Kerala CM wants national pilgrim centre status for Sabarimala temple

17 Oct 2017

Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said today his government would exert more pressure and be more determined in its demand to the Centre to get the famed Sabarimala temple declared a national pilgrim centre.

Vijayan, who is on his maiden visit to Sabarimala, said that the Centre has not accepted Kerala's demand even though the temple has all the features of a national pilgrim centre. Quoting Travancore Devaswom Board president Prayar Gopalakrishnan, he said that besides devotees from India, people from 33 nations visit the temple during the annual pilgrimage season. "This shows Sabarimala has grown even bigger than a national pilgrim centre," he told newspersons after reviewing arrangements for the three-month 'Mandalam-Makaravilakku' pilgrimage season of Lord Ayyappa, the presiding deity of the hill shrine. The season begins on November 16.

The chief minister said the state government was in the process of completing all necessary steps to construct an airport at Erumely, near Pamba, on the foothills of Sabarimala. The airport would improve connectivity to the temple, located in the Periyar Wild Life sanctuary in Western Ghats. Braving a steady drizzle, the 72-year-old CPM) leader had trekked up the eight-kilometre dense forest path to reach the Sabarimala hill top on Monday night. "It took one-and-half-hour to reach the top... Initially I had some anxiety as I am not walking long distance now...But after starting, there was no difficulty... It was a good experience," Vijayan told reporters after the 90-minute walk.

The LDF government, he said, was committed to comprehensive change through development at the shrine, which attracts lakhs of pilgrims from across the country during the festival season between November-January every year. Devaswom minister Kadakampally Surendran was among those who accompanied the chief minister to the top. A V Unnikrishan Namboothiri of Kodakara in Thrissur district was selected as Melsathi (head priest) of the temple for one year.