Thiruvananathapuram: Coronavirus pandemic took a toll on the famous ‘Makaravilakku’ prayers held on Thursday morning at Sabarimala in Kerala, as authorities had restricted the number of devotees at the hill shrine amid strict adherence to health protocols.
The state government had allowed only 5,000 devotees to pay obeisance at the temple — compared with an estimated crowd of around 6 lakh in normal times — and that too by following all COVID protocols, including RT-PCR tests.
The Sabarimala temple is a major destination for devotees set for a spiritual journey. Devotees from as far as Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Hyderabad throng the hill shrine in Pathanamthitta district, where Lord Ayyappa, the eternal ‘Brahmachari’, is worshipped.
‘Makaravilakku’ celebrations are connected with ‘Makar Sankranti’ festival and involve ‘Makarasankrama Pooja’, which was held at 8.45 am on Thursday.
The temple’s revenue from donations too has plummeted, which earlier was more than Rs 400 crore during the nearly 60-day period stretching from mid-November to mid-January, which was a money-spinner not only for the Travancore Dewaswom Board but also the state.
Dewaswoms Minister Kadakampally Surendran told the media at the Sacrifices temple: “We had to take this extreme measure (of restricted number of devotees) as we cannot compromise on the health of people who throng the temple.”
There was a major dip in the temple revenues but the people’s safety and health was more important for the government, he added.