Decline in Sabarimala pilgrim flow on Makaravilakku eve

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The Lord Ayyappa temple here is witnessing an unusually low flow of pilgrims this Makaravilakku season and one of the reasons being attributed for it is the admission of Travancore Devaswom Board that Makaravilakku is man-made.

“This year the pilgrim arrival from other states during the Makaravilakku season has been less by 20 to 30 per cent compared to last year.In previous years, devotees had to wait for 12 to 15 hours to have darshan on Makaravilakku eve but this time the rush is manageable,” TDB President M. Rajagopalan Nair told DC.

While the authorities attribute this fall to the Mullaperiyar issue, sources say many pilgrims had been believing that Makaravilakku was natural and the TDB’s open admission has led them to cancel their pilgrimage during the festival.

“A few TV channels showed the TDB submission before the High Court with much prominence. Many have now learnt that the event is man-made though the TDB had never made a claim against this all these years,” the official said.

He also felt that the fear inflicted by last year’s stampede might also have contributed to the low turnout.

“Till last year I would’ve waited for having the darshan. The holiness and the divinity of Lord Ayyappa has gone up, no doubt but the Makaravilakku ceremony is not the same now for me,” Thankaraju, who hails from Tamil Nadu said.

However, Rajagopal Nair disputed this and said Mullaperiyar issue is the actual cause. “A fear has gripped among the devotees from Tamil Nadu especially those coming via the Kottayam-Kumily Road,” he said.

KSRTC too was affected by the fewer turnout of pilgrims. “Compared to last year, there is a fall of around one lakh passengers.

Despite increasing the ticket charges by 25 per cent, the revenue
collection increased only by Rs 5 lakh compared to last year during Makaravilakku.

This is a sharp contrast from the Mandalam season, when there was Rs 95 lakh increase in collection,” Pampa Special Officer Easter Yashik said.

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