Just over two months left for the annual pilgrimage season to the hill shrine of Sabarimala to start, it may be an arduous trek this time. The recent flood destroyed a good part of the structures in and around the river Pamba from where the pilgrims begin their trek.
The opening of the shutters of the dams saw water gush into the Pamba, leaving it in spate. The mudslips and the flood waters even took away electric posts, plunging the surroundings into darkness. It is a daunting task for the State electricity board to restore connection and have in place washed away posts.
Drinking water will be a serious issue as the Kunnar dam, the only natural water source I am shrine precincts is filled with silt and the pipe carrying water from the dam has been damaged. Travancore Devaswom authorities are on a war footing effort to repair the pipe restore water supply as pilgrims are expected to visit the shrine when it opens next week at the start of the Malayalam month of 'Kanni’. As the water source is deep in the forest, cleaning and repair works have turned challenging.
Since the flood on August 14, the shrine has remained closed to pilgrims. They could not make it during the ‘Niraputhari’ festival, followed by the opening of the shrine when it was opened for two days at the start of the Malayalam month of 'Chingam’. Even the tantri who is to oversee the rituals could not make it to the shrine.
The water destroyed several toilets and septic tanks at the base camp in Pamba as also sewage lines. It is literally waste brought by the waters strewn all around. The resting spots at the camp are, like the Kerala Water Authority pump house, under heaps of sand and silt.
The godowns of the Devaswom near the Pamba remained inundated for days together, destroying jaggery and other puja material stored there. Replenishing stocks would be another tough task for the Devaswom. Parking woes would be worse as the authorities have decided to shift the base camp to Nilackal, some 45 km from the Pamba. The proposal is to deploy more KSRTC buses to ferry pilgrims to and back from the Pamba.
According to regular pilgrims, this would create more parking problems as Pamba and nearby Chalakkayam grounds could accommodate at least 75,000 vehicles, while the one at Nilackal has no more capacity than 25,000 to 27,000.