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Kerala's Sabarimala Temple is open again for visitors. It will stay open for a 5-day puja which started on October 17 to mark the first day of the Malayalam month of Thulam.
The visuals from the famous temple located in a forest in Pathanamthitta district showed pilgrims maintaining social distancing and wearing masks.
Several safety precautions have been put in place due to the pandemic. Devotees will have to book darshan time and dates by registering on the virtual queue system online. Besides a COVID-negative certificate (received 48 hours before reaching Pambha), visitors will have to carry a health certificate stating that they are fit enough for the trek to the temple. In case someone doesn't have a negative certificate, they will have to take the rapid antigen test being conducted at the Nilakkal Ghat region which lies on the path to the temple. Only those between 10 and 60 will be allowed on the pilgrimage. Regarding masks, it's been decided that pilgrims need not wear them while trekking as they may face breathing problems.
Right now, the temple is letting in just 250 visitors per day in order to maintain social distancing protocols. Some traditions and rituals are being discontinued, for the time being. For instance, pilgrims can no longer bathe in the Pamba river, as was customary. Instead, special showers have been set up. Night-long stays at the base camp and temple premises (Sannidhanam) have also been discontinued.
However, temple authorities have said that some traditions like neyyaabhishekham (offering ghee to the enshrined deity of Lord Ayappan) will be allowed, but with safety precautions in place.
As Kerala opens its temples to pilgrims again, safety remains a priority for the state.
For more information, check here.
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