Aluva: After a two-year interval caused by the global pandemic, the Aluva Manappuram in Kerala’s Ernakulam district is hosting the renowned Shivaratri festival in a full-fledged manner. The ritual of offering ‘bali’ to departed ancestors will start at midnight on February 18.
The wild growth of plants on the Manappuram (an islet of sand in the middle of the Periyar River) was cleared for the ceremonies. Seven areas on the river bank at Manappuram are demarcated to offer the ‘bali’ and barricades have been erected. A trade fair and amusement park are also arranged in the area.
Meanwhile, a temporary footbridge having a length of 80 m and width 12 m has been built over the Periyar from the Kalady side to enable pilgrims to walk to the Manappuram. The bridge was constructed with items such as tree stumps, arecanut tree trunks, iron pipes and aluminium sheets.
At the same time, a ‘jankar’ (ferry) service is operating from Manelikadavu at Thannippuzha on the opposite bank to Manappuram. Around 100 persons can travel on the jankar and a fare will be charged on February 17 and 18, the main days of the Shivaratri festival. On the other days, pilgrims can travel on the jankar free of cost.
A variety of cultural and performing arts events are being staged every day at Manappuram till February 18. Among the highlights is a music programme at 8 pm on February 17. On the February 18, the Shivaratri Day, a cultural meeting will start at 8 pm and stage programmes will continue till daybreak the next day.
Incidentally, the rituals related to Shivaratri began at the Aluva Mahadeva Temple located at Manappuram on February 9 itself. ‘Maha Ganapathy Homam’, ‘Dhara’ and ‘Deeparadhana’ are conducted daily.
Considering the easing of the COVID-19 restrictions, the authorities are expecting an unprecedented increase in number of pilgrims this year on Shivaratri day. Arrangements to handle this rush include deployment of 1,200 police personnel, camping of a medical team, two vehicles of the Fire and Rescue Services, scuba divers and 25 volunteers at Manappuram. Ambulances are also stationed at eight locations near Manappuram. The services of Indian Navy will also be sought, if necessary. Temporary labs too are functioning to test food samples.
The Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) has announced 120 additional services to Manappuram. They include long as well as short distance services. Buses to Thrissur side will start from Manappuram stand and those to Perumbavoor and Muvattupuzha from Gandhi Square. KSRTC services in Cherthala direction will start from the private bus stand.
Squads under the Regional Transport Officer will function to check overcharging by taxis on February 18 and 19. The Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) also has taken special steps to ensure uninterrupted power supply. Sufficient potable water also is arranged.
The Railway too has announced a special train as well as additional stops for some trains in connection with Shivaratri. The special train will operate from Thrissur to Aluva on February 18. On that day, train number 16325 Nilambur-Kottayam Express will have additional stops at the following places: Mulloorkara, Ollur, Nellayi and Koratty Angadi. Moreover, train no: 06461 Shoranur-Thrissur Special Express will be extended till Aluva. Railway authorities also said that train no: 16609 Thrissur-Kannur Express will start its service from Aluva on February 19.