darshan. He claimed that devotees were not even being provided water.
Satheesan also claimed that not enough police personnel have been deployed at Sabarimala for assisting the devotees, guidelines of the Kerala High Court regarding arrangements for pilgrims have not been implemented and even adequate ambulance services were not available.
He contended that if immediate steps were not taken, there would be a severe crisis for devotees at Sabarimala and urged the state government to take the matter seriously. Many devotees were seen on TV channels complaining that they have been standing in the queues for more than 10-12 hours for darshan.
Pilgrims were also seen stuck in traffic jams along the route to Sabarimala. IG Sparjan Kumar, who is supervising the security arrangements at Sabarimala, said that police requested the TDB to restrict the number of devotees to 75,000 per day.
He said that during the present third phase of the pilgrimage, the number of devotees shot up with around 90,000 bookings being made through virtual queue and nearly 30,000 via spot booking each day. In addition, there are more children, women and elderly people this time and these have affected the efforts to make devotees climb the Pathinettampadi (18 divine steps) quickly, the officer said.
The annual 41-day Mandalam-Makaravilakkku pilgrimage to the hill-top shrine began on November 16, the first day of the auspicious Malayalam month of Vrichikam. In order to ensure a safe and smooth pilgrimage for all devotees, the government had introduced a dynamic queue-control system this season to manage crowding at 'sannidhanam'.