Devotees arrive to pay obeisance at Lord Ayyappa Temple in Sabarimala.
Devotees arrive to pay obeisance at Lord Ayyappa Temple in Sabarimala.
PTI Photo

Thiruvananthapuram: The big increase in the traffic to Sabarimala has created a unique problem for the temple administration: There are not enough people to count the money offered by the devotees.

The deployment of staff for the purpose is at the same level as last year, when the offerings made by devotees had registered a huge drop in the wake of uncertainties created by the Supreme Court order permitting women of all ages to the temple.

Apart from a steep fall in the number of pilgrims, there was a whisper campaign against making offerings last year in protest against the government’s attempts to organise officially sponsored visits by activists to the temple.

But with the government changing its stand in the wake of a slew of review petitions against the 2018 verdict of the court in favour of women’s entry having been referred to the consideration of a 7-member bench, the flow of devotees has picked up significantly.

Although the turn-out may not be as big as the previous normal years yet, there is a steady increase in both arrivals as well offerings made by devotees.

The first week itself has yielded a total of nearly Rs 17 crore as against around Rs 10 crore recorded during the corresponding period last season. The revenue during the first week of the 2017-18 pilgrim season was Rs 23.07 crore, which means that the offerings are getting back to the normal levels.

The sudden increase has caught the temple administration off guard, as it is struggling to handle the offerings both in terms of money as well as gold and other valuables. There are only 125 personnel currently deployed for the operation.

In normal years, there used to be 250 to 300 people engaged in sorting and counting the money, which is undertaken in a high-security environment.

The Sabarimala agitation had crippled the pilgrimage economy, which sustains a large number of people along the routes of the pilgrimage all over the state.

In fact, a large number of shops at the temple complex remained closed as contractors refused to rent them due to loss of business.  Nearly a third of the shops still remain unoccupied.

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