Shrine receives over Rs 3.30 crore as revenue on opening day

(EDS: corrects revenue figures in first and 4th paras) Sabarimala, Nov 18 (PTI) The Lord Ayyappa temple herereceived over Rs 3.30 crore as revenue on the first day whenit opened on Saturday as compared to the Rs 2.04 crore lastseason which was marred by protests by a section of devoteesand right-wing outfits over the women's entry issue.

Over 70,000 devotees have offered prayers at the hillshrine since the temple opened on November 16 evening for thetwo-month long Mandala-Makkarvilakku puja.

Travancore Devaswom Board President N Vasu on Mondaysaid there was an increase of over 50 per cent in the revenuewhen compared to last year and the pilgrimage season this yearhas been going well.

'There is a huge increase in the number of devoteesthis year. We got Rs 3.32 crore revenue on the first daycompared to Rs 2.04 crore last year.

The devotees who visited this year are satisfied withthe facilities we have arranged,' Vasu told the media.

Unlike last year when the temple complex witnessedviolent protests after the state government decided toimplement the September 28, 2018 verdict of the apex courtallowing women of all ages to enter the shrine, this year thedevotees expressed happiness as there were no restrictions.

Vasu also said 'Annadanam' for around 40,000 peoplehave been arranged.

Annadanam is offering of food for the devotees.

'We have stored enough drinking water to cater tothe needs of the devotees. We aim to make Sabarimala plasticfree pilgrim centre.

We have started a campaign to avoid plastic from theirumudikettu (sacred bundle containing offerings to Ayyappa),'Vasu said.

Though the apex court did not stay its September2018 order allowing entry of women into the Ayyappa temple,the LDF government in Kerala this time said the shrine was nota ground for activism and made it clear it would not encouragewomen who want to visit the temple for publicity.

A five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Courthad on November 14 in a 3:2 verdict decided to refer to alarger bench to re-examine religious issues including thosearising out of its 2018 verdict lifting a centuries-old ban onwomen of menstruating age visiting the shrine.

The TDB, which administers the shrine, and the templeitself suffered huge loss last season due to the protests bythe right-wing outfits.

The shrine and adjacent areas, including Pamba andNilackal, were on high-alert last year due to the SupremeCourt order on women's entry.PTI RRTBN BN