Decision taken by the Joint Meeting of Acharyas, Sanyasis, Pandala Raja, Heads of Mutts, Heads of Hindu organisations, et al
Kerala Government has come out with some decisions, with some modifications by the Kerala High Court, regarding opening up of Sabarimala Temple for public darshan during the ensuing mandala makaravilakku season starting from 16th November 2020, (Vrischikam 01). As per the reports, while allowing devotees for darshan, government plans to introduce many restrictions: viz.
*the number of devotees reaching Sabarimala will be restricted to 1000 per day, with 2000 on Saturdays and Sundays
*they have to produce Covid Negative certificate for registration in the virtual queue system,
*to undergo antigen test on payment at Nilackal and confirm Covid -19 Negative on the day of darsan,
*devotees of age between 10 and 60 years only will be allowed, means the seniors- Guruswamies and Malikappurams above 60 years and Manikantans & Malikappurams below 10 years are NOT allowed.
*taking bath in the holy Pampa river (Pampa-snanam) will not be allowed
*tradition trekking route of Neelimala from Pampa to Sannidhanam is closed, devotees to trek through Swami Ayyappan road only.
* No Neyyabhishekam.
*devotees to return immediately from Sannidhanam without any rest.
*Annadanam and Drinking Water facilities are doubtful
*Public transport system may not be adequate.
The spread of the fatal pandemic Covid since it’s outbreak, has been recorded asalways increasing each day. The situation has become bad to worse in southern states including Kerala. Considering the super spread of the disease, Kerala government has issued Orders under Section 144 of The Indian Penal Code prohibiting gathering of five or more persons, holding of public meetings etc. throughout the state till November 15, may be extended further.
Public darshan at Sabarimala Temple and other temples in Kerala has been blocked by the government since the outbreak of the Covid as early as March 2020. Some of the temples have made some relaxations and started allowing public darsan with strict restrictions. However, Sabarimala being a Temple attracting lakhs of devotees, not only from Kerala state, but from nearby states also and even from all over the country and abroad, matters relating to Sabarimala can’t be discussed and deliberated similar to other temples in the state of Kerala.
1. Sabarimala pilgrimage is by nature a peculiar type of pilgrimage performed in groups under the leadership of a senior Guruswamy: from commencement of the 41 day (one Mandalakkala) Vrutham, Saranaghosham, preparation of Irumudi, trekking of the hills,… till the return after darsan. Hence, performance of pilgrimage with strict Covid related restrictions is not practical.
2. Neyyabhishekam / anointing the murthy of Ayyappa with ghee is the main and integral part of Sabarimala pilgrimage. Here, the Ghee, devotionally filled in the coconut, which is considered as the Jeevatma of the devotee and poured/anointed on the murthy/idol of Lord Ayyappa at Sannidhanam, representing Joining with the Paramatma/ getting salvation/moksha. As Neyyabhishekam is not allowed, the pilgrimage will be incomplete and futile and is considered as violating the ritual.
3. The active participation and guidance of Guruswamies is an integral and unavoidable part of the pilgrimage and as most of the Guruswamies are above the age of 60 years, the exclusion of devotees of age above 60 from the pilgrimage, will render the pilgrimage meaningless and against the rituals and traditions.
4. Bathing in Trivenisangam at Pamba river (pampa snanam) an integral part of the rituals, is also not allowed. However, devotees coming from faraway places, as part of the rituals, taking a dip in pampa at other places like Perinad, Kanamala, Vadasserikara, Naranamthodu etc. can’t be controlled, hence the covid protocols can’t be insisted.
5. Praying and chanting saranaghosham in front of the Sreekovil, in groups, performing pooja and offerings like Neyyabhishekam, Appam- Avil- Malar Nivedyam etc. taking blessings from the chief priest/Thanthri, stay at Sannidhaanam for some time or a day to do bhajans, Karpoorazhi etc. and for getting sufficient rest for the body in between up and down trekking… are all parts of unavoidable rituals and traditions related to Sabarimala pilgrimage, but all these are to be avoided / restricted, as per the new guidelines.
6. As per the reports, government may not be able to provide adequate facilities for food and drinking water at Pampa and Sannidhanam, which will badly affect the devotees.
