Sabarimala: Pilgrims discover Q-coupon booking virtues

Sabarimala, Nov 19 (IANS) Every year, Krishna Kumar used to spend a minimum of five hours in the queue to enter the sanctum sanctorum of the Sabarimala temple here. But this year, it just took him 15 minutes -- thanks to a new Q-coupon booking facility.

All he had to do was log onto www.sabarimala.keralapolice.gov.in, upload his picture and book the time of darshan.

A brainchild of Director General of Police Jacob Punnoose, the facility has come as a relief to thousands of pilgrims this season.

'For some reason we were not able to launch this facility during last few years. But this time, we decided to give it a try and it has been a huge success,' Punnoose told IANS.

'On an average, we can provide advance booking to 1,000 pilgrims in an hour. The pilgrim can select his own time of darshan if time slots are available.

'At peak hours, no one will have to wait for more than an hour. They will be made to stand in a special queue located close to the 18 steps leading to the sanctum sanctorum,' said Punnoose.

Though the temple is open throughout the year, the peak pilgrimage season begins on the first day of the Malayalam month in November (Nov 17 this time) and closes on the first day of the Malayalam month in January.

'We launched the website a week back. In the first week, we received just 3,000 bookings but the number rose to 40,000 and the number of hits on our site has crossed two lakh,' said Punnoose.

Authorities are now planning to extend the facility to the special days in the two-month-long pilgrimage.

'We have not yet extended this facility for special days as the crowds are huge. Those who have made an advance booking might not be able to reach the special queue in time. We are working out ways to see what best can be done,' added Punnoose.

As many as 100 people were killed in a stampede in January this year when pilgrims were returning after watching the celestial Makara Jyothi light, the most important event of the pilgrimage, from a hillock some 30 km from the Sabarimala temple.

Situated on the mountain ranges of the Western Ghats at an altitude of 914 metres above sea level, 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 only on foot from Pamba.

The Sabarimala authorities have said the collection in the first two days crossed Rs.2.17 crore, Rs.37 lakh more than last year's figures.