With masks and COVID-19 negative certificates, devotees today entered the Sabarimala temple in Kerala under strict Covid protocols as the hill shrine reopened to the public for a five-day monthly pooja. Though the temple reopened after a seven-month closure on Friday, the general public was allowed from today morning.
As many as 246 people have booked through the virtual queue system for darshan on Saturday. Each day only 250 people will be allowed inside the temple.
Strict protocols have been put in place at the famous hill shrine dedicated to Lord Ayyappa amid rising number of virus cases in Kerala. Rapid antigen tests are being conducted at Nilackal base camp for those not carrying a negative test report.
Special arrangements have also been made for performing offerings, including “neyyabhishekam” (ghee abhishekam) and “annadanam” (the sacred tradition of offering food) adhering to COVID-19 protocol.
Other protocols include a compulsory fitness certificate (which need to be taken no longer than 48 hours prior to “darshan”) and entry only for people between 10-60 years of age. The customary bathing at Pamba river has been discontinued and overnight stay at “sannidhanam” (the main temple premises) or base camps – Pamba or Nilackal – is also not allowed.
“Devotees will not be allowed to take a dip in river Pamba. Instead, shower systems will be arranged at Erumely and Pamba for them to take bath,” Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan was quoted as saying by news agency PTI recently.
Kerala, which received much praise for its handling of the initial phases of the pandemic, has been witnessing a sharp spike in new cases since last month. Over three lakh people have been infected with the virus in the state since the first case was reported in January this year.
Regular poojas would be held for five days at the hill shrine from today, which is also the first day of Malayalam month “Thulam”.
The annual “Mandala Makaravilakku” season would commence on November 16.
With inputs from PTI