Thiruvananthapuram: In an effort to aid the pilgrims who arrive in Kerala to ascend the Sabarimala hill shrine in Pathanamthitta, the state government has made a slew of arrangements, including improved transportation facilities.
Kerala Transport Minister Antony Raju said Kerala State Road Transport Corporation will set up a group booking system for devotees coming in a group, especially those arriving in Kerala from other states.
The state transport carrier will let devotees avail its buses for this purpose, provided they book in advance.
This, Raju said, will help the devotees coming in groups to journey together and not splinter into smaller groups every time there are not enough seats on public transport carriers.
Each bus can accommodate 40 people. The group must meet this number when booking a bus via the KSRTC platform.
In addition to the group booking system, KSRTC will also run special bus services connecting various Ayyappa temples in Kerala.
KSRTC has also increased buses plying between Nilakkal and Pamba to 200. "There will be buses operating this route every minute," Raju claimed.
The number of buses connecting various parts of Kerala to Pamba has also been increased to 300.
For Makaravilakku Puja, this number will be bolstered further - "to 1,000 buses," Raju said.
A special queue will also be set up at the bus stand to cater to the needs of senior citizens making the trip, the minister added.
After the long COVID years, the state expects a surge in the number of devotees undertaking the Sabarimala pilgrimage.
The minister made the announcement after presiding over a review meeting at Pamba to evaluate the activities of the Department ahead of the Sabarimala pilgrimage.
The new improvements are an effort to dissuade pilgrims from availing trucks and autorickshaws to make the journey.
The State had noted that these vehicles increase the safety risk of the already perilous trek.
Raju is keen to see an incident-free pilgrimage season this year.
Sabarimala is one of the largest annual pilgrimage sites in the world.
According to State data, Sabarimala attracts close to 50 million devotees every year, not only from the southern states but also from north India.
Millions of devotees still follow the traditional mountainous forest path (approximately 61 km) from Erumely, 12.8 km from Vandiperiyar and 8 km from Chalakayam, believed to be taken by Ayyappa himself.
These days people use vehicles to reach the Pamba River by an alternate route. The main halting point en route to Sabarimala is the banks of the river Pamba. From here one has to trek 4 to 5 km through the dense forest to reach the temple.