We believe that money plays an important role in modernization and improving the quality of living. Money is an essential component for development and one must notice this change if sufficient money is available. The only requirement for this change is that money should be available and properly utilized without changing pockets!
Gertrude Stein, the American novelist, poet, and art collector once said that “Money is always there but the pockets change; it is not in the same pockets after a change, and that is all there is to say about money.”
According to New Indian Express, the income of Sabarimala temple has reached Rs 128 crore in the first 33 days which is 47 crores more than the previous year. This shows the amount of money donated by devotees at the Aiyappa pilgrimage. Despite the huge accumulation of money at the center of devotion, there isn’t a noticeable investment made to ease the visit of the pilgrims at Sabarimala.
Here are a few facts I have noticed during my journey from Erumeli to Sabarimala this 2019.
A: The go green initiative kicks-back at Sabarimala:
Supreme court decided to ban the use of plastic bottles and plastic covers at Sabarimala a year ago and the police department has been cautious, monitors and informs pilgrims not to use them. If noted using plastic bottles, Sabarimala pilgrims are advised to throw them before they enter the forest or the Sabarimala shrine. In exchange, the cops promise water facilities to pilgrims that are being provided at several places free of cost. The concept though good and nature-friendly works no wonders for the travelers climbing mountains to reach the shrine. Shops displaying free water cans do not have water within them, instead, the shop owners insist pilgrims drink a glass of juice at 20 rupees. Drinking this juice would extend the tendency of one’s thirst and make them invest in another glass of juice at their next resting place.
Is the money gained at Sabarimala well spent? I suggest routine visits conforming to the practice of free water availability would help pilgrims. Even employing a team patrolling locations and confirming the availability of water is money well spent.
B: Destruction of property and slow maintenance at Sabarimala:
After the Kerala floods, most of the Sabarimala base camps at Pamba were destroyed. Walking through forests and hills, tired with days heat and nights cold, we expected to take rest at Pamba. The plan was to rest at Pamba and leave for Sannidhanam post bathing. To our astonishment, the structures that were demolished in floods were not yet built to facilitate the traveler’s shelter. Grain storage turned rest house was allocated so that pilgrims could rest but was filled with mud and dust, as bad as a maintenance less house left unattended for a year with bachelors mismanaging it. We had to clear the dust and then prepare ourselves to settle with an understanding that we could not clear everything and dust might fly with the wind and fill the area we had cleaned.
Proper maintenance of this place and arranging more shelters would enable pilgrims to rest properly. I feel this space isn’t sufficient to accommodate the tremendous inflow of lord Aiyappa believers.
C: The atrocities of gulf imported food being sold at Sabarimala
The authorities declared the prices of food items to be sold at Sabarimala and sannidhanam and mentioned that they shall be monitoring the quality of the food. However, less is known to them about the differences in prices charged to Sabarimala pilgrims. A group of fellow north Indian pilgrims who were on the way to Sabarimala was charged 10 rupees per piece for a small ‘chikki’ available in towns for rupees 2. The fellow pilgrims could just complain within themselves about the food they have ingested without enquiring about the price upfront. Charging a rupee or two more than standard rates can be understood but a mere hike of 8 rupees for a small piece of jaggery and peanut infused ‘chikki’ makes one think if they were imported from Gulf countries.
It is required that the officials conduct routine visits to shops to check the atrocities pilgrims are facing at Sabarimala.
D: Lack of experience was evident at Sabarimala
Identities of Lizard in aravana at Sabarimala are not so easily forgotten stories and to an extent could be due to negligence while cooking. However, I was surprised to see the Aravana and appam distribution being done by a group of youngsters unclear how to manage the supplies. The guy preparing bills takes 5 minutes to print it considering that he has to access the supply every time and he was very casual at making a delay with his chitchats and gossips meanwhile. The same was the situation when collecting the prasadam post-producing the bill. Appeared more to me like an internship gala with a group of youngsters left without proper training.
One would expect the arrangement to be more systematic and officials with adequate knowledge of what they do. Intervention on this would be highly appreciated.
E: The army of OX facing the tired and hungry pilgrims at Sabarimala
The rush at Sabarimala was more than it was last year and it is indeed difficult to manage the crowd and that too blind believers. I appreciate the efforts the cops haven taken at the Sabarimala temple to manage the crowd, that too without losing their patience. Not all pilgrims are stable and calm, some are aggressive and want to meet Aiyappa no matter the consequences. Due to the heavy rush at Aiyappa temple, the queue system was broken at different levels so that a batch of pilgrims could be allowed to pass and does not cause chaos. In the group were a lot of pilgrims who were tired by their two-day walking from forests and hills and wanted to be slow but moving. The pilgrims who joined from Pamba were rushing and in order to get to the next queue would bash anyone who is upfront.
I feel the police have to make better provisions at incorporating the queue and making them stay inline. Also, separate queues should be provided for the pilgrims who walk all the way from Erumeli as their condition is not so idle compared to the normal pilgrims walking directly from Pamba.
I hope no one takes these points as mere complaints but I think the money collected if properly utilized, could facilitate better provisions for the pilgrims.