Thiruvananthapuram: Informing measures to conduct the annual pilgrimage to Sabarimala Lord Ayyappa temple, the Kerala government said the two-month-long season from November 16 will be maintained strictly attaching to COVID-19 protocol.
Permitting pilgrims only through Pampa, limiting the number of pilgrims to 1,000 on weekdays and 2,000 on weekends, and making the COVID-19-negative certificate mandatory are among the guidance made by the high-level committee for the Mandala-Makaravilakku pilgrimage season at the Sabarimala Ayyappa temple that begins on November 16.
Online darshan and permitting only pilgrims in the 10-60 age group and those in the 60-65 age group who produce a health certificate stating that they have no health issues are also part of the proposals made by the committee led by Chief Secretary Viswas Mehta in its report offered to the government. The report urges that 5,000 pilgrims can be allowed for Mandala Puja and Makaravilakku.
Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran said that judgment on online darshan would be carried only after carrying discussions with the Tantri and the temple authorities. The government would examine the recommendations and issue procedures for the smooth conduct of the two-month pilgrimage season, he said.
All the pilgrims will have to register on the portal www.covid19jagratha.kerala.nic.in and upload the COVID-19-negative certificate 48 hours before darshan. In the sight of the pandemic, testing facilities would be imposed up by the Health Department en route Pampa, preferably at Nilakkal, as pilgrims from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and other States are expected. Trekking via the traditional path and bathing in the Pampa would not be allowed. Devotees would not get the same ghee given for Neyyabhishekam.
The Minister said the entry from Pampa to the temple would be based on a virtual queue. The possibility of keeping the temple open for more days during the Malayalam months would be looked into in view of the restrictions during the pilgrimage season. Besides the Chief Secretary, Principal Secretaries of Devaswom, Health, Forest; Secretary, Home; and the State Police Chief were in the committee. The Mandala Puja is on December 26 and Makaravilakku on January 14, 2021. The temple will close on January 20, 2021.