Sabarimala: Unfazed by last season`s tragedy where 102 pilgrims died in a stampede, this year`s Sabarimala season is heading for a record collection.
According to the Travancore Devasom Board (TDB), the hundi collections and sale of prasadam shot up by Rs 11 crores and touched Rs 39.11 crores as compared to the last season.
TDB president M Rajagopalan Nair pointed out that the sale of prasadam shot up from Rs 14.54 crores to Rs 17.68 crores and the hundi collections rose to Rs 14.08 crores up from Rs 11.40 in the 15-day period last season.
The peak season of the pilgrimage begins on the first day of the Malayalam month in November (Nov 17 this year) and closes on the first day of the Malayalam month in January.
Situated on the mountain ranges of the Western Ghats at an altitude of 914 metres, the Sabarimala temple is four kilometers uphill from Pamba in Pathanamthitta district.
It is one of the most famous Hindu pilgrim centres in India.
The temple, which bars the entry of women who have attained puberty, is accessible for them only on foot from Pamba.
The devotees camp in the temple town for some days and wait for more than eight hours in queues for a darshan.
Special officer in-charge of security P Gopalakrishna Pillai said the maximum number that can go up the 18 steps in a minute is 90.
Standing on either side of the hallowed 18 steps are 16 young officers of the Kerala Police whose job is to help the devotees climb the steps.
This season the Kerala Police launched a Q-coupon booking facility where devotees could book their time of darshan according to their convenience.
"We generally are able to accomodate those who have booked their darshan time. At times when the crowds become unmanageable, it is but natural that those who have booked their darshan time get delayed," said a top police officer.
The temple attracts a lot of foriegn tourists for darshan every year.
"We read a lot about this temple and decided to come over. We followed the traditions of this temple before we started our journey and we all turned vegetarian as part of our pilgrimage," said a Ukraine national.
Last season`s disaster had occurred at the nearby hillock in Pullumedu when thousands of pilgrims were returning after witnessing the `Makara Jyothi` or a celestial light that appears on the horizon.
The `Makara Jyothi` this season falls on January 15th.