Thiruvananthapuram: Even as a debate is raging
on the management of Sabarimala pilgrimage in the wake of the
deadly stampede, a pictorial report prepared by eminent
architect late Laurie Baker on creating essential amenities
for devotees without harming nature has been gathering dust
for the past 15 years.
The British-born humanist and advocate of low-cost
buildings, who spent much of his later life in Kerala and
acquired Indian citizenship, took a trip to Sabarimala in
1995 on request from the state government to provide inputs
for plans to improve facilities for pilgrims without causing
stress to the delicate environment.
Baker was 79 when he undertook the arduous trek from Pampa
to Sabarimala, enjoying the natural settings of the area but
feeling deeply concerned over the ecologically hostile
constructions that had come up over the years.
The 36-page hand-written report, full of Baker’s own
drawings and illustrations, has proved prophetic now as it had
sufficiently warned that unless the roads leading to the base
camp Pampa were developed into four-lanes the pilgrimage could
turn nightmarish any time.
Much of the emphasis of Baker, however, has been on meeting
basic needs of millions of pilgrims coming to Sabarimala like
drinking water, sanitation and cool and shady trees along the
lines to provide relief to devotees who undertake the steep
trek to the temple atop.
"As a nature lover I have always been fascinated by
forests and mountains. My pilgrimage to Sabarimala gave me the
maximum enjoyment and pleasure as I first drove to Pampa and
then walked to Sabarimala," he wrote.
But in the same breath, Baker said, "I am sad to say the
world famous temple and its immediate environment was a very
great disappointment... I have always felt that the peace and
simplicity of religious buildings are incomplete unless they
are able to blend with the beauty and perfection of nature.”