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P T M Pillai | Express News | Sabarimala | Nov 2, 2016:: Pandalam Valiyakoickal Sree Dharma Sastha temple, one of the important pilgrim transit camps in the state where thousands of pilgrims offer worship as part of the annual Sabarimala pilgrimage, remains the same for the pilgrims even after two decades if the basic facilities are any yardstick.
Inadequate parking facilities, insufficient resting place, lack of purified drinking water, inadequate free food, insufficient toilets and bathrooms are causing serious hardships for the thousands of pilgrims who come for worship at the temple.
For an average 300 to 500 pilgrim vehicle arrivals a day, parking on both sides of the busy MC Road is the only solution as the ground offered by the Travancore Devaswom Board for the purpose could accommodate only 50 to 60 vehicles at a time.
Private parking areas are far away from the temple, forcing the pilgrim vehicles to park on the road sides causing traffic bottlenecks during the peak season days.
Though the temple advisory committee and voluntary organisations like the Akhila Bharatha Ayyappa Seva Sangham and the Sabarimala Ayyappa Seva Samajam raised the serious issue before the Travancore Devaswom Board and the government authorities at the review meetings on pilgrimage preparations during the past several years, no follow-up action has been taken yet.
Lack of adequate resting place at the transit camp is a serious issue facing the hapless pilgrims, forcing them to use the open ground near the temple and on the side of bylane to the temple.
The only building styled as auditorium-cum-resting place could accommodate only 500 pilgrims at a time. Absence of private dormitories and lodges near the transit camp is a big problem for the pilgrims, especially those coming from other states like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
Not only that, thousands of Hindu pilgrims, who use the services offered by the Sabarimala pilgrim transit camps at important temples under the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), are facing lack of basic facilities in the camps. Though 30-odd pilgrim transit camps attached to various major temple are functioning during the Mandalam-Makaravilaku season, most of the transit centres fail to offer basic facilities such as drinking water, adequate number of toilets, information counter and resting place.
During the peak season days, thousands of pilgrims, especially from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, are availing of the miserable services offered by these camps.
It was with the objective of reducing the hardships faced by the pilgrims and preventing exploitation by private operators that TDB former president N Babu had set up pilgrim transit centres at Aluva Sree Krishna temple and Lord Siva temple on the banks of Periyar, Vaikom Sree Mahadeva temple, Ettumanur Sree Mahadeva temple, Kottayam Thirunakkara Sree Mahadeva temple, Erumely Sree Dharma Sastha temple, Ranni Ramapuram temple, Tiruvalla Sree Vallabhaswami temple, Ambalappuzha Sree Krishna temple, Chengannur Sree Mahadeva temple, Aranmula Sree Parthasarathi temple, Omallur Sree Rakthakandaswami temple, Pandalam Valiyakoickal Sree Dharma Sastha temple, Mavelikkara Sree Krishnaswami temple, Chettikulangara Bhagavathi temple, Haripad Sree Subramaniaswami temple, Kollam Anandavalleeswaram temple, Kottarakkara Sree Ganapathi temple, Sarkara temple, Varkala temple and Neyyattinkara Sree Krishna temple.
Barring half a dozen temples, the pilgrims do not have basic facilities at camps attached to the majority of the temples. With the flow of pilgrims increasing at a rate of 25 to 30 percent annually, the devaswom authorities should come to the rescue of the pilgrims by providing basic facilities.
The TDB could provide the adequate facilities to the Sabarimala pilgrims according to the advisory committee recommendations and seeking suggestions from the Sabarimala pilgrims in troubles.