Sabarimala niraputhari pooja will carry on smoothly: TDP President

Sabarimala: Travancore Devaswom Board today said steps have been taken for the smooth conduct of the annual ‘niraputharipooja at the Lord Ayyappa temple here, where restriction has been imposed for pilgrims following heavy rains.

Ayyappa devotees had been advised by authorities yesterday not to visit the hill shrine in the coming days as the Pampa river at the foothills is overflowing due to heavy rains.

TDB President, A Padmakumar said ‘melshanthi‘ (chief priest) is already at the ‘sannidhanam‘ (temple complex) of the hill shrine and the ‘katta‘ (harvested paddy) for the auspicious ritual would be brought this evening.

Considering the flood situation at the foothills, the paddy bundles would be taken to the shrine, located atop Sabarimala hills, by two groups of people.

One team would trek the forest path through Vandiperiyar to reach the shrine, while the other group would take the usual Pampa route, which is presently waterlogged.

“The shrine will be opened as scheduled this evening. There will be no hurdles for the niraputhari poojas tomorrow morning,” he told PTI.

“The water level of the Pampa river is yet to dip. As per the present circumstance, we have no option other than continuing the restrictions imposed on pilgrims from visiting the temple,” he said.

All the concerned people, including temple tantri (head priest), would reach the shrine on time, the official added. The TDB, which manages the shrine, district authorities and police had issued alerts to devotees and decided to stop them at various points till the water level recedes.

The river, flowing on the foothills of Sabarimala, breached its banks at several places, submerging many shops, damaging buildings, flooding pathways and uprooting electric posts.

Two bridges across the river at Triveni, which devotees use to reach the shrine, were inundated.

“The paddy bundles for the ritual have already been brought from Achankovil,” he said. Steps have also been taken to accommodate pilgrims, who come unaware of the restrictions, at Nilakkal at the valley, the offical added.

A large number of pilgrims are flocking to the famed Lord Ayyappa temple in the wake of ‘niraputhari‘ ritual and festivities of ‘Chingam‘ later this week.

“We came here unaware about the restrictions and the flood situation. Every year, we come to the shrine to attend the niraputhari ritual and offer the harvested paddy. I do not know whether we can make it this time,” a devotee told a TV channel at Pampa.

He is one of the many devotees who have been stranded at the foothills. Heavy rains in the catchment areas of the Sabarigiri hydroelectric project and opening of the shutters of the Pampa and Anathode dams had caused river Pampa to overflow.

The shutters of Moozhiyar and Kakki, the other dams in Pathanamthitta districts, were also opened yesterday.

Barricades have been set up and ropes tied at Pampa to prevent people from travelling to the shrine, police said, adding that those who arrive there ignoring the alerts would be stopped and sent back.