Within a couple of hours after the long awaited consecration of the new golden flag mast (swarnakkodimaram) at Sabarimala temple on Sunday, its lowest portion (panchavargathara) was found discoloured and slightly damaged, shocking Ayyappa devotees all over. Police started investigation immediately into the incident with the DGP Sen Kumar assigning the job to Pathanamthitta SP. Kerala Devaswom Minister Kadakampalli Surendran, who was in the temple, said the matter is being viewed with utmost seriousness by the government. Five men suspected to be behind the act, belonging to Vijayawada, were taken into custody by the police from Pamba by Sunday evening.
The special rituals connected with the consecration ceremony of the newly installed golden flag mast right in front of the sanctum sanctorum of the hill shrine were over by Sunday noon after which the uchapooja at the temple was performed. There was a massive crowd including several VIPs to witness the auspicious ceremony which was held with heavy police bando bust. It was around 2 PM that the base portion of the flag mast was found discoloured. There were white spots in the lowest part which was immediately brought to the notice of the authorities concerned. Police sources said that in the CCTV visuals, three men were seen pouring some fluid on the flag mast. Forensic experts and top police officers have rushed to the spot. The general doubt is that mercury was poured to damage the golden flag mast. Police said they would be able to get hold of the three persons seen in the CCTV visuals within a few hours as they could not have left Sabarimala.
Devaswom Minister attributed attempts to damage the flag mast to feud connected with its construction. Those who were denied the contract for construction could be behind the mischief ,he added. But this was contradicted by Travancore Devaswom Board Member Ajay Tharayil who stated that there was no dispute or row in regard to award of contract or construction and hence the theory that they did it was totally baseless. He said it was for the police to investigate and find out.
With the police swinging into action, five persons were arrested while they were trying to board the bus at the Kerala State Road Transport Corporation’s Pamba depot. They have been identified as natives of Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh. From a bag they carried with them, a bottle which is believed to have contained mercury was seized by the police. The CCTV visuals of the suspects had been rushed to all police stations as part of the probe. The visuals helped Pamba police to nab the five Andhraites.
The cost for construction of the new golden flag mast consecrated on Sunday was borne by the Hyderabad based Phoenix group. The top brass of the business group had also flown down to Sabarimala to witness the consecration ceremony.