Sabari­mala pil­grim­age cul­mi­nates to­day

The Gulf Today - - ASIA - BY ASHRAF PADANNA

TRI­VAN­DRUM: Hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple have reached the Sabari­mala hill shrine in Ker­ala ahead of the ap­pear­ance of Makara Jyothi or the Light of Capri­corn on Mon­day evening.

The light is lit after the sun­down atop the moun­tain on the Western Ghats where around half a mil­lion devo­tees, mainly from the south­ern In­dian state, ar­rive to have a glimpse of it.

This year there was an es­ti­mated dip of some 40 per cent in foot­falls and rev­enue as many dropped their plan say­ing the en­try of young women had des­e­crated the tem­ple.

The Supreme Court on Sept.28 lifted an age-old ban on women of RE­PRO­DUC­TIVE AGE, DEINED AS BE­TWEEN 10 and 50, much to the cha­grin of tra­di­tion­al­ists.

Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party was since on the warpath against the state’s com­mu­nist gov­ern­ment which is hell­bent on im­ple­ment­ing it.

Protests led to the death of at least one protest­ing devo­tee in ston­ing by the ac­tivists of Com­mu­nist Party of In­dia (Marx­ist) or CPM that leads the rul­ing coali­tion.

“We ex­pect 200,000 devo­tees to wit­ness the Makara Jyothi this year,” said Kadakam­pally Suren­dran, the state’s min­is­ter for tem­ples.

“There’s a dip in the num­ber of devo­tees ar­riv­ing here be­cause of the wide­spread vi­o­lence un­leashed by the (fed­er­ally) rul­ing BJP and oth­ers.”

The tem­ple and nearby ar­eas where the “ce­les­tial light” is vis­i­ble used to wit­ness large crowds of devo­tees who get into a frenzy when the light ap­pears, of­ten lead­ing to stam­pedes.

In two big stam­pedes, 106 devo­tees were crushed to death in 2011 and 53 in 1999 and ev­ery sea­son this point of the pil­grim­age sea­son put the se­cu­rity forces on edge.

THE PO­LICE AND HEALTH OFI­CIALS ARE on high alert, and the au­thor­i­ties have made mas­sive de­ploy­ment of PO­LICE AND IREIGHTERS AND PUT MORE doc­tors on duty.

They have also brought in more am­bu­lances to be put on standby and asked the hos­pi­tals in the re­gion to go on full gear to meet any even­tu­al­ity.

“We have made bet­ter ar­range­ments this time for the com­fort and safety of peo­ple,” said deputy su­per­in­ten­dent of po­lice NC Ra­jamo­han. We have put up bar­ri­ers to con­trol crowds and pre­vent them from mov­ing into dan­ger­ous places. We have also lit up all their trekking paths and camp­sites.”

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