7. Service of medical team is essential during the pilgrimage, especially in the Covid situation. But, as per reports, Associations of Doctors in Kerala have declared non co-operation in providing their services for the pilgrims, due to various reasons, including shortage of doctors in Kerala in the Covid season.
8. Even though temple dependant employees are in financial difficulties during the past 7 months due to Covid related lock down and restrictions, and also when the spread of Covid is still increasing alarmingly, as per the suggestions of experts relaxations in the lock down and opening up of worship places including temples is dangerous inviting more Covid casualties. The decision of the government is doubtful as they have taken the decision without consulting Temple authorities, Acharyas, Hindu organizations etc. who are directly related to temples and the Government treating the famousTemples as a government property.
9. Unlike other temples, because of the specialty of Sabarimala pilgrimage, if darsan is allowed, even adhering to strict restrictions, chances of community spread of Covid is more. Devotees coming from states other than Kerala, especially from Red zones, though arranging Passes on the basis of COVID negative certificates, will cause uncontrollable community spread of the pandemic, as they will be passing through many places, visiting temples, hotels, other public places, public toilets & comfort stations etc.
10. During the Covid checkup at Nilakkal, if any devotee found covid positive, the Government or Devaswam Board has no planning about their treatment, leaving them to their fate.
11. As per Covid protocol, for the safety of public wearing of mask is a mandatory in public places but this condition has been diluted by issuing order that during the trekking of mountain path from Pampa to sannidhanam and back, devotees need not wear mask, which is violation of the covid protocol. Further it may lead to super spread. But, if wearing of mask is made mandatory during trekking, it will lead to serious health issues to the devotee, may land up in loss of life due to lack of oxygen. Hence, the pilgrimage is not advisable now.
12. The decision of the government is doubtful of their anti-temple hidden agenda, because, if some Covid cases are identified due to Sabarimala pilgrimage, the leftist government and politicians may make use of this also as a weapon to attack Hindus. If so, government can order even close down of the temple, legally.
13. This wrong decision is taken by the government as per the reports given by Govt. Secretaries and some bureaucrats who have no knowledge or experience in Sabarimala matters and without consulting the Chief Priest/Priests, Sages or Temple and Hindu organisations and without considering the safety and security of devotees, general public and the temple administrators.
14. When the number of devotees will be restricted to 1000 per day, the selected devotees will have to spend sizable amount for undergoing Covid tests twice and for more travel expenses, in the absence or lack of public transport system. Hence, affluent people only can venture for the pilgrimage, which is against the basic principles of Sabarimala pilgrimage.
14. .As per the Agreement/Covenant between the Central Government and Travancore Devaswam Board in 1949, which was reinforced later through the Constituion, by which Travancore Devaswam Board has independent authority in the temple administration. Hence the interference of Kerala Govt and ministers in the matters of temples is illegal and unconstitutional.
15. The secular Kerala Government has always taken a different stand in the case of religious matters related to other Communities like Muslims and Christians giving them free hand to decide their matters whereas in the case of Hindu matters always they make unilateral decisions and always make hindrances, unlawfully, in the name of appeasement to minorities.
16. Considering the unshakable faith of devotees who yearn for regular darsan of their Swamy every year, devotees are advised to undergo the 41 day Vrutha as usual. We may invite and invoke SwamyAyyappa in our pooja room, do saranaghosham and bhajans daily making our home divine as Bhavanam Sannidhanam and conclude the Vrutha at our pooja room or nearby temple with special poojas, Neeranjanam, Ghee Abhishekam etc. We shall pray to our Swamy Ayyappa for Goodness’s to all and bless us for conducting Sabarimala pilgrimage during the next season.
17. We desire and demand, Devaswam boards and the concerned government authorities to continue the restrictions based on scientific advices aimed at the safety and security of devotees, general public and the temple administrators, till the Covid spread is brought under control and normalcy is prevailed. At the same time, devotees should come forward and extend financial help and support to the poojaries and other sevaks of temples, who are tirelessly working with pure devotion and dedication for the upkeep of the temples, and its premises, and conducting continuous, unavoidable daily poojasand rituals even in this difficult and risky atmosphere.
18. Based on the foregoing, keeping in mind the safety of devotees and protection of their religious beliefs, we humbly request the Kerala Government and Devaswam Board to continue the status quo in the case of opening up of Sabarimala Temple for public darsan and declare the ensuing Mandala Makaravilakku season as a Zero Pilgrimage season